Android served up more ad impressions overall in Q3 than rival iOS, at 56 percent, Millennial Media reported. For its part, ABI Media noted that in Q2, Android overtook iOS to become the market share leader in mobile application downloads. The market shares of Android and iOS were 44 percent and 31 percent, respectively, ABI said.
Still A Murky Picture
The conclusions to be drawn from the statistics are hardly clear-cut, though. For instance, even though Android leads in total mobile application downloads, Apple beats it on a per user basis by two to one, as ABI Research pointed out.
Even though iOS ad impressions are behind Android, their numbers have grown an astounding 60 percent year-over-year, Millennial Media noted.
In particular, iPad impressions grew 456 percent, and iPod touch impressions grew 30 percent year-over-year.
Perhaps the most compelling stat of all: 97 percent of all ad impressions on tablets in the U.S. are on the iPad, Millennial found.
Android Cannot Be Ignored
Despite this nuanced view of the marketplace, some definitive conclusions can be drawn for advertisers.
For starters, Android is becoming increasingly attractive to advertisers, said Andrea Ryan, account specialist and mobile team lead at iProspect.
“Android has broadened the demographic of smartphone users by offering a wide range of devices at various price levels, providing advertisers the opportunity to reach a wider audience, both in numbers and demographics, and inviting retailers of all shapes and sizes into the world of mobile advertising,” Ryan told the E-Commerce Times.
A Question of Timing
There is speculation, though, that Apple’s numbers may have taken a slight dip in anticipation of the release of the iPhone 4S.
“I definitely would say that was a factor in this past quarter’s numbers,” Dan Shay, an analyst with ABI Research, told the E-Commerce Times. “Also, in the last quarter there was a surge of Android devices that hit the market.”
Android will still be leading next quarter, he predicted, “but the gap will not be as wide as it was for this past quarter.”
With Apple’s expansion to Sprint’s network, the industry can expect to see a sizable increase in sales this quarter in addition to growth for the holiday season, Ryan said.
Also, there is a reason that Apple users download more apps on a per user basis, she noted, and it’s one that should translate into expanding market share.
“iPhone and iPad users are more likely to be loyal to their apps,” she said. “The strict app approval process for Apple makes a waste-of-a-download app harder to come by on iOS, leaving iOS users more likely to be pleased with their apps.”
The bottom line for developers and advertisers, at least those targeting the smartphone market, is not to just focus on the Android platform, said Shay. “The Apple platform is topnotch. There is, however, the overwhelming effect of so many Android devices on the market.”
Apple’s Grip on Tablets
Perhaps the one sure thing for the mobile ad industry is Apple’s firm grip on the tablet market.
Apple’s dominant lead — more than 97 percent of all ad impressions on tablets in the U.S. — is due to many factors, said Dale Carr, CEO of Leadbolt.
That includes “the superior nature of their device,” Carr told the E-Commerce Times, “and the fact that the sales strategy for the diverse Android tablet market is not as strong or compelling as it is on the phone, and that tablets are made by smaller manufacturers.”
Indeed, growth figures for the tablet market are almost unnecessary at this point in the cycle, said Suzy Sandberg, president of PM Digital.
Leaving aside just the sheer number of iPad owners, “for advertisers, the iPad is a medium that they are flocking to because of the size and creativity the ad units can do,” Sandberg told the E-Commerce Times. “Advertising on the iPad is probably becoming part of many media plans.”