Smartphone Traffic Explodes 193 Percent

Smartphone data traffic grew 193 percent year-over-year in the month of February, with Apple dominating the market but Android making its presence felt slowly but surely, according to a report from AdMob (here in PDF format).

AdMob, which Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) said in November 2009 it plans to acquire, broke down worldwide traffic on its ad networks into the categories of smartphones, feature phones and mobile Internet devices. Smartphones accounted for 48 percent of its traffic in February 2010, up from 35 percent the year before. AdMob attributed this primarily to iPhone and Android traffic.

Feature phones -- essentially older cellular-style phones with a few bells and whistles, fell off fast -- from 58 percent to 35 percent, although traffic still grew 31 percent year over year. But as a market, smartphones are growing much faster.

iPod Tops Mobile Internet Sector

The mobile Internet device category is dominated by the iPod Touch, which AdMob said accounted for 93 percent of traffic, followed by the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP.

The top smartphone OS worldwide on AdMob's network was Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone, with 50 percent of the global market, up from 33 percent a year prior. Nokia's Symbian OS sustained the biggest loss, plunging from 43 percent to 18 percent year-over-year. Meanwhile, Android exploded from 2 percent to 24 percent in one year.

Android's presence is really being felt in the United States, and mostly at Apple's expense. In November 2009, Apple held about 55 percent of the U.S. smartphone operating system market to Android's 27 percent. By February 2010, Apple was down to 44 percent while Android was up to 42 percent. BlackBerry shrank from 10 percent to 7 percent in that same time period.

When it comes to hardware, the situation changes, as most of the world has not moved up to smartphones yet. Samsung ruled the roost, with 32 percent of the manufacturer market share in February 2010, followed by Nokia at 24 percent, Sony Ericsson at 12 percent and Motorola at 10 percent.

The top smartphone in the U.S. is the iPhone at 44.5 percent, with Motorola's Droid a distant second at 15.2 percent. There are a total of four Android HTC phones, in the top 10 list, as well as one BlackBerry, the 8300, and the Palm Pre. The BlackBerry 8300 had 2.6 percent market share, while the Pre had 2.3 percent market share.

Minutes Turning to Data Plans

This kind of shift in phone usage seems to support the recent statement from Sprint CEO Dan Hesse – that mobile plans would eventually switch from minutes to data usage.

"I think he's right on. I think something has to be done to help carriers optimize their investments and get payback. The model isn't sustainable, and I think we're going to see variations, maybe more toward newer 4G networks being more heavily metered than 3G," said William Stofega, program director mobile research for IDC.

Much of the infrastructure for simple voice communications is already built, but new infrastructure is needed for data, and that's expensive. The current model with carriers is a flat data rate no matter how much or how little data you consume. Stofega said that simply won't work going forward.

"To grow revenue in a connected-everything world, [carriers] have to invest in building out the infrastructure, but that will take a little time and it's expensive," he told InternetNews.com. "And there are two sides to the coin. We want more wireless connectivity, but hey wait a minute, they're going to charge us more because they need more revenue."

Andy Patrizio is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


Android, smartphone, mobile Internet, mobile computing, data traffic