How do you handle the million plus types of mobile devices when doing mobile research? Maybe not a million, but there is a multitude of manufacturers, devices and models. Yet despite all these options for respondents, most mobile research seems to be focused on iPhones. Don't get me wrong, iPhones are fabulous. There is no denying the penetration and growing market share. There is no denying the amazing user experience inherent in iPhones. There is no denying that mobile research works well on iPhones. But it is not the only game in town - at least not yet.
If you take a look at recent analysis from Gartner, you will see that Android devices are outselling iPhones. In fact, several leading analysts are predicting that by 2015 even Microsoft phones could have matching market share with iOS devices. The other factor is that people are still saddle with their old phones, meaning that millions of people are still using their corporate issued BlackBerries, or they are waiting for their multi-year cell phone contract to come up. If you look at the web browser usage stats from StatCounter, in North America BlackBerries accounted for 13% of mobile web traffic in March 2012
Mobile research can be used in two main areas - quantitative and qualitative. With qualitative research there is less concern over the representativeness of the sample, however, even with qualitative research it would be a red flag to have all of your qualitative research conducted only with iPhone users. In terms of quantitative research, data quality and validity is directly related to your sample meaning that your sample should be representative of your target population. Having mobile quantitative research only on iPhones is definitely creating a bias to your research results.
The fact of the matter is, to have any kind of representation via mobile research you have to include a wide reach of devices, which includes the likes of Samsung, BlackBerry, LG, Nokia, Microsoft, HTC and others. When you throw the net wider than just iPhones, among these manufacturers you find a few broad categories: touch screen smartphones, non-touch smartphones and good old fashioned feature phones. iPhone touch is only sliver of all those categories. If you are Apple, doing mobile research only on iPhones makes sense (and we all know they don't do market research). If you are anyone else, chances are that your customer profile doesn't directly map to only iPhone users. A good mobile research platform will provide you with the ability to do research across a range of devices with as broad coverage as that of the smartphone population. If not, you should consider your results qualitative or directional at best.
We strongly believe in providing our clients with the tools to conduct good solid research for making their decisions. Our platform provides users with the ability to conduct mobile research on touch and non-touch smartphones. We have invested a lot in the ability to offer this functionality - development time, quality assurance, research on research and more.
The next time you hear about mobile research, ask the question about which devices were included in the research. iPhone only research should make you think twice about the validity of the results, at least until the point in time when they are the only game in town.