Five BlackBerry OS Tips (and Other Insights) from Sensobi

With one of the more popular BlackBerry apps today, Sensobi often gets questions from folks trying to navigate and understand the BlackBerry OS landscape.

Typically, these questions are something like: 1) What is the most popular BlackBerry OS today? 2) What is the minimum OS we should develop for? 3) How popular is the latest and greatest OS 6?

And thanks to the Android device dashboard, we can see how helpful this data can be for mobile developers.

But surprisingly, RIM does not release this information, not even at BlackBerry DEVCON.

In an effort to assist our fellow BlackBerry developers, we combed through our sixteen months of data and compiled the charts below. Hope this helps.

And as always, please let us know if you have any questions!

(Caveat: This data is solely based on usage of the Sensobi app, but we believe our users represent the typical BlackBerry user base. However, last month we stopped supporting the BlackBerry Storm and are likely under reporting BlackBerry Storm (OS 5.0) usage. The OS 5.0 share may be slightly understated.)

 

50,000+ Downloads, 100+ Countries

First, a little background on Sensobi and where this data is coming from. In June 2009, we launched our private beta, entered public beta in September 2009, and released our free and paid applications to the BlackBerry community in December 2009. Today (September 2010) we have well over 50,000 downloads in 100+ countries worldwide, with 60% of our users based in the United States.

 

Sensobi BlackBerry app downloads

 

BlackBerry OS Landscape Today

The pie chart below shows the BlackBerry operating system mix of our users over the past 30 days (August 27, 2010 - September 27, 2010).

 

 

BlackBerry OS pie chart

Our conclusions:

  • OS 5.0 remains the dominant BlackBerry OS, with a majority (64%) of users
  • Remarkably, OS 4.6 is the next major platform at 32%, a large share considering OS 5.0′s launch over one year ago
  • Also surprisingly, these two platforms account for nearly all users (96%), indicating a low level of OS fragmentation
  • OS 6.0, RIM’s latest operating system, still has a small presence (1.7%) with plenty of room to grow

 

BlackBerry OS Landscape Over the Past Year

The area chart below shows the BlackBerry OS mix of our users over the past year (September 2009 – September 2010).

 

 

BlackBerry OS mix over time chart

Here is what we find:

  • While BlackBerry OS 5.0 remains the most popular platform today, its growth has slowed dramatically, most likely owing to the launch of OS 6.0
  • Also, OS 5.0 needed roughly 6 - 9 months since launch to grab the majority share of users, a potential indicator of how long OS 6.0 will need to become the dominant platform
  • In terms of percentage growth, OS 6.0 is seeing the largest increase, while OS 5.0 and 4.6 appear to be holding steady
  • The other platforms have slowly become irrelevant to developers, owing to their small and rapidly shrinking bases

 

Summary

  1. BlackBerry OS 5.0 (64%) and 4.6 (32%) remain the main BlackBerry operating system platforms today
  2. Low BlackBerry operating system fragmentation in the market, with both operating systems having a combined 96% share
  3. OS 6.0 will take 6 - 9 months to gain popularity, if past adoption rates are any indicator of the future
  4. Firms building new BlackBerry apps today should aim to build for OS 5.0+ at a minimum, and OS 4.6+ if at all possible
  5. Stop supporting OS 4.2 - 4.3: hardly anyone uses it anymore

We hope this analysis helps – and let us know if you have any questions!

(Update: Great news – We just heard that we’re a regional winner in the 2010 BlackBerry Developer Challenge! Press Release.)

Are you a BlackBerry developer? Drop us a line at hello (at) sensobi dot com – we’d love to compare notes.

(This guest post is by Sensobi, maker of the Sensobi Contacts Pro app. The post was originally published on their own blog. With permission, it has been re-posted here.)

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