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re: Email Opens—iPhone Eats Android’s Lunch

Android may dominate the mobile space in terms of smartphone market share, but when it comes to email opens on a mobile device, iOS leaves Android’s little green alien shaking its little green head.

According to research released today by email marketing technology company Movable Ink examining U.S. consumer device preference, 38.5% of the total number of email opens in Q2 2013 happened on an iPhone, compared to just 9.3% on Android phones. Apple tablets account for nearly 13% of email opens, while Android tablets lag behind significantly at .71%.

But the story isn’t as simple as all that. Despite the fact that iOS devices are clearly ahead in terms of opens, the Android users who do read emails on their devices are actually more engaged than iPhone users—53% spent 15 seconds or more viewing each email message, versus just 41.5%  of iPhoners.

Though striking, the overall results didn’t come as too much of a surprise to Jordan Cohen, VP of marketing at Movable Ink.

“We’re going to keep seeing a continued shift toward the smartphone,” Cohen says. “In the Q3 report, I think we’ll see smartphone email opens up from where they are now at 48% to over 50%.”

Cohen says he sees the most growth potential in the tablet space, which is “strong already, though it’s still in its infancy.”

“At some point the smartphone growth is going to stop—the desktop isn’t going away because of mobile, just like the cell phone didn’t destroy the land line and email didn’t stop people from talking on the phone,” he says. “But tablets can start to eat away more at desktops, especially regarding business-to-consumer email.”

As to why iOS, as Cohen puts it, “is eating Android’s lunch when it comes to email opens,” there are a few theories flying around.

For one, Apple inherently has the advantage for logging email opens because images are displayed automatically in emails opened on iOS devices.

“You can only track an email open if the images are turned on, and on an Android and in the Gmail app for Android, which is the most popular app used to view email, the images are turned off by default,” he says.

But that doesn’t wholly account for the wide gulf between open rates on iOS versus Android. It’s also possible that the kind of customer who would have bought a feature phone in the past is now buying the cheaper Android instead and only using the device for “calling, texting, and Angry Birds” rather than for email, says Cohen.

Whatever the case may be, the numbers paint a dramatic picture—62% of email was opened on a smartphone or a tablet last quarter, a number destined to rise.

“It’s a huge, transformative change in the way we think about layout and how we experience content,” Cohen says. “It’s not just email at your desk anymore, it’s email on your phone, on your tablet.”

Movable Ink’s study was based on data pulled from its agile email marketing platform between April and June, reflecting the behavior of its client base of more than 100 enterprise B2C marketers in finance, media, retail, telecommunications, and travel.

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