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Email Client Report: March 2009

DAVID GREINER - APR 22, 2009

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.

Growth continues for Apple

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

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.

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