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Summary:

Apple’s iPhone dominates mobile Internet traffic in Western markets, according to new figures from AdMob, while Symbian maintains its edge in Africa and Asia. But the iPhone is closing the gap on Nokia’s OS in some emerging markets. Meanwhile, Android’s momentum continues to build.

The worldwide smartphone battle is a lesson in geography, according to figures released this morning by AdMob (PDF), which shows that Apple’s iPhone dominates in the Western world while Nokia’s Symbian operating system outpaces the rest of the field in Africa and Asia. But the iPhone operating system is picking up steam in some of those emerging markets, too.

Symbian devices accounted for 69 percent of smartphone ad requests in Asia through AdMob’s network in the fourth quarter of 2009, down substantially from its share in the third quarter. Meanwhile, the iPhone nearly doubled its share of traffic from Asia quarter-over-quarter. And while Symbian maintained a dominant share among users in Africa, its lead was erased in Eastern Europe for the first time as the iPhone generated 51 percent of AdMob’s smartphone activity.

The iPhone OS also accounted for an overwhelming majority of smartphone requests in Western Europe as Symbian activity fell to a mere 10 percent, and Apple gadgets maintained a substantial lead in North America. In the meantime, Android is beginning to emerge as a force, generating more than one-fourth of AdMob’s smartphone activity in North America and 8 percent in Western Europe. Android is beginning to find an audience in Eastern Europe, too, primarily at Symbian’s expense.

Nokia’s strong traction in emerging markets is nothing new, of course, and the company has opted not to focus on North America with its ambitious Ovi service. While that may be a sound strategy, it will require the company to ramp up Symbian traffic on the mobile web and maintain the leads it’s built in the African and Asian markets that have become its focus. If AdMob’s figures are any indication, that simply isn’t happening.

Image courtesy Flickr user Jeffrey Simms Photography.

  1. Does AdMob actually embed ads in any apps OTHER than iPhone apps?

    Their figures are completely out of whack with any real sales data.

  2. Not jus tout of whack – Colin, “Nokia’s Symbian operating system” impies Nokia owns Symbian. Symbian is curated by an independent Foundation set up to place the OS into open source. It is rapidly moving towards being an open source community which will drive its market presence and its innovation.

  3. Not just out of whack – Colin, “Nokia’s Symbian operating system” impies Nokia owns Symbian. Symbian is curated by an independent Foundation set up to place the OS into open source. It is rapidly moving towards being an open source community which will drive its market presence and its innovation.

  4. @Jody — AdMob a year ago began delivering ads through Android apps and recently extended support for Palm’s webOS. In-app ads skew AdMob’s numbers in favor the OSes it supports, but I think their visibility into the overall world of the mobile web is valuable nonetheless.

    @Haydn — I understand that that the Symbian Foundation administers (for lack of a better word) the OS, but there’s no denying that Nokia acquired Symbian in the summer of 2008. You may be right that open-sourcing it will fuel growth, but Nokia’s near-term prospects in the smartphone space absolutely hinge on Symbian.

  5. Symbian is dead. I mean if Nokia is moving to Linux Maemo, who wants to develop for Symbian?

    As for AdMob, there is going to be a bias towards app phones like Androids and iPhones; however the bias towards Android is greater. Why? The Android apps being downloaded have been shown more likely to be free, and thus ad-supported.

    Further, AdMob measures mobile web use, but phones like the iPhone tend to go to regular websites and not the mobile versions, so they get undercounted.

    Anyway, it’s not a measure of market share, but one of mobile internet usage by device. What good is a smartphone that a person doesn’t use to access the internet because it’s too hard or complicated?

  6. As you pointed out there are basically no ad supported apps for Symbian. So it makes sense that Symbian doesn’t show up in AdMobs results. So what is the point of their figures and why does everyone keep quoting them? They don’t show anything except which platforms their system is used on?!

    Symbian is anything but dead. Nokia is not moving to Maemo. More technically Nokia is moving to QT. There will be a common development framework for both platforms and as I have been finding out it is incredibly slick.

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