Smartphone apps

Mobile is now the preferred platform for reading email with more than half of all email opens.

The rise of mobile technology has transformed the world in many ways, including the way users interact with email. Mobile email opens have nearly doubled over the past five years and more than half of emails are now opened on mobile devices, according to a new research report from email solutions provider Return Path.

Released today, The Email Client Experience analyses the breakdown of platforms and devices that people use to open email. The report also looks at when people are most likely to open email, as well as the length of time they typically spend reading an email. Data from May 2016 to April 2017 is compared with results from a similar study in 2012.

Following are a few of the report’s key takeaways:

Mobile is preferred nearly 2:1 over webmail. During the period analysed, 55 percent of email was opened on mobile devices—up from just 29 percent in 2012. By contrast, webmail opens (meaning email opened on an internet browser like or dropped 26 percent over five years—from 37 percent to 28 percent. Desktop email (defined as email opened on software that is installed on a desktop or laptop, like Outlook or Apple Mail) had the lowest share of opens with just 16 percent—down from 34 percent in 2012.

iOS continues to dominate Android. While email opens on both iPhone and iPad have fallen slightly over the past five years, iOS still maintains a huge advantage over Android. Combined, iOS accounts for an overwhelming 79 percent of mobile email opens, compared to 20 percent for Android. In 2012, just 14 percent of mobile emails were opened on Android, while 85 percent were opened on iOS.

Gmail has overtaken Yahoo in the webmail race. Webmail still holds a significant percentage of email opens, and Gmail has emerged as the clear leader in the webmail space. In 2012, just six percent of webmail opens occurred on Gmail; that figure jumped to 59 percent during the period analysed. Yahoo has experienced a precipitous decline over the same period, accounting for just 5 percent of webmail opens during the study period—down from 37 percent in 2012.

Mobile opens peak during the weekend; webmail and desktop gain during the working week. Not surprisingly, the greatest percentage of mobile email opens occur on the weekend—60 percent on both Saturday and Sunday, compared to a range of 51 to 55 percent from Monday to Friday. Accordingly, both webmail and desktop opens increase during the working week, when people tend to be in front of their computers. Webmail opens hold steady at 26 percent during the weekend and about 29 percent during the week, while desktop accounts for just 13 percent of opens at the weekend and 16 to 19 percent during the week.

“In just five years, we’ve seen dramatic shifts in the email space—and there’s no doubt that more changes are coming,” said Tom Sather, Return Path’s Sr. Director of Research. “Marketers need to understand both the current state of the email ecosystem and how it’s likely to evolve in the future. Knowing how, when, and where your emails are being opened—and how those things have changed over time—can help to inform critical decisions about the direction of your email programme.”