iPad is 2nd most popular device on WiFi networks

The iPad is now the second most popular non-laptop device connecting to Boingo’s Wi-Fi networks, displacing Android devices and more than doubling the daily number of visits for the previous second place device, despite its recent launch (April 3, 2010). “It’s stunning how quickly the iPad has established itself as a force in Wi-Fi,” said Dave Hagan, president and CEO of Boingo Wireless. “After four days in market, it is already being more widely used than other Wi-Fi enabled mobile devices that have moved millions of units.”

The iPhone is still the indisputable king of mobile devices, representing nearly 90% of all non-laptop connections in Boingo’s airports.  The iPad registered 5.4% of all device connections, while Android tallied 2.5%. Blackberry phones and iPod Touch MP3 players accounted for less than 2% each of total visits. Windows Mobile was less than 1%.

The above data represents all Wi-Fi enabled non-laptop devices in Boingo’s managed network, which includes 58 airports, the Washington State Ferries, and several sporting arenas and convention centers. In the context of this data, a “connect” is any device that associated to the SSID, received an IP address and loaded the sales portal in the venue. It provides a representative sample of market penetration for the various platforms of WiFi enabled devices. Boingo is in more than 125,000 locations (167 WiFi operators around the world into a single worldwide network spanning 103 countries).

Early reviews of the iPad, mostly positive

I did not run out and buy an iPad, though I was sorely tempted to do so. But I have been following closely the reviews. Here are three articles that got me thinking about the iPad and the future of non-laptop/non-iPhone applications:

(1) John Gruber of Daring Fireball on The iPad (excerpt):

“The whole thing feels fast fast fast. The only thing that feels slow overall, so far, is web page rendering. Not because it’s slower than the iPhone — it’s not, it’s definitely much faster — but because it’s so much slower than my MacBook Pro. It’s easy to forget on modern PC-class hardware just how computationally expensive HTML rendering is. The funny thing is, the iPad, in raw CPU terms, is a far slower machine than a modern Mac. But the iPad is running a lightweight OS and lightweight apps. It’s like a slower runner with a lighter backpack who can win a race against a faster runner wearing a heavier backpack. Thus, many of the things you do are faster, or at least feel faster (which is what matters), on the iPad than the Mac.”

(2) John Gapper at the Financial Times on The iPad’s Scary Counter Revolution (excerpt):

“Mr Jobs’ famed reality distortion field must be working at warp factor 10 because to pick up the iPad is to feel you are entering a different technological world. The sceptics dismiss it as a compromise between an iPod Touch and a MacBook, but they are wrong. Actually, the iPad feels much more like a cross between a computer and a television, one that you hold in your hands. It manages, more than anything I’ve seen before, to fill the gap between “sit back” screens and “sit forward” computers and video games consoles. That is, I think, one reason why it has upset many traditionalists in Silicon Valley, who see it as a counter-revolutionary, not a revolutionary, machine. They fear that it will turn engaged and interactive internet users back into passive couch potatoes. Cory Doctorow, co-editor of the Boing Boing blog, wrote an eloquent lament for the passing of the open source, fix-it traditions of personal computing and mourned the iPad’s “palpable contempt for the owner”. The device was a throwback to the early days of AOL and its walled garden alternative to the internet, he lamented.”

“I would say it was more subversive than that. The iPad is (despite lacking a flash drive or a camera) a fairly open device, which gives its users a choice between internet browsing and devoting time to games and media applications sold by developers and publishers. They are not being forced to spend their time and money in ways that Mr Doctorow disdains.”

(3) Cory Doctorow (whose article is referred to above) on Why I Won’t Buy an iPad (and thingyou shouldn’t either) (excerpt):

“But with the iPad, it seems like Apple’s model customer is that same stupid stereotype of a technophobic, timid, scatterbrained mother as appears in a billion renditions of “that’s too complicated for my mom” (listen to the pundits extol the virtues of the iPad and time how long it takes for them to explain that here, finally, is something that isn’t too complicated for their poor old mothers). The model of interaction with the iPad is to be a “consumer,” what William Gibson memorably described as “something the size of a baby hippo, the color of a week-old boiled potato, that lives by itself, in the dark, in a double-wide on the outskirts of Topeka. It’s covered with eyes and it sweats constantly. The sweat runs into those eyes and makes them sting. It has no mouth… no genitals, and can only express its mute extremes of murderous rage and infantile desire by changing the channels on a universal remote.” The way you improve your iPad isn’t to figure out how it works and making it better. The way you improve the iPad is to buy iApps. Buying an iPad for your kids isn’t a means of jump-starting the realization that the world is yours to take apart and reassemble; it’s a way of telling your offspring that even changing the batteries is something you have to leave to the professionals.” . . .

