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Use of mobile email clients is set to surpass desktop and webmail client usage by July, according to the results of a recent study by our friends at Return Path. After examining data from over 90 email clients, amounting for more than 130 million data points over a 6 month period, Return Path found that while webmail clients overall are on a slow decline, mobile views increased by 82.4% over the same period (March ’11 – March ’12). Mobile devices currently claim 16% of overall email client market share, with 85% of mobile email opens occurring on an Apple iOS device. This is comparable to our earlier findings.

Return Path also found that there is an uptick in mobile email readership during the weekend, which can be attributed to email recipients switching from the desktop to a smartphone outside of office hours. Conversely, it’s at its lowest on a Wednesday, when presumably folks are at their most busy tackling their Outlook, or OSX Mail inboxes.

The implications for email senders like you and I are fairly clear. As Tom at Return Path states in his summary:

“… those that aren’t tracking which device their subscribers are reading their emails on, or optimizing their emails or websites for mobile devices stand to lose out.  A poor user experience could mean no response, no action, or plainly put, no ROI.”

If you aren’t already optimizing your emails for mobile, now is the time. To set you on the right path, we’ve got a practical primer on email design, not to mention a neat template builder which can whip together mobile-ready campaigns in a matter of minutes.

Out of curiosity, will Return Path’s findings change the way you send campaigns? Let us know in the comments below.

  • JB

    The last campaign I ran for a client who runs an audio mastering business saw a massive 40% of opens on mobile devices.

    We are using the Campaign Monitor template builder to ensure the email looks great wherever it is read. To that end, I’d like to see an “update recommended” and an “update” button to update our templates created using template builder to the latest standard.

  • Soeren Sprogoe

    Some of my more “mobile heavy” clients are seeing a 31% share from mobile users coming in from newsletters.

    So we’re not there yet, but July is still a bit away :-)

  • Matt

    With this in mind, I’d like to see the CM template builder offer more support for resizing of images for responsive purposes. I reported it in the CM forums recently and look forward to a fix..

  • Ros Hodgekiss

    Thanks for the feedback here, especially in regards to how we can improve. Matt – this is certainly one for us to consider, so I’ll be in touch if we change how we resize images. :)

  • Tim

    “with 85% of mobile email opens occurring on an Apple iOS device”

    How do you know this is accurate when iOS enables images by default and Android devices disable by default?

  • Ros Hodgekiss

    Hi Tim, Tom at Return Path makes mention of this bias in his summary. 85% certainly isn’t an accurate number, but it’s what’s recordable and still likely representative of a majority using iOS devices to view email.

  • Tim

    Here’s the thing. If you are including iPads in this statistic along with mobile phones, I would say you are combining apples and oranges. Designing email for iPad’s almost 10″ screen is not so different (if at all) from desktop.

    If on the other hand we are talking about mobile phones with 3.5″-4.5″, then iOS is the minority as it only accounts for about 14% of the market share (rank 3). The other top 5 are all Androids (1. Samsung, 2. LG, 4. Motorola, 5. HTC).


  • Tim

    I’m sorry, I might have misread the tables – I’m not sure if the first table somehow includes tablets, but even if we are looking at the second table the result is similar. Android mobile phones accounts for 51% while Apple iOS is 30.7%.

  • Jason


    “Apples and oranges aren’t that different really. I mean they’re both fruit. Their weight is extremely similar. They both contain acidic elements. They’re both roughly spherical. They serve the same social purpose…. So how is this a metaphor for difference I could understand if you said ‘That’s like comparing apples and uranium ‘ or ‘That’s like comparing apples with baby wolverines ‘ or ‘That’s like comparing apples with the early work of Raymond Carver ‘ or ‘That’s like comparing apples with hermaphroditic ground sloths.’ Those would all be valid examples of profound disparity.”
    ― Chuck Klosterman


  • Joshua Reynolds

    Interesting article, thank you.

  • Tim


    Haha, thanks for the quote.

    I just think it’s pretty misleading to even bring out that 85% iOS statistic. Isn’t the point of this post to help us accurately understand what form factor / conditions we are designing for?

    This iOS stat really tells us is: If anyone does see your email with images, it is very likely an iOS device.

    On the other hand, combining the Return Path data with the market share stats, what we learn is that majority of smart phones are Androids BUT a lot of these will not display your email images. We already have this situation with desktop mail clients, except now the screen size is much smaller so you should probably be moving toward single column layouts.

  • Purchase Digital / email marke

    Yahoo! Mail is the most popular? Oh dear, I always thought it was Gmail. Maybe that’s just my preference. This report will just help the case to assign resources to mobile design and development, which is good for everyone.

  • Purchase Digital / email marke

    I also like their little note towards the end of the infographic: “Apple devices enable images by default so they may be overrepresented.” I’d say that they are overrepresented, as ~50% of recipients don’t allow images. I’d halve the number of Apple opens which would be more accurate.

  • Jonathan Saipe

    Doesn’t surprise me.

    Technical question: if someone initially opens an email using their mobile device, and then opens it on their desktop later (something I regularly do), how would most ESPs record which email client was used? Presumably that would count as 2 opens and 2 email clients?

  • Dave

    A very interesting article the device usage type is defiantly swinging as more and more people are using smart phones and tablets to connect and check up with the online lives some people are only using conventional desktop pcs or laptops now when they are at work the world is changing!

  • shg

    In all my years of emailing, this week marked the first campaign with anything other than Outlook 2000/2003/Express as the most-used client. iPhone was top, then Outlook 2000/2003/Express, then iPad, then Outlook 2010, then the rest.

    iOS devices represented over 1/3 of the readership.

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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