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Thursday, January 08, 2009, 11:00 am PT (02:00 pm ET)

iPhone's US web presence beats RIM and WiMo combined

The popularity of Apple's WiFi mobile platform as a handheld web browser device is rapidly accelerating worldwide and dominating web traffic in the US, according to a new report issued by mobile advertising firm AdMob. Apple's strong position promises to color how the mobile web develops.

iPhone casts a huge shadow

Based on its logs of worldwide web traffic to mobile devices, AdMob noted that international web requests from the iPhone increased by 86% month over month in December, giving the smartphone a 10.8% share of all mobile device requests.

Worldwide requests only jumped 9% overall in the month, but North American requests grew by 20%. Much of that increase was due to iPhone traffic in the US, where the phone generated a whopping 48% of smartphone requests, up from just 9% in May. That is all the more impressive considering that the iPhone is only available on AT's network, where the device appears to consume more than half of the mobile data bandwidth in use.

AdMob reported that behind Apple's leading share of the US smartphone market, RIM was in second place with 19% and Microsoft's Windows Mobile trailed with 15%. Palm OS captured a 9% traffic share in December, down dramatically from a 20% peak in June due to the Palm Centro. Google's Android platform recorded a 2% share for the month.

iPod touch busts a move

"iPod touch requests on AdMob's network exploded on December 25," according to the report, with web traffic from the device increasing by 3.4 times over the previous month. iPod touch traffic was at 18 million requests in July, but jumped to 292 million in December.

The iPod touch is the number two device in AdMob's figures, with a 4.7% traffic share worldwide. Added to the first place iPhone, Apple has a 15.5% share of the company's traffic figures.

AdMob's smartphone numbers

AdMob's figures are based on the company's network of 6,000 mobile web sites and 400 mobile applications which serve the firm's ads to mobile devices. Smartphones generated 33% of the company's overall reported traffic worldwide.

Of the worldwide smartphone market, Symbian OS continued to lead with 41% of the market, including more than a 90% share of Asia and Africa. However, the iPhone grabbed a second place share of 32%, with a strong showing in North America, Europe, and Latin America. Conversely, Symbian has very little showing in North America.

Next in line internationally are the RIM OS used by BlackBerry devices at 10% and Windows Mobile with a 9% share, both of which are largely limited to North America. Palm, Danger (Sidekick) and Android claimed 4%, 2% and 1% share of the OS pie, respectively. AdMob stated that smartphones running Linux had a negligible share.

Just within the US, Apple dominated the smartphone market with a 48% share, not including any traffic from the WiFi-only iPod touch.

Apple's influential mobile data traffic volumes

AdMob's numbers give Apple a representation on the mobile web and in web advertising that overshadows the company's actual unit sales, largely because iPhone and iPod touch users actually use their mobile devices for data more frequently.

However, that also means that advertisers are seeing more reason to craft ads to target iPhone users. That in turn is a crushing blow to Adobe Flash as an ad medium, as the iPhone does not render Flash content. As Apple's mobile device sales increase, the relative importance of Flash will not only continue to wane, but additional attention will be directed toward the development of open standards-based HTML and JavaScript content.

Google and Nokia's adoption of the WebKit browser engine used by Apple's Safari web browser will also help to accelerate the mobile web's adoption of standards-based web apps and sites, a development that is occurring faster on mobile devices dominated by the iPhone and iPod touch than on the PC desktop, where progress toward standards-based web development has been held up for a decade due to the dominance of Microsoft's less than compliant Internet Explorer.