For better or worse, Twitter users have made the social media
site into a major source of information. We've come to rely on the
Twitterati to share and divulge immediate details about events both
trivial (the reunion of Destiny's Child at the Super Bowl) and very
serious (riots and military coups). Now, Twitter is helping us see
the worldwide distribution of smartphones like never before.
Using geolocation data from over 280 million mobile tweets, social
media data company Gnip and data visualization company MapBox
collaborated with ex-
) data maestro Eric Fischer to compile an interactive Twitter-use
heat map. Using tweets collected since September 2011, the map
illustrates the global usage and distribution of
), Android, and
) smartphones. (For more on Fischer and his work, read
"Mapmaker, Artist, or Programmer?"
). The interactive map, which you can view
, and also below, codes iPhone tweets as red, Android tweets as
green, and BlackBerry tweets as purple.
iOS dominates USA Twitter usage, Image courtesy of Gnip and MapBox.
Click to enlarge.
In broad terms, the map shows the US heavily shaded in red, with a
significant portion of red dots falling in the Eastern half of the
country (the Midwest is mostly black, with splotches of red and
dots of green). The thickest concentrations of iPhone tweets come
from metro areas like New York City, Chicago, Dallas, and Los
Angeles. When you zoom in on these metropolises, however, pockets
of green (for Google use) reveal themselves. Manhattan is vibrantly
red, but across the Hudson River, Google actually dominates in
Jersey City. Across the East River, Queens and Brooklyn
(particularly the less affluent areas) are mostly green as well.
Perhaps most interesting and visually surprising thing about the
map is the solidly purple spots in Midtown and the Financial
District in Manhattan, where business people are still loyal to
their BlackBerrys. Less than 500 miles to the northwest, there's
another bastion of purple in Toronto, the closest big city to
Waterloo, Ontario, where BlackBerry is headquartered.
In Mexico, spots of purple become more common. In fact, throughout
Central and South America, BlackBerry is still the dominant
smartphone, with strongholds of Android and iOS only really
appearing in Brazil around city centers. BlackBerry also dominates
Southeast Asia and the few spots in Africa that have any mobile
Twitter usage, as well as the Iberian Peninsula.
China is dark, of course, because Twitter is blocked by the Chinese
government, but South Korea is mostly green while Japan is
However, it is important to note that the map looks more cut and
dry from far away; when you zoom in on a major block of red, green,
or purple, streaks are clearly visible. More importantly, these
maps only track Twitter use on mobile devices and don't account for
biases. (Are iPhone users more likely to tweet than Android users?)
To give this information more context, we can look to the most
Internet Wars Report
from the Web traffic analysis company StatCounter. The report
measures several worldwide tech metrics from July 2012 to July
2013, and illustrates how competitive the battle for mobile
dominance is. Only last month did Android, with a global market
share of 25.47%, overtake Apple, with 25.09%. In the same month,
BlackBerry scored a 3.62% market share. However, as the Twitter map
also revealed, iOS retains a strong lead in the US and the UK. Also
important to note from the report is that
) holds a strong third place in global mobile usage with 21.96% as
of last month; the Twitter heat map doesn't include Nokia phones.
Rumors have circulated for many months that Apple is developing a
cheaper iPhone to appeal to lower income consumers. Looking at both
the Twitter heat map and the StatCounter report, it seems like a
cheaper iPhone would certainly broaden the iPhone's global reach.
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