Is Apple Misrepresenting The iOS 9 Adoption Rate?

Apple said earlier this week that over 50% of iDevices are already running on iOS 9, giving this year’s iOS version the fastest adoption rate ever and beating previous versions by a wide margin. However, there appears to be something wrong here as multiple third parties claim adoption rates far below 50%.

What third parties say about iOS 9’s adoption rate

Apple said in its press release that it came up with the more than 50% measurement by looking at App Store data on Sept. 19. However, Crittercism and Fiksu both measured only 23% on that same day, while MixPanel measured 29%. These third-party estimates are all based on “samples across tens of thousands of apps encompassing billions of app loads,” according to Crittercism.

Last week the folks at Crittercism shared their projections for iOS 9 adoption with ValueWalk. By Sunday, they were expecting 20% of iOS users to have upgraded to iOS 9, although Apple said they had already surpassed 50% by Saturday.

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 3.55.57 PM iOS 9

In other words, it looks like users are picking up iOS 9 slightly faster than what Crittercism thought they would, but it seems pretty odd that Apple’s measurement would differ so widely from the measurements done by third parties.

So why is Apple’s estimated adoption rate so far off the rates measured by third parties? The experts at Crittercism have three theories about why there is such a huge difference between their measurement and Apple’s.

Did Apple segment iOS 9 data?

One theory they suggest is that Apple is segmenting its data in some way, perhaps by device or geography. The company could inflate its reported adoption rate by doing this.

Crittercism suggests that Apple might be reporting the percentage of users who are actually eligible to upgrade to iOS and have done so because the new version of the operating system only works on the iPhone 4S or newer. It also doesn’t work on the original iPad.

Now if you’re immediately calling attention to how few of Apple’s older devices are still in use, I’m right there with you, and so is Crittercism. They actually have a concrete number indicating why this is unlikely, as they say “well over 90%” of Apple device users have devices that are compatible with iOS 9.

Further, they were able to filter old devices that aren’t compatible with iOS 9 out of their data and saw their measured adoption rate only rise to approximately 25%. The firm also looked at the U.S. adoption rate compared to that of the rest of the world and found the same numbers.

A literal interpretation?

And then there’s the actual language in Apple’s press release, which Crittercism says could be interpreted thus:

only users that accessed the app store over a certain time interval. In other words, it’s possible Apple took a cohort of users that accessed the app store in the last week, compared that to users that accessed the app store on the 19th, and that number amounted to 50%. This would imply that users who access the app store more frequently are more likely to upgrade to iOS 9, a fair assumption.”

The Facebook factor

And finally, Crittercism states that there’s a “fairly large percentage” of Apple users who only use their iPhones to make calls, send texts and emails, and use Facebook. However, their data looks at app usage across the ecosystem except for Facebook.

They note that a recent survey by Forrester indicated that 13% of total mobile minutes are spent on Facebook, but they don’t believe Facebook alone is enough to skew the data so widely. They said there’s “plenty of cross pollination” with other social media networks in their data sets, in addition to daily usage of other social sites, games, and mobile commerce apps.

Of course no matter how you look at the adoption rate, there’s no denying that the iOS 9 transition is going much easier than iOS 8 adoption was. Crittercism estimates that the crash rate right now was 2.2% five days after Apple released it, compared to iOS 8’s crash rate at 3.3% in a comparable time frame last year.