Hey Advertisers, Forget the iPhone — Symbian Is Where It's At!

U.S. owners of Symbian-based handsets click 2.7 times more mobile ads than those with iPhones, according to April data due to be released by mobile ad company Smaato on Monday. And this is in a country where, relatively speaking, Symbian phones have very little presence. Perhaps Apple is planning its iAd platform on the wrong operating system.

Smaato summarizes the observation by saying:

The performance of different operating systems in April shows Feature Phone handsets continue its consistent rise in CTR’s (134 up 9 from March), closing the gap on Symbian (157 rising just a point from the previous month). The remaining operating systems saw drops in the index, as CTR’s decreased across the globe. The Index consists of the average CTR of all devices and this number is set to 100.

Despite Feature Phone’s gains, Symbian’s remains the leading OS in terms of click through rates worldwide, with more than double the click through rate of iPhone. Putting this into perspective, we have to consider the sheer number of Symbian devices compared to Apple devices, but it should also serve as further proof to advertisers that the iPhone is far from the be-all and end-all in mobile advertising.

The same clickthrough trend applies to the rest of the world, too, although not as dramatically. Globally, feature phone clickthrough rates are a close second to Symbian handsets followed by Windows Mobile, iPhone, Android, Palm and BlackBerry. But while it’s easy to assume that there are more clicks on Symbian phones simply because there are more of them, that line of thought doesn’t apply when talking about the clickthrough rate, which is a user-driven activity. And in fact, it’s marginally more difficult to click an ad on a Symbian phone than it is on an iPhone — very few Symbian handsets are touchscreen devices.

Smaato’s report is based on data from 40 mobile ad networks that served more than 6 billion ad requests in the month of April, making for a sizable pool of information. So why the heavily skewed clickthrough rates for Symbian, especially in the U.S.? My thought is that Symbian is a more mature operating system in terms of age, and both advertisers and developers have used that time to optimize mobile advertising on the platform. Apple’s iPhone OS is a relative youngster compared to Symbian, having only initially launched on a product in June of 2007. I have little doubt that Apple will figure out how to get the best return on investment from its iAd platform launch later this year, but as of today, Symbian can claim a little victory in the mobile ad space.

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

How iAd and the iPad Will Change Mobile Marketing

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