A freshly issued market analysis from mobile ad vendor AdMob raises some interesting questions about how the burgeoning smartphone sector is evolving, both here and around the world.
AdMob serves advertising to more than 6,000 websites, and it collects statistics about every mobile device that serves up one of its banners. While this measurement method isn't perfect, overweighting certain geographical regions, it should give a reasonably accurate picture of how people are using those fancy everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink smartphones to access the Internet today.
According to this data, Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) is the undisputed king of mobile Internet usage, with a 30.2% global market share. You don't think of Nokia as a smartphone giant? Maybe that's because the Finnish company holds a mere 3% of the U.S. market. Here, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) is the unsurprising champion; its devices claim 27.1% of all domestic mobile ad views.
The Android smartphone platform, blessed by Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) , grabbed a 5% traffic share in the first three months of its young public life. It is among the top Web-using devices on Deutsche Telekom's (NYSE: DT ) T-Mobile network. The trickle of Android models is poised to turn into a torrent of Samsung, Motorola (NYSE: MOT ) , and LG Electronics offerings, which should expand the Android's market clout considerably.
The Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) BlackBerry line is another American overachiever. A 22% U.S. traffic share translates into a 10% slice of the global cake, leaving lots of room for improvement. One bright note for RIM shareholders is that BlackBerry users seem to buy new phones on a regular basis -- 97% of their ad requests come from very modern versions of the BlackBerry operating system (v. 4.2 or higher).
By contrast, 12% of Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) Windows Mobile users are stuck with the nearly four-year-old 5.0 version, which was really aimed at the Pocket PCs that ruled mobile computing back then. Version 5 will lose its "mainstream support" status next year.
It's hard to tell from AdMob's data whether the varying phones just offer a more user-friendly online experience than their competitors, or if they simply outsold the competition. But if it ain't broke, don't fix it. What works for mobile data surfers today should be an indication of what they might want tomorrow. Based on this report, I'd take a long, hard look at Nokia for its foreign strengths, at RIM and Apple for their domestic dominance, and at companies with a finger in the Android pie, like Google.
The smartphone market ain't dead. In fact, it's still a mere toddler. There's plenty of growth ahead.