Generated Content by David Storey

See your site like the rest of the world does. On the Nokia X2-01 

In our world of ever increasing high resolution displays, multi-core, multi gigahertz processors, 4G networks and touch enabled experiences, it is often easy to forget how the rest of the world lives.

Beyond the latest iPhones, and Android devices, there are a multitude of devices out there, enabling the next billion to experience the World Wide Web for the first time. Move away from the wealthy few of the industrialised world, and a whole different picture emerges. One that might be familiar to those of you who were pioneers on the mobile web; before the iPhone came out and changed our mobile experience forever.

Entering long URLs and form data on a keypad designed for entering phone number and typing txt messages, not for writing novels, navigating with arrow keys instead directly touching the object on the screen. Running out of memory on large pages, or simply getting lost as the page layout was too complex for the tiny screen you were using.

The browsers have gotten better since then, but surprisingly many of the devices used in the developing world haven’t significantly. Sure, the raw horsepower may have gone up, and more memory means less of those dreaded out of memory errors. But, key attributes that web developers care about, such as screen size and resolution, and input method are still stuck in the previous era.

These restrictions are an everyday reality for those that are not as lucky as we are, with our super computers in our pockets. If you care about keeping the World in WWW, and ensuring the content you create is accessible to all, then it will be a reality for you as well.

Lack of access to online information is only increasing the digital divide. However rudimentary their devices may be, being able to access information on their mobile phone is as empowering for them as it has been for us, if not more so. As Bruce Lawson wrote in his great post on the Opera DevRel team blog Comparison between Indian states shows that a 10% increase in mobile phone penetration rate leads to a 1.2% increase in GDP. Having access to information helps people help themselves. The video in Bruce’s post helps put a face to some of those people, and a window into the joy they experience when being able to access the Web.

If you publish information on the Web, I can’t encourage you enough to try design your site with these devices in mind. No, they don’t need to look the same; you don’t need every wizz bang transition, or rounded corner, but having clear navigable access to the content of your site at small screen sizes and via keypad input is invaluable.

If you use Media Queries, add tests to make sure the layout doesn’t break down at small sizes. If you have a separate site, make sure it still works when the screen size is even smaller that you may have tested already.

To make it clear I’m talking here about sites with informational content. Its a whole different challenge for JavaScript heavy apps meant to compete with native apps. Although there is demand for these kind of sites in the developing world, with Facebook the number 1 site across much of the globe, it will require much more than a bit of extra testing and attention to details to get these sites working on basic phones.

What is the average phone used by the rest of the world?

Great you should ask, as I’ve just spent the last few days poring over the facts, and collating all the details I could find. Details are quite hard to get a hold of, with even StatCounter (which is good about breaking down its data per country) only breaking down per screen resolution. Fortunately, as Opera Mini is a proxy browser–and is the most popular browser in much of the developing world–it has reams of data on what devices access the Web through its servers. Opera publishes this data through its State of the Mobile Web series. Sadly, Opera are much less forthcoming with the data that is useful to us than it used to be, but there is still a lot of useful info that we can dig out.

I couldn’t focus on every country in the world, as that would have simply taken too much time, so I narrowed down the study to the BRIC and Next 11 nations. These are 15 countries that Goldman Sachs identified as having a high potential for becoming the world’s largest economies in the 21st century. They also happen to all be countries where Opera Mini has a strong market share or user base, meaning that the Mini data will be highly relevant to the countries as a whole. I made one exception to this list, replacing South Korea with South Africa. The reason for this is that I feel like South Korea is much more like a developed nation these days, especially when considering mobile and internet access, and Opera Mini doesn‘t have such a relevant market share there. South Africa seemed like a good replacement, as it is one of the strongest African economies, and has always been a leading Opera Mini country.

The full list of countries (with population in parenthesis) includes:

The list includes 8 of the 10 most populous countries in the world, the most populous countries in Asia (China), Europe (Russia), and South America (Brazil), and the second most populous in North America (Mexico).

For each country, I looked at the top 10 devices used by Opera Mini users, and categorised them by attributes that are of interest for web developers. Sadly, Opera doesn’t have information on the top devices outside of Africa, Asia and Latin America for 2012, but I collected previous year’s information where available.

To check that the data from the leading developing nations was a valid representation of the region as a whole, I cross-referenced the data with the top 10 devices in each of the other countries in Africa, Latin America, and the Asia/Pacific region.

There are a huge number of different devices, but in general many fall into similar categories based on screen resolution and input method.

Screen size and resolution

There were 8 resolutions over the top ten phones in each of the studied countries. Two of these were the same resolution, just flipped between portrait and landscape orientation. Three were only found in Latin America, two of which cover the range between top end feature phones and bottom end smart phones.

QVGA Landscape (320×240)

All of the phones using landscape QVGA had 2.4 inch displays, giving around 167 ppi pixel density. This resolution has a 4:3 aspect ratio.

Phones with the resolution included the Nokia X2 01, Nokia C3, Nokia Asha 200, Nokia E63, Alcatel OT-808, Alcatel OT-800, Alcatel OT-802, Samsung Ch@t 335 (S3350), and the BlackBerry Curve 8520.

QVGA landscape screen

QVGA Portrait (240×320)

The phones in this category ranged from 2.0 inches (200 ppi) to 2.6 inches (154 ppi). The exception was the Samsung S3850, which has a 3.2 inch screen (125 ppi), and the Samsung Galaxy Y S5360 with a 3 inch screen (133 ppi).

Phones with this resolution include the Nokia Asha 303, Nokia 2700C, Nokia 2730C, Nokia 5130, Nokia X2 00, Nokia 6300, Nokia C2 01, Nokia N73, Nokia 3208c, Nokia 5000, Nokia 7020, Sony Ericsson K800, Samsung Galaxy Y S5360, and Samsung S3850.

QVGA portrait screen

Approximately QQVGA (128 x 160)

These phone are 8 pixels wider than the standard 120x160 resolution, but this is a common size with older feature phones. All Nokia phones with this resolution have a 1.8 inch display, giving them a pixel density of 114ppi. The one Samsung device has a larger display, coming in at 2 inches and a pixel density of only 102 ppi. Luckily this was the smallest resolution in the study.

The phones using this resolution included the Nokia C1, Nokia 2690, Nokia C2 00, Nokia 2330c, Nokia 2220 slide, and Samsung E250.

128x160 display

nHD (640×360)

nHD seems to be a resolution unique to Nokia, used in its touch based S60 phones. These phones have an aspect ratio of 16:9, and 3.2 inch displays. This brings the pixel density in at around 229 ppi.

These were the closest we got to smartphones in the study. Two devices used this resolution; the Nokia 5233 and Nokia 5230. In the screenshot below the screen looks a lot bigger than it would in real life.

nHD display

176×208

I couldn’t find the name for this resolution, but it is the common resolution for old non-touch S60 devices. These would have been considered smart phones back in the day. All phones with this resolution used 2.1 inch displays, with a pixel density of around 130 ppi.

The resolution was used on the N70 and N72. These phones seem to be dying out as time goes by.

176x208 display

220×176

This doesn’t seem to be a named resolution, but is common in lower end feature phones from various manufacturers. It is usually found in landscape oriented 2 inch displays, with a pixel density of around 141 ppi. This was the resolution used in the iPod Color.

This resolution can be found in the Motorola MOTOKEY Mini EX108 and EX109. Both of which are variations of the same phone and are only found in the top 10 in Brazil.

WQVGA (400×240)

WQVGA screens are usually 3 inch portrait touch screens found in higher end feature phones. They have an aspect ratio of 4:3, and a pixel density of around 155 ppi.

Phones with this resolution include the LG GM360 Viewty Snap and Samsung Star TV (S5233T), which have only made the top 10 in Mexico.

It is also found in top of the range feature phones that have not made the top 10 lists yet, such as the latest Nokia Asha Touch devices, and a number of Samsung Bada devices (usually with a slightly bigger 3.2 inch display).

