A report from AdMob has people claiming there is now proof that iPhone users now account for more than half of mobile data traffic. For months now many have suspected the iPhone -- with its data-hungry applications -- is a network bandwidth hog. But a closer look at the AdMob report reveals iPhone users probably aren't as hoggish as some in the blogosphere are claiming.
It's not totally fair to extrapolate AdMob's results, as AppleInsider does (and as we have), to all smartphone data traffic, because that's not what the report measures. AdMob serves advertisements for mobile Web sites, but its in-app ads only appear on the iPhone and Android phones. AdMob spokeswoman Nicole Leverich said that roughly a third of the company's network consists of iPhone and Android applications.
AdMob also doesn't measure traffic outside of its network, so if you check your e-mail, watch a video on YouTube, or visit Craiglist through your mobile phone, those uses don't show up in the metrics.
Even if AdMob served apps on phones besides Android and the iPhone, to call the numbers a representative sample of mobile traffic as a whole, you'd have to assume that all smartphone users behave the same way. There may be some truth to that for iPhone and Android users -- an earlier AdMob report found that people on the two platforms spend similar amounts of money on apps and download roughly the same number of them per month -- but I have a feeling that Blackberry, Windows Mobile and Symbian users behave differently, and are focused more on business and productivity than on ad-based apps.
So I'm not surprised that worldwide AdMob data share fell in October for all three of those operating systems. Research in Motion's share of AdMob traffic fell from 8 percent to 7 percent, and Windows Mobile dropped from 5 percent to 3 percent. Symbian traffic decreased the most, from 29 percent to 25 percent.
I'm not knocking AdMob; the company is completely open about where its data comes from and notes that its products and business operations influence the metrics. AdMob's reports are great for spotting trends, especially related to app usage, but it's wrong to assume that 50 percent of AdMob traffic from the iPhone equals half of all the world's smartphone traffic.
That, of course, doesn't mean that iPhone users aren't slurping up enormous amounts of data. Just ask any irate AT&T customer.