Surprise: Android Has More than 7 Million Facebook Users

Over the past couple of months, Google’s Android mobile operating system has made significant headway, both in the public and in the tech world, with reports showing Android sales catching up to the iPhone. Yet we’ve also seen multiple sources note that Android has not succeeded on Facebook.

That judgment has been based on the stats for Facebook’s Android smartphone app. At right, you can see Facebook’s own monthly active user measurement for Android, which led to the confusion. By appearances, the Facebook for Android app has only 68 monthly active users.

We’ve checked in with Facebook about the Android app, and gotten the real story: the mobile app has over six million MAU. In combination with the HTC Sense app, which is mostly used on phones with Android as an underlying platform, Android has well over seven million MAU on the social network.

This is significant not only for Facebook, which wants to encourage smartphone use, but as a measure for the overall smartphone market, in which sales numbers often must be estimated. Let’s see how the Android apps stack up against competing phones:

There’s actually a distinct possibility that Android has even more users on Facebook than we’re estimating, because Mobile, which you see above with almost 20 million users, is a catch-all app for feature phones. Any number of Android users could have set up to use this app instead.

So, going strictly be the numbers above, Android appears to be at least a fifth the size of the iPhone.

Seeing the true user numbers for Android gives new perspective to Facebook’s recent decision to release an Android software development kit. When Android was initially released, Facebook didn’t do anything with the fledgling operating system, and an executive even reportedly insulted Android. But for several months, Facebook has had an inside view onto the platform’s growing significance.

One more interesting data point to note: judging by the HTC Sense app, Android users tend to spend more time than any other smartphone group on Facebook. This AppData graph is for DAU as a percentage of MAU, which measures how many users come back daily:

That 70 percent DAU / MAU beats the iPhone’s 52 percent or the BlackBerry’s 59 percent by a significant stretch. It could be that Android users tend to be average consumers who use Facebook often, while the BlackBerry is used by the business crowd and iPhone users have a broader sampling of other apps to use, like Foursquare.

Unfortunately, the Android app appears to be buggy in more than just its stats; users have been complaining about connection problems for several weeks. But with such strong user numbers, we wouldn’t be surprised to see both Facebook and Google put more emphasis on working together in the future — at least in this limited context.