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We’ve just updated our email client popularity report with the latest figures from March. There were a few noteworthy trends continuing from previous months that I thought would be worth sharing. We’ll keep updating these stats on a monthly basis and share anything we think you might find interesting.

Click to see the full report

Growth continues for Apple

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As each month passes it’s becoming clear that Apple’s email client market share is growing aggressively. Their mobile platform that includes both the iPhone and iPod Touch has held the top spot as the fastest growing email client since we started capturing data.

Apple users are the fastest to upgrade too. The iPhone 1.0 operating system has been one of the fastest shrinking email clients to date. The iPhone was originally released with v1.0 in June 2007 and an upgrade to v2.0 was available after the iPhone 3G release in July 2008. Today v1.0 only has 0.06% of the email client market, while iPhone 2.0 (released in July 2008) is just under 700 times more popular with 4% of the market. This dramatic difference can be attributed to the global success of the iPhone 3G and the simple software update mechanism Apple has in place with iTunes.

As I’ve mentioned previously, the fact that the iPhone email client doesn’t block images by default can inflate the market share in comparison to those that do block images (read more about this). But, this drawback has no influence on its change in usage over time. OS 2.0 has growth by more than 90% since September 2008 and the latest figures indicate that growth isn’t slowing.

It will be very interesting to see how quickly users upgrade to OS 3.0 when it’s released this coming June. We’ll have a birds-eye view of the transition and will report anything interesting we find.

Gmail usage lower than expected

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One piece of feedback we’re continually seeing is the surprise that Gmail has only 5% or so of the email client market while Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail have more than 3 times that share each. In fact, Gmail’s market share has dropped by nearly 15% since September last year.

It’s important to remember that all three web-based email providers support image blocking by default, so the numbers aren’t skewed in any particular providers favor. Given the size of our sample audience (now more than 300 million opens and counting), it’s also safe to say that this isn’t through lack of data.

I know what you’re thinking. That can’t be right! That’s certainly what we thought when we saw the data. Here are a few reasons why we think this is the case.

Renders do not always equal market share

We count a vote for Gmail when a recipient opens an email from within the Gmail interface. The problem is, many Gmail users actually open their email through other devices using Gmail’s POP3 or IMAP support.

For example, we use Google Apps for our email hosting. Some of us use the Gmail interface but most use desktop or mobile email clients and for those people a vote will be registered for that email client, not Gmail. While Yahoo! Mail (and more recently Hotmail) support POP3, it’s more than likely that Gmail usage is proportionately higher than these providers when it comes to accessing mail through other devices.

Don’t forget, the purpose of our email client report is to show the clients your subscribers are actually viewing your email in. If a subscriber is using Gmail but actually opening the email in Outlook 2007, that’s what email designers need to know. Because of this, the report is more about rendering market share than a providers total share of the market.

Think outside your own circle

It’s important to step out of the early adopter circles that many of you (myself included) work in. In our latest newsletter to 80,000 or so designers, Gmail accounted for 9% of our subscribers, while Yahoo! Mail was only 3% and Hotmail 2%. The usage patterns of designers is clearly very different to the rest of the market.

Just because you prefer Gmail, doesn’t mean your aunty does.

On that note, a little reminder that every list is different. The only way to truly know which email clients your subscribers are using (and design accordingly) is through our free email client reports included with every campaign you send.

  • Lewis Francis

    Thanks for continuing to offer these stats, they’re extremely helpful!

    One thing I’d like to see is a further breakdown by browser and OS where possible. For instance, I recently ran across a bug that presented only on Outlook 2007 and Mac versions of Hotmail (both Safari and FFX); it’s helpful to know that Hotmail may be the third most used service, but it would be even more helpful to be able to tell my client how many if those Hotmail users are likely to be reading on Macs.

    Thanks again!

  • Brian Williford

    Even though it is stated here that Apple’s market share is growing aggressively, I expected to see slightly higher numbers for them.

  • Chris

    I definitely have to agree with your assessment on the trends of GMail usage and Apple’s Mail.app. In fact, with the improvements GMail has made to their IMAP integration earlier this year, a portion of those numbers are probably due to people accessing their GMail account from Mail.app.

  • Ben Lawson

    I agree with Chris. The fact that Gmail has IMAP means that many of the Outlook users are actually using Outlook only as a desktop app connected to Gmail (or some other web-based & IMAP/POP friendly mail service.

  • its meeeeeeee

    that’s a great dougnut!

  • mtron

    This information has proven to be very valuable to us, but it’s also crucial to know the email client distribution of your own list. For example, we know that few of our recipients use Lotus Notes. It would have taken us hours of effort to get our emails to render decently on Notes6-7, yet that would have satisfied only a small share of our list. It wasn’t worth the effort (indeed, I’m not even certain it’s possible).

    I’m very curious to know the distribution of gmail web client consumer vs IMAP consumers. I suspect many gmail consumers have migrated to a native client with the advent of IMAP (and spurred along by newer smartphones). Not to mention the gmail web experience is – shall we say – not one that aunty will ever figure out.

  • Snap

    Someone (me) should point out that Yahoo has a big advantage being that it is used as the default email client for those that subscribe to AT&T Internet services.

  • Jay

    Hi, just out of interest how is it possible to collect this info? I can understand the web based clients such as hotmail, yahoo etc…but how do you know someone is using outlook 2007, or Apple iPhone, what is the mechanism?

  • D Trump

    I find it curious that you combine Outlook and Outlook Express in a single category as they are two very different programs with different requirements. I’d really like to see a separate percentage just for Outlook Express.

  • David Greiner

    @Jay, we look at the user-agent of the email app. Many email clients pass through the user agent when requesting images, so we go off that when a referral domain isn’t available.

    @D Trump, Unfortunately Outlook and OE both use the same user-agent to render emails (basically, the version of IE installed on that machine). Because of that, we can’t differentiate between each version. Outlook 2007 uses the Word rendering engine, which is why we can separate that out.

  • Liz

    I actually think user frustration with the Gmail interface might play some role here – Gmail’s user interface being quite different to other email programs and apps.

    For example, many of my clients tell me they find its group-all-emails-together-as-one format difficult to deal with, and would prefer to see emails listed separately.

    Others would prefer new replies to sit on top of earlier emails, rather than at the bottom.

  • elliot

    Can you analyze the user email data and see the proportion of @yahoo. @gmail and @hotmail addresses? If you’re mailing the same amount of yahoo/gmail/hotmail people but less “views” are being counted through gmail, it suggests POP3 and IMAP are being used.

    Also out of interest, do you only count the first view of an email or do you include multiple views? eg. if I check an email on an iphone then open the same email in gmail, does it count 1 for iphone and 1 for gmail or just 1 for iphone?

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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