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In the world of mobile advertising, Android(s GOOG) phones reached a significant milestone during the fourth quarter of 2012: they drove more mobile advertising impressions than iPhones during a quarter, for the first time ever. That’s according to a report published Thursday morning by Opera Mediaworks, the mobile ad tracking arm of Opera Mobile. Still, the findings show that highest volume still isn’t translating to the highest value for advertisers.
Android phones represented 31 percent of the more than 500 million mobile ad impressions tracked by Opera between October and December across more than 12,000 mobile websites and apps. iPhones,(s AAPL) meanwhile, had a 29 percent share of those impressions. Major reasons for Android taking the lead include: the popularity of Android devices in markets where users are more likely to access the internet on a mobile device — like Indonesia and Russian Federation countries, which saw double-digit gains in ad impressions during the quarter — and Samsung’s rapidly growing popularity among smartphone buyers in the U.S.
“In the U.S. we think that this is considerably helped by the emergence of Samsung and the Galaxy S III,” Mahi De Silva, EVP of Opera’s consumer mobile division, said in an interview. “They’re pouring a lot of dollars into the market, and they have favorable pricing with mobile operators, so that entire market has a lot of momentum [toward] adoption of Samsung Android devices.”
Earlier this week we reported that Apple just barely outsold Samsung in the U.S. mobile phone sales during the fourth quarter, but Samsung sold nearly 7 million more devices during all of 2012, according to Strategy Analytics.
iPhones are just one piece of the pie, however. When counting iOS’s overall impact, including mobile ads seen on iPod touches and iPads, Opera found that Apple’s devices still represent the largest overall number of impressions, about 42 percent.
And where it really counts — producing revenue for mobile advertisers — iOS is still comfortably in the lead.
“Even though you saw that for the first time Android phones have a larger volume of impressions, the dollars associated is still considerably in favor of Apple and iOS and iPhones,” De Silva said.
iPhones are responsible for 37 percent of the revenue made by mobile advertisers, versus about 30 percent from Android; and just over half of all revenues in the quarter came from some type of iOS device. So in terms of the ability to monetize, De Silva says iOS is still the more attractive platform for advertisers.
Android has a ways to go to catch up in revenue. And even though the platform is only going to grow and add more users, it’s not clear the monetization will catch up nearly as fast, he said. “The trend, as we’ve seen in the past, is iPhone continues to be the most monetization-friendly platform out there.”