Yeah, That Flickr iPhone Data Is Way Off — It's Far More Dominating Than It Seems

Earlier today, TUAW noted that according to Flickr’s stats, the iPhone 4 is now the most popular camera across the site. Yes, it has overtaken all those professional cameras, all the point-and-shoots, etc. That’s huge.

But the news came with a caveat. And it’s actually a big one.

As TUAW notes at the bottom of their post, the caveat is Flickr admitting that they’re only able to detect the camera used to take photos “about 2/3rds of the time”. But the key part is the next sentence: “That is not usually possible with cameraphones, therefore they are under-represented.”

“Not usually possible”. In other words, the iPhone 4 has likely been the number one camera for a long time.

We noted this caveat when we last looked over the data in April. It’s likely that the iPhone 4 was already the top camera then, and probably for some time before then too. Looking over my own Flickr pictures, I see that any photos I’ve sent to Flickr via Instagram over the past several months are stripped of the iPhone 4 identifier. In other words, basically all of the pictures that myself and every other person I know have put on Flickr in recent months have not counted towards this iPhone 4 ascension to the top. Other apps also strip out this info. Circumstantially, I believe Flickr’s data for the iPhone 4 is very low.

Less circumstantially, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom confirms that they cannot pass the iPhone 4 metadata to Flickr due to an iOS limitation. And yes, it affects other iOS apps. Therefore, the counts are really, really low. He told me to go to the recently-uploaded Flickr page and refresh a few times to see how often a new Instagram photo shows up. There are so many — yeah, these numbers are way off.

And if they’re low for the iPhone 4, they’re low for the other iPhone models as well. This means that the second most popular iPhone model on Flickr, the iPhone 3G, is also likely in Flickr’s top 5 cameras. The fifth camera they list is the Canon EOS REBEL T1i, which had 3,794 users yesterday. The iPhone 3G had 3,168 users yesterday — but again, the data is off. Hell, I’m not sure that with the correct data, the iPhone 3G wouldn’t be number two on the list.

The same issue likely applies to Android phones as well. Though for whatever reason, those numbers are really low on Flickr. According to Flickr, the most popular Android phone for taking pictures is the EVO 4G. But it had just 590 users yesterday (again, likely low). The iPod touch had 507 users yesterday (again, low). The EVO 4G has an 8 megapixel camera. The iPod touch has a 0.7 megapixel camera. One is clearly meant to be used as a still camera. One is not. That’s sad.

Yes, I know that the individual iPhone numbers benefit from their being fewer models to choose from. But looking over the other popular Android models, it’s pretty clear that all of them together doesn’t hold a candle to the numbers the iPhones are putting up on Flickr. The under-reported numbers.

Meanwhile, take your time on that kickass iPhone photo-sharing app, Flickr. It’s not like you have the numbers to justify its existence.