It may no longer be the hot phone du jour, but Motorola's Droid appears to still be leading the way when it comes to Android devices.
AdMob and the Android Lineup
First up, let's be clear about what exactly we're discussing here: AdMob measures the number of ad impressions served by applications and mobile Web sites using its platform. In nondipstick speak, that means it's counting the number of times its little ads show up on apps -- you know, the ones that are free and thus ad-supported -- as well the number of times they pop up on smartphone-specific versions of Web pages.
That said, here's what AdMob discovered: The Motorola Droid accounted for nearly a third of all the company's Android-oriented traffic during the month of March. No other handset even came close to matching the Droid's 32 percent stronghold: The HTC Hero came in second place, with 19 percent of the traffic. The HTC Dream (T-Mobile G1) and HTC Magic (myTouch 3G) tied for third, with 11 percent each.
Next came the Motorola Cliq, with 10 percent of the total March traffic. Then you have the Samsung Moment, at 6 percent; the Samsung Behold 2, at 2 percent, and the Nexus One, also accounting for only 2 percent of all Android-based AdMob traffic.
Android's Expanding Options
What's interesting about this data is how it shows the increasing spread of popular options within the Android ecosystem. Just seven months ago, two handsets were responsible for nearly all of AdMob's Android-based traffic. Now that same traffic is divided among nearly a dozen different options.
This is truly the key to Android's inevitable mobile market dominance: choice. I'm not talking about the choice to customize a device and use it the way you see fit (though that's certainly relevant, too). What I'm talking about here is choice in hardware: Whereas certain unnamed platforms present you with only one basic form, Android devices come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors; there's something to meet practically any desire.
Case in point: keyboards. Turns out more than half of AdMob's March Android traffic came from devices with physical QWERTY keyboards -- namely the Motorola Droid, Motorola Cliq, and T-Mobile G1. The physical QWERTY keyboard is one reason why I personally prefer using the Droid over newer and more technically impressive handsets such as the HTC Incredible. It's all about the options.
The Android-iPhone Comparisons
Now, I like a good Android-iPhone smackdown as much as the next guy -- but one thing AdMob's data doesn't do, contrary to what some reports floating around the blogosphere suggest, is imply that Android has now surpassed the iPhone in overall Web traffic.
In addition to the Android-specific data, you see, the AdMob report breaks down March ad impressions based on mobile operating systems. For the first time, Android does come out ahead of the iPhone, with 46 percent of all U.S.-based traffic compared to the iPhone's 39 percent. But let's consider what that really means.
AdMob, as I pointed out early on, measures the number of ad impressions served by applications and mobile Web sites using its platform. The important phrase to take away from that: "using its platform." When you're looking within a single operating system like Android, you can draw some general conclusions by treating the data as a broad sample. But when you're looking from one platform to another, it's just not a consistent comparison.
AdMob, after all, very well could serve far more apps on Android than it does on iPhone. Developers have options as to whether to include ads and -- if they do go the ad-supported route -- which mobile ad provider they want to use. Differences in the number of and popularity of AdMob-using apps on each platform would clearly skew any meaning a cross-platform comparison would have.
So, sorry to disappoint, but there'll be no crown-changing bragging rights awarded here today. That doesn't mean Android and Apple fanboys can't still call each other names, though, and mock each others' platform limitations. Just don't do it in Apple's App Store; I hear uttering the word "Android" there can get you banned.