“If you want to live in the creative universe where anyone with a cool idea can make it and give it to you to run on your hardware, the iPad isn’t for you.”

“If you want to live in the fair world where you get to keep (or give away) the stuff you buy, the iPad isn’t for you.”

“If you want to write code for a platform where the only thing that determines whether you’re going to succeed with it is whether your audience loves it, the iPad isn’t for you.”


If someone produces an equally beautiful, easy to use device that is more open than the iPad, then I and many others will buy it. The problem is that no one makes more beautiful hardware than Apple. No one makes an interface that is as attractive as Apple’s.

Too many hardware designers, software programmers and tech fanatics do NOT value aesthetics, as if only software code – not art, not beauty – matters. Human beings are not machines; they actually like beautiful things and respond to them in ways that many tech people find contemptuous. As if responding to beauty is equivalent to being stupid. What is the response of the open source community to Apple’s aesthetic challenge? Is it to simply accuse Apple of being a slimy walled-garden monopolist or to build something much, much better? Until they devote their time to the latter, Apple will continue to make devices that people will continue to buy.


  1. But so few people buy Apple devices. In desktop, it’s minuscule- in just a few months of its release, Windows 7 adoption passed all versions of Mac OS. Apple does a bit better in mobile, but it continues to trail behind Symbian and Blackberry, and Android is catching up fast.

  2. Esme Vos says

    I disagree with you when you say that few people buy Apple products. On the contrary, Apple has a lot of momentum behind it. A lot of it has to do with the app store, the iPhone, iPods in general, and now the new iPad. I think that for new sales of smartphones, Apple is ahead of Blackberry and Android. In the desktop, Apple has over 90% market share of desktop computers over $1000. So it’s not just pure market share that matters but which part of the market. I’d rather have 90% of the high end desktop market where the big margins lie.

  3. Hi Tim, this has always been the approach of media and pundits:a mix of market definitions and percentages can be used to say almost anything. But what about this: in the tiny nation of Sweden with 4,5M households and 9M inhabitants, 500.000 have an iPhone. I think that is a lot. We run a small public wi-fi network in Sweden – inside and around 500 convenience stores – and a big majority of the users use Apple products (MacBooks and iPhones)-

  4. Esme Vos says


    I am now living in San Francisco and when I go to a cafe, most of the laptops I see are Mac Books (or Mac Book Pros) and most of the mobile devices are iPhones.

    In developing countries like Peru and Indonesia, the most desirable, fashionable device is the iPhone. That is what they aspire to have, like a Gucci or Prada bag. They do not crave an Android phone or even Nokia (which was not the case five years ago when Nokia’s high end phones were highly desirable).

    It’s not at all surprising that most tech analysts have missed the point time and time again, as when Apple opened its first bricks-and-mortar Apple stores. The analysts groaned, comparing it to the failed Gateway retail stores. Apple is not a typical hardware company; it has more in common with luxury goods companies such as Hermes, Gucci, Prada, and Lanvin.

  5. This is great news for anyone who owns a hotspot. These devices will make hotspots and wardriving popular again. I love my iPhone and I wasn’t shocked to see that’s statistics.

    I agree with your comment in relation to the anti-pad article, people don’t buy something just because it works well, a lot of the iPhones purchases were because the thing looks good. If Vodafone can sell 100,000 iphones in 1 week, you can tell me that all those purchases were because it just ‘operates well’. There are a lot of people out there who are not tech savvy and only purchase a phone that is either, make them 1. socially more acceptable or 2. looks appealing. That’s why the iPad will be successful.


  6. I question those statistics… were one of those (at least 58 boingo controlled) locations a convention center hosting an Apple event? How exactly are they determining a “non-laptop” and are they counting DHCP leases or captive portal website hits or what? It all seems very suspect to me… Maybe the iPad is simply making a large number of quests against their captive portal testing the network status.