Put on your 5-D glasses!

August 15, 2011, 11:10 AM UTC

Visualize four years of mobile phone warfare through Asymco’s snake-like bubble charts

iPhone rising. Source: Asymco.com

Horace Dediu, who has been pushing the envelope of data visualization for more than two years, has outdone himself with the interactive chart he posted on his Asymco.com blog Sunday afternoon.

Most conventional graphs display data over just two axes, X and Y. If you want to see how the data in those dimensions change over time, you end up having to draw a series of charts.

That’s a particular challenge for Dediu because he’s been collecting data on the leading mobile phone vendors over the past four years in many dimensions, including price, profit, volume, revenue and operating margin. How could he possibly squeeze all that into one chart?

Well, now he’s done it. His solution: An interactive Flash-based bubble chart that allows you to choose among eight vendors, five Y axes, six X-axes, seven color options and six size options. Pick a company, choose the “tracer” option, hit the play button and you get pictures like the one at right, which shows Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone revenues against its operating margins graphed over time where the color (blue) and size of its bubble indicates relatively low volumes and outsized profits.

Nokia shrinking.

The chart at left is Nokia’s (NOK) path over roughly the same time period. It starts off selling high volumes (red) and making big profits and moves in a sickly southwestward direction as its margins and revenues shrink, its volumes shift from red to yellow and its profits tighten into a narrow cone.

You can set your parameters in thousands of permutations and draw your own bubble charts for Research in Motion (RIMM), Motorola (MOT), Samsung, Sony Ericsson, HTC and LG  — or show eight competitors snaking over space-time all at once.

I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Click here to get started.