HVGA (480×320)

This is the resolution made famous by the first 3 generations of the iPhone, so most web developers have an intimate knowledge of how to design for it. These days it has trickled down to lower end smart phones. It is often found in a 3.5 inch capacitive touch configuration.

Only one device was found with this resolution in the top 10 of the 15 countries studied, and it was not the iPhone. It was the Samsung Galaxy Ace S5830, which was 4th most popular in Mexico, and also popular throughout Latin America.

Input method

If the most common resolution of 320×240 or 240×320 wasn’t music to your ears, the news is worse on the input front. The good news was that the input method largely corresponded to the resolution and orientation, so we can group large amounts of devices in classes.

Numeric keypads

Phones with numeric keypads included:

QWERTY keypads

All landscape QVGA devices had QWERTY keypads. These were the type located under the display, as commonly seen on a BlackBerry device. The Nokia Asha 303 has a QWERTY keypad under a portrait QVGA display.

Resistive touch screens

All the nHD devices have resistive touch screens, as do both the WQVGA devices in this study. The Nokia 3208C (QVGA portrait display) also has a resistive touch screen in addition to a numeric keypad. This is a China only model.

Capacitive touch screens

This is the type of display we now come to expect, and usually design our mobile experiences around. Unfortunately this was only found in three devices; the Samsung Galaxy Ace S5830, the portrait QVGA Samsung S3850 and Nokia Asha 303. The latter also has a QWERTY keypad under the display. Newer WQVGA devices–which have yet to make the top 10 list–may include capacitive displays.

Operating Systems

This information is not hugely useful for web developers, but can be interesting to classify the devices.

Nokia OS (S40)

This was the most common OS by far. This is considered a feature phone OS, and apps are quite often developed using Java. Opera Mini for example is a Java app on S40.

All QVGA (of either orientation) phones from Nokia were S40 devices except the E63 and N73. I also believe that the 128x160 phones are S40, but they could be S30.

Symbian (S60)

The 176x208 devices use Symbian 8.1, the N73 and E73 use Symbian 9.1 and 9.2 respectively, and the nHD touch screen devices use Symbian 9.4.

Other

The Sony Ericsson, Alcatel, LG and Samsung phones used their own feature phone OS rather than any named smart phone operating systems.

Outside of Symbian, only two of the devices used what are now commonly considered smart phone OS; one Android device (Samsung Galaxy Ace), and one Blackberry (BlackBerry Curve 8520). Both are lower-end devices.

Data

The area where most phones diverged was their data capabilities, although Class 32 GPRS and EDGE is the most common. All except two of the portrait QVGA and one of the Landscape QVGA phones from Nokia supported this. Ironically the Nokia Asha 200 is the newest phone and has slower data capabilities.

The other phones supported everything from class 12 GPRS and EDGE to class 10 GPRS and no EDGE.

Only one phone (the Nokia C3) supported WiFi (b/g), so don’t expect this if you’re targeting developing countries. All the data coming down the pipe the users are paying for, unless they’re on some sort of unlimited plan or have free minutes (or find a hack for Opera Mini, such as has happened in Nigeria and Mexico in the past).

In conclusion

Popular phones in the developing world can currently be largely grouped into the following categories (ignoring the older symbian devices):

Portrait keypad

Numeric keypad with QVGA portrait display, Class 32 GPRS/EDGE, no Wifi, and Nokia S40 OS. Data access potentially slower.

Numeric keypad with 128x160 display. Widely varying data access speeds, at most 2G. No WiFi. Nokia S40 OS.

Portrait QWERTY

QWERTY keypad in a portrait phone. QVGA landscape display, Class 32 GPRS/EDGE, no Wifi, and Nokia S40 OS. Data access potentially slower. Newer devices and Blackberries may have WiFi.

