I’ve written recently about how I’ve gone a bit ‘goo-goo’ over Google, parting ways with my iPhone and entering the Android world. As one might expect, the user experience is quite different. Not better or worse – just different.
First, let’s consider the iPhone email experience. It is very homogenous (by design) and so it’s not hard to understand the user experience – from screen size to finger gestures to HTML rendering behaviors.
The Android smartphone world is a stark contrast. Open Signal did a great job visualizing the extent of Android screen size fragmentation (spanning both smartphones and tablets) and Google’s latest Developer Dashboard still shows 47% of the Android universe on Gingerbread (2.3.x; translated ‘older’) with another 39% on Ice Cream Sandwich or Jelly Bean (4.x; translated ‘latest’).
Equally perplexing is the question of which Android app is used to read email in a sea of device and operating system fragmentation. Manufacturers like Samsung and HTC create Android-based email clients, but the reported surge to 425 million active Gmail account holders (as of June 2012) caused us to wonder whether Gmail for Android app is the mobile email client of choice.
In October, we decided to investigate this matter by conducting a survey that simply asked one question: “Which email app do you use to read & send email from your Android smartphone?”
We found iPhone users raising their hands to this Android-focused question and even got additional insights courtesy of Google that speak to which Android email app men and women prefer. The bottom line: The single biggest opportunity cost marketers face could be ignoring the Android email experience. Here’s what we found:
Who Loves Leaving Money on the Table?
Nobody. No marketer wants to leave money on the table. And yet, optimizing emails for mobile without taking Android users into consideration is a massively lopsided strategy. Of the 1,505 responses, 14.8% identified themselves as Android users. Another 18.5% identified themselves as iPhone users. The remaining responders said they were neither iPhone or Android smartphone users. The survey responses confirmed that there is probably an Android smartphone user in your email database for every iOS smartphone user you’ve identified.
Why is this? Well that’s the perennial flaw in open rate tracking due to the dependency on images rendering. For the majority of Android email clients, images are off by default. Litmus reports for our clients consistently show that there are significantly more iPhone users than Android users (I have yet to hear differently from other email marketers – though I’m all ears).
There’s a bit of a chicken and the egg game at play here. If marketers were to convince their subscribers using the top left corner of their emails to permanently display images, then more Android users would suddenly appear. Problem solved, right?
Wrong. Even if you were to get a Gmail for Android user to display images, marketers won’t easily overcome the distraction and engagement killer that scrolling up, down, left or right is to reading the email content. There is no scaling and in the case of Gmail for Android, no pinch/zoom.
The survey also revealed that among those surveyed, 74% of women and 62% of men were using Gmail for Android to check their email. For marketers whose target audiences skew by gender, the implications for opportunity cost are even more significant.
What should we do?
Every campaign and every email template serves a unique purpose. Whether you’re trying to raise awareness or drive direct response, put yourself in the seat of an Android user and figure out what’s necessary to fulfill a positive user experience, starting with Gmail for Android and factoring in other popular smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy family.
Consider using fluid design, responsive design or BrightWave’s mobile optimized design solution that can deliver a unique, device-specific design in real-time that was recently showcased on the Litmus blog and by ClickZ. In case you hadn’t seen it live and in action, here’s a quick look:
A horizontal view of our 2012 Holiday Greeting email for desktop environments and …
… it’s unique, tall, mobile and scrolling cousin as seen on an iPhone.