Another month, another report that Apple’s iPhone market share is vastly larger than it really is.
As with last time, this new report is based on the same source of highly slanted statistics, mobile ad network AdMob.
The problem is that AdMob continues to publish a monthly dump of its ad network’s statistics — which gets great press each month — under the guise that it provides “insight into trends in the mobile ecosystem.”
But in reality, AdMob’s ad hits don’t reliably tell us anything about the broader smartphone market or Apple’s share of it. They only tell us about AdMob’s mobile ad business (which grew ad requests 9% month-over-month in August — which isn’t bad).
Why is it not a valid source of information about the smartphone market? Because Apple’s share of AdMob’s mobile ad business is highly exaggerated by the fact that AdMob has a very popular ad product that’s only for the iPhone and iPod touch. In other words, a large portion of AdMob’s business is completely inaccessible to BlackBerry phones, Nokia phones, etc.
Therefore, AdMob statistics are severely iPhone-heavy — and any assessment of the smartphone market based on AdMob’s stats is invalid. It’s like basing your view of America’s food consumption on a sales report from Whole Foods — too much arugula, not enough Kraft Singles.
AdMob is free to continue running the reports, of course, but until they are very clear that they are NOT AT ALL representative of the broader smartphone market, they will continue to be misinterpreted — even by very smart people.
This time, they seem to have tricked Fortune blogger Philip Elmer-DeWitt, who uses August ad data from AdMob to proclaim that “Apple now has a substantial — if not the largest — share of the smartphone market in every region of the world except Asia and Africa, according to a report issued Wednesday by AdMob.”
He continues, “Overall, the iPhone’s worldwide share grew to 40% from 33% over the last six months. In North America, its share of the smartphone market is 52%, as measured by hits on AