How iPhone shapes social media

This wonderful video shows the incredible infographics at Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference WWDC 2009 – it showed the “live” download of the top 20,000 apps from iTunes App store. It’s generated a lot of buzz – and for good reason. While not quite a by-the-second recreation of what’s happening at the App Store — as the results are delayed by five minutes — the “live” mural has each iPhone app’s icon pulse light outwards in a ripple whenever someone downloads that app.

What’s really interesting is what it represents:

  • There are now 50,000 + iPhone (and iPod Touch, so iPhone OS) applications less than a year since release of iPhone 3G.
  • The displays are representing 20,000 of the most downloaded applications
  • More than 1 billion apps downloaded, the milestone was reached in April 2009, again less than a year since iPhone 3G
  • 3,000 apps are downloaded every minute
  • New iPhone 3G S is faster, with video capabilities & even edit your video on the phone and share it straight to YouTube

I am an unashamed iPhone champion, I got one the day it was released in Australia. However, there are loads of detractors who keep looking for an iPhone killer, lauding Android, Blackberry and various Palm and Windows OS devices.

The figures from Apple are significant enough to keep the competition at bay at least for the moment:

During the first quarter of iPhone 3G availability ended September 27, 2008, 6.9 million units were sold, exceeding the 6.1 million first-generation iPhone units sold in the prior five quarters combined. Unit sales of iPhone 3G continued to be significant in the quarter ended March 28, 2009, with 3.79 million iPhones sold.

So how does iPhone shape social media?

Let’s look at popular iPhone apps and stats on content generation.


Back in May 2008, I felt Twitter combined with GPS was going to explode on iPhone. It was scarily accurate, and my Twitter use increased thousandfold after getting iPhone Twitter apps and enjoying the experience of social on the go. It seems I’m not the only one posting mobile status updates, looking at Mashable and TechCrunch lists of the most popular Twitter apps:

Mashable has Tweetie, Twitteriffic and Twitterfon (all iPhone Twitter clients) in the top 10

TechCrunch has Tweetie as number 5 and Twitterfon as number 13 in the top 21


The iPhone Facebook app was the number one free app downloaded in 2008 on the iTunes store. There are currently more than 8.6 million active monthly users of the iPhone Facebook application worldwide.  That’s quite a lot of mobile status updating, sure its not huge compared to the hundreds of millions of Facbook users, but my guess is the Facebook iPhone app users are probably an actively updating bunch.


Flickr has a mobile version of its site that looks great on iphone. But the most compelling story is in content creation. Just look at this chart of the most popular cameraphones by Flickr members. What’s even more significant, out of all the cameras on Flickr, the iPhone is the second most popular after a”real” digital SLR cameras Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi. It’s outstripped 3 other popular digital SLRs since its launch. Read: pro-sumer digital SLR photographers and iPhone users are the most prolific sharers on Flickr

iPhone the most popular to take Flickr photos

iPhone the most popular to take Flickr photos


It’s really hard to find usage stats on iPhone YouTube access, probably because its built into the iPhone OS. From early 2008, the figures were iPhone users were 30 times more likely to access YouTube compared to regular mobile web users. From 2009, it jumps to 37% of iPhone users watched online video, but the rest of mobile world has caught up, (iPhone users 6x more likely to watch video compared to regular mobile users)

My next prediction is going to be the explosion of YouTube videos being filmed edited and uploaded from new iPhone 3G S


The MySpace iPhone app is number 5 of the social networking free apps on the Australian iTunes store. No readily available data on how many active users are accessing from the iPhone, but given its download popularity, it would be high.

Mobile Web

AdMob metrics from April 2009 gives us the perspective of how much iPhone punches above its weight.  AdMob report shows  iPhone OS had 8% of smartphone market share globally, but generated 43% of mobile web requests and 65% of HTML usage. That’s 8% of iPhones generating 65% of mobile web traffic.

Nielsen says 88% of iPhone users in the US are regular users of the web (making them 4x as likely as the typical subscriber)

Mobile advertising

Ogilvy blogs reported that iPhone users are 23% more likely to respond to mobile advertising. Looking at the stats for mobile web traffic, it makes sense given the amount of mobile web traffic generated from iPhone OS.

Its a pretty compelling story of how iPhone OS feeds users and content to major social media and social networking sites, and helps keep users connected, anywhere 3G access is available.

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  • Great piece — the numbers are just amazing. I can't wait to get my first iPhone later this month and start shaping some social media of my own.

  • Great information. I'm on the fence about getting an iPhone. Ready to jump on board for the phone, concerned about the service from AT&T, is it worth the switch?

  • Hi Brandi, I can't comment on the service from AT&T as we have different service providers in Australia. But the phone is fantastic and as long as you have 3G coverage you will enjoy all the features. Many businesses in the US, like coffee shops offer WIFI as a free service, so you get additional free stuff that we don't get here.

  • servantofchaos

    Some great stats here, Tip. There is no doubt that devices like the iPhone are bound to drive innovation in the way that we create content, but they also play a role in other aspects of social media – such as filtering and distribution. The biggest problem I have with mobile devices is that they are entirely dependent upon the patchy 3G network. So while I might love my mobile device, it's only as good as the network it connects to.
    Now, if Apple could do something about that …

  • nathanbush

    Great post Tip. Good timing too – will be interested to see how these stats have changed in 12 months when the new iPhone is released and everyone has had the chance to get out of their current contract and onto an iPhone have done so.

  • damjanov

    Awesome post. If I recall, we were just discussing the other day how this device has help to both connect and disconnect us in real life. =P

    It would be interesting to see stats on how iPhone users use their SMS/Email when compared with other users (do they substitute SMS with chat/email, or use them both equally/more?).

    @Servant of Chaos – The 3G network isn't quite Apple's fault, but then, if you pick up one of the new iPhone 3Gs' then you'll prob notice much better coverage, as it uses HSDPA rather than UMTS.

  • The new developer features in OS3.0 should make for some amazing new uses in the next year. I'm also an unashamed fan – my wife, who initially didn't want an iphone, was referring to it as 'essential' within 12 hours of getting it!

  • thanks for your comment Gavin, one of the features of the iPhone is that you can turn 3G off and go to the regular network which is slower but at least it still works.

  • I would love any stats on details like sms/email, and also stats on how many iPhones are here in Australia. Now just need to convince Apple to give them to me 🙂

  • Yes -the quantum leap will happen all over again, and I think it will be driven by the video features (which was a gripe from those used to being able to capture video with their regular 3G phones). As you say Nathan there are lots of people waiting for their contracts to finish – now there's even more reasons to get iPhone.

  • Hi Paul, your experience is identical to a friend who's wife now loves her iphone – when their children aren't using it to play penguin games.

  • I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the iPhone hasn't changed my life. Nor has it singlehandedly shaped social media…

    What I find interesting is how a device with just 8% of the smartphone market can enjoy 92% of airtime on blogs and twitter. Yay fanboys (and fangirls!)

    So in the interest of fair and balanced blogging, allow me to throw in a few caveats:

    Twitter: Tweetie and Twitteriffic are both mac apps, not just for iphone. Twitterfon has just 2% share… Read: nothing special here, other phones access Twitter too.

    Facebook: More than 8.6m ppl use the iPhone FB app, cool. What about the 6m users of Facebook's default mobile app? Or people who use the mobile facebook site directly?

    Flickr: Again this graph is not entirely accurate.
    – Flickr measures popularity on the basis of the number of users who've uploaded a photo on a given day (not number of photos uploaded from a type of camera)
    – Flickr has over 51m photos from the Canon Rebel XTi, compared with 5.8m from the iphone. Also, many camera phones don't identify themselves to Flickr, so their use isn't logged.
    – it's probably worth mentioning Ovi (and similar services), where millions of Nokia's users can share their photos.

    Mobile Web: yes, iPhones users do tend to access the web more than other phone owners – however, iphones display full html pages (rather than mobile sites) so naturally they'll generate more web traffic. Also what about the millions of japanese and koreans who use mobile web and have done for years?

    Long story short? The iPhone has made a positive impact to the market, true. But let's not get carried away about the size of that impact… it still tiny in comparison to the total number of phones out there.

  • Thanks for your comments. There was never an implication that iphone “singlehandedly shaped social media…” they are your words not mine. The post was more about how iPhone punches above its weight, which you acknowledge in your reference to online buzz generated (8% vs 92%)

    Twitterific – sure was a desktop client first but its uptake on iPhone was high particularly July 2008 because there were only a couple of clients available.
    Tweetie – the desktop version was only developed in the last 3 months and its popularity statistics in the articles are pre-desktop release. Its still the most popular paid app on iPhone.

    Facebook: Already acknowledged there are hundreds of millions of users of Facebook accessing not through mobile methods. And yes there is a mobile site which is getting traffic. Its just there are a lot of iPhone users visible via the tracking of the app itself.

    Flickr: the graph is referenced over time, (y-axis) which is why the iPhone photos line builds up. Sure there are thousands of cameraphones which do not have a signature that can be identified, but if you consider that Nokia has the lions share of regular phones, why isn't their representation higher on Flickr? Fair point about the Digital SLRs however, iPhone is still on that list for the most popular
    SLR cameras which is what's interesting

    Mobile Web: maybe the Koreans and Japanese are generating the other 35% of mobile web traffic that's not iPhone based on April's stats from AdMob.

    Ironically, this blog post started as something quite small, and it was only after I looked at the stats that it got more in depth and the stats themselves generated a very clear case. The size and the depth of the impact its had on people's habits is in the numbers – sure it's only 8% of the market, but look at how its changed the playing field. Its not about saying there's no other mobile phones that can access social media, or that people create social content with. Sure there are a lot of Blackberry's out there – but most of its users are not mad social media consumers or creators. Its is more about how people have changed their habits and increased the amount they are engaging, creating and distributing social based on the uptake of a particular device.

  • I'm with you on the YouTube prediction, native video editing and upload will vastly increase the crap-quotient. But seriously, can you imagine how this feature would effect the Iran election protests? Or any journalism for that matter…

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