Portrait full screen

nHD display with resistive touch screen. Class 32 GPRS/EDGE, no WiFi and Symbian 9.4 OS

The most popular devices

It is difficult to tell which device is the most popular, as there has been no global figure since November 2011. At that time, the most popular phone was the Nokia 5130 XpressMusic. This is a Portrait QVGA (240×320) device. Six of the top ten were in this configuration, one was a landscape QVGA device, and three were 128x160 devices.

Things change slowly in the feature phone world, but I suspect things have moved a bit, with slightly newer phones starting to become popular.

We can only use countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America to judge which phones are the most popular this year, but the Nokia X2 01 (a landscape QVGA device) tied with the venerable Nokia 5130 XpressMusic with two countries where it was the most popular. These were India and Indonesia (1st and 3rd largest Opera Mini countries respectively) for the X2 01, and China and South Africa for the Nokia 5130. Other major countries where the X2 01 is the most popular phone include Kenya, Ghana and Zimbabwe, while the 5130 is most popular in Egypt and Tanzania. As a newer phone, the X2 01 is certainly on the rise, but how popular it is in countries such as Russia will go a long way deciding which ends up on the top of the pile.

The C3 beat both of them out with three countries where it is the most popular; Mexico, Brazil, and the Philippines, but these countries are lower ranked in terms of Opera Mini users than those where the 5130 and X2 01 are the most popular. It is certainly a strong contender for the title of top device.

Nokia X2 01 - Landscape QVGA

The Nokia X2 01 can be considered one of the more modern replacements for the XpressMusic (the X series stands for Xpress). This particular device was released in January 2011 and is moving up the rankings.

Asian, Latin American and African countries where it is the most popular:

Other rankings (in 15 countries studied):

  1. Brazil, Nigeria, South Africa
  2. Vietnam
  3. Bangladesh
  4. Philippines

As a relatively new phone, it didn’t feature in any of the top ten last year.

Nokia 3150 XpressMusic

The Nokia 3150 XpressMusic has been the number one phone for at least the last two years. It was released back in February 2009. It is starting to drop in the rankings in a number of top countries.

Asian, Latin American and African countries where it is the most popular:

Other rankings (in 15 countries studied):

  1. Bangladesh, Vietnam
  2. Indonesia, Phillipines
  3. India
  4. Nigeria

In the countries where there is currently no data for this year, the 3150 XpressMusic was the leading device in Pakistan, 2nd in Iran and Turkey, and 3rd in Russia.

Nokia C3 00

The Nokia C3 00 is a landscape QVGA device, in much the same vein as the X2 01, except it does include WiFi. It was released in June 2010. It has the largest number of countries where it is the most popular in Asia/Pacific, Latin America and Africa, including three of the fifteen countries studied. It is the dominant phone by far in Latin America.

Asian, Latin American and African countries where it is the most popular:

Other rankings (in 15 countries studied):

  1. Indonesia
  2. Egypt
  3. Nigeria, South Africa
  4. Vietnam, Bangladesh

In the countries where there is no data for this year, the Nokia C3 was 1st in Turkey, and 4th in Pakistan.

Nokia 2700 classic

The Nokia 2700 classic is a portrait QVGA device is similar to the 5130 XpressMusic in characteristics. It has been the second most popular phone for two years, originally being released back in July 2009. It is most popular in two of the countries studied; Bangladesh and Vietnam, and also most popular in two of the top 10 african countries; Ethiopia and Sudan. It also has a strong showing in 2nd and 3rd in a number of major countries.

Asian, Latin American and African countries where it is the most popular:

Other rankings (in 15 countries studied):

  1. China, Egypt
  2. India, Nigeria, South Africa
  3. Indonesia
  4. Phillipines

In the countries with no data for this year, the Nokia 2700 classic was the leading device in Russia, 2nd in Pakistan, 3rd in Turkey, and 6th in Iran last year.

Nokia C1

This is where the groans might come in. The Nokia C1 is a 128 x 160 device, which importantly is the most popular phone in Nigeria. Although this is the only country it is the most popular, Nigeria has the most users of any African country.

Curiously the C1 was only 4th last year, with the three phones above it all being QVGA portrait phones. I’m not sure why this is, unless the proliferation of the mobile web in Nigeria means that more users are getting online that can only afford even more basic phones.

Other rankings (in 15 countries studied):

  1. India, Egypt
  2. Bangladesh
  3. Philippines, South Africa
  4. Vietnam
  5. Indonesia

In the countries where there was no data for this year, the C1 was 5th in Pakistan, and 10th in Turkey.

Alcatel: An honourable mention

While this list is hugely dominated by Nokia, Alcatel’s influence is slowly starting to grow under the radar. Less well know than Samsung or Sony, or even Chinese brands like Huawei, a number of its phones (still feature phones, not Android) were the top phones in Africa and Latin America, and broke the top ten in some Asia/Pacific markets, and Mexico. It was particularly popular in Western Africa:

African and Latin American countries with Alcatel as the most popular phone:

Alcatel OT-606 Chat (portrait QVGA keypad phone, with slide out landscape QWERTY keyboard.)

Alcatel OT-800 (landscape QVGA screen with QWERTY keypad)

Alcatel OT-808 (landscape QVGA screen with QWERTY keypad)

Alcatel OT-710 (portrait QVGA with resistive touchscreen)

Alcatel seems to be beating the inevitable onslaught of the Android army in Africa at least, and is perhaps the first credible challenger to Nokia’s feature phone crown in the developing world. Its OT-710 is the only phone in the study with a touch screen that is the most popular phone in a country.

Most popular type of phone

There are three types of phones you have to support if you want to cover most of your bases in the developing world, and they’re all keypad based-non-touch devices.

3rd group: 128x160 keypad devices

The 128x160 phones are perhaps slowly on the way out, but the recent popularity of the C1 in Nigeria, and the fact that the number 2 phone in India is another 128x160 device in the Nokia 2690, means that they will be around for a while.

Models in top 10 of 15 countries studied: Nokia C1, Nokia 2690, Nokia C2 00, Nokia 2330c, Nokia 2220 slide, Samsung E250

Leading phone in: Nigeria (C1).

2nd group: QVGA portrait keypad devices

These are likely the largest by number, with 15 phones in this category, 5 countries where they are number 1, 4 at number 2, and 6 at number 3. The two most popular phones for the last two years have been in this category.

Models in top 10 of 15 countries studied: Nokia 2700C, Nokia 2730C, Nokia 5130 XpressMusic, Nokia Asha 303, Nokia X2 00, Nokia 6300, Nokia C2 01, Nokia N73, Nokia 3208c, Nokia 5000, Nokia 7020, Sony Ericsson K800, Samsung Galaxy Y S5360, and Samsung S3850.

Leading phone in: China (5130 XpressMusic), Bangladesh (2700c), Egypt (5130 XpressMusic), South Africa (5130 XpressMusic), and Vietnam (2700c),

1st group: landscape QVGA QWERTY devices

Portrait devices with a landscape oriented screen and a QWERTY keypad seem to be the new en vouge devices in a number of the countries studied. Perhaps not the most popular type of device yet, but they are becoming increasingly important, and are dominant in Latin America. The landscape screen gives slightly more width to play with when laying out pages. A very precious commodity at these screen sizes. The keyboards will also make data entry easier than the traditional number pads. These phones were number 1 in 3 countries, 3 at number 2, and 1 at number 3.

Models in top 10 of 15 countries studied: Nokia X2 01, Nokia C3, Nokia Asha 200, Nokia E63, Alcatel OT-808, Alcatel OT-800, Alcatel OT-802, Samsung Ch@t 335 (S3350), and the BlackBerry Curve 8520.

Leading phone in: India (X2 01), Indonesia (X2 01), Philippines (C3), Mexico (C3), and Brazil (C3)

Conclusions

The good news is there is only two different resolutions (plus one different orientation) to cover most of the bases in the developing countries studied. Plus another two resolutions if you want to cover all the bases including the more exotic devices. The bad news is that none of the most popular device types support touch, nor do they support WiFi (except the C3), so data is as much at a premium as pixels.

My advice would be to try to get hold of both a Nokia X2-01 (or C3 00, which has WiFi) and a 5130 XpressMusic, plus perhaps a Nokia C1. That will cover all three main bases. They’re more or less cheap as chips compared to the devices we usually target.

If you can’t get hold of a device, one trick is to download the Opera Mobile emulator and set profiles up for these screen sizes and pixel densities. It will give you a good idea of the layout of your site on these small displays, but is far from perfect, as these devices usually support Opera Mini rather than Opera Mobile. THe former is much less capible, but unfortunately doesn’t have a downloadable, resizable emulator on the site. If you have Java, you can try the online Opera Mini simulator, but the resolution is fixed and uses the touch UI by default.

If you are practicing responsive web design and already use media queries, you likely have the infrastructure in place to support these screen sizes. You might just need to add an extra breakpoint or two for smaller sizes. if your site is already keyboard accessible, then it is likely you won’t have too many issues with keypad navigation. The size of your assets could be a major concern, but the proxies used by Opera Mini, UC Web and the Nokia browser will go some ways to mitigate this.

The future

Phones that didn’t feature heavily here were Nokia’s new Asha line of feature phones. Only two Asha phones featured in the top 10: The Asha 303 (ninth in Mexico) and the Asha 200 featured (back in tenth in Nigeria). The latter of which had even worse specs than the other devices in its class. One reason for them not featuring is their relative newness. Another is that Nokia is pushing its own proxy browser with these new devices, so the users might stick with the default browser. It will be interesting to see if this browser eats away at Opera’s dominant position in the developing countries, or if users that buy these phones still use Opera.

The main exciting thing about these devices is that the three top of the line devices are full touch S40 devices, in the Asha 311, Asha 306, and Asha 305. If the pricing is right, these could potentially be the game changers that give the developing world the revolution in user experience on the web that touch has already brought to ourselves in the west.

They’ll not hold a candle to the iPhone, but they won’t have to. It is a totally different market and they‘ll be a fraction of the price. They have the potential to democratise touch for the rest of the world. It may take another generation however, before touch devices reach the mid-range of feature phones rather than the top end, before they really take off enmass.

The interesting billion dollar question is, will it be touch dropping down to feature phones such as the Nokia S40 devices, or Android devices dropping in price enough to be viable market leaders in the the developing world. That will be an interesting battle.

The other variable is if Nokia and Microsoft can get Windows Phone at a price point where they replace their fleet of feature phones. That could be a major win for their platform in a market Nokia knows all about. Whichever platform wins, it should be a win for web developers and users over the current situation of limited devices.

Stop press. I wrote the bulk of this post last night, and since then the iPhone 5 has been announced. I couldn’t help but notice that the iPod Nano’s screen resolution is 240x432; the same width and a fraction taller than many of the devices in this study. Its a shame that device doesn’t have WiFi and a web browser, as the clamour for developers to get their sites working on that display would have been a great help in improving the experiences of users of these phones.

Update: Opera has released data for Latin America covering August 2012. I’ve updated this post to reflect that. On the whole Latin America is similar but more advanced than Asia/Pacific and Africa. The most popular device is the C3 00 QVGA portrait device, which is similar in capabilities to the X2 01 but also includes WiFi. Latin America has less reliance on Nokia than Asia and Africa–with Alcatel particularly strong–but it is still the most popular brand with Opera Mini users.

We have started to see higher end WGVGA feature phones and lower end HVGA smart phones break the top ten in Latin America. I would expect this trend to proliferate in the text year and spread to the other regions. It will be interesting to see if this happens with Samsung and LG (or Alcatel) as seen in Latin America so far, or if the Nokia Asha Touch line becomes more popular instead. It will also be interesting to see if this happens with smart phone OS like Android or Windows Phone, or with souped up feature phones like S40, Bada, or other platforms. Indeed, Samsung’s higher end feature phone to make this list was its own un-named feature phone, rather than its more open, closer to a smart phone Bada OS.

The data I used to compile this post will be included in the following Google spreadsheet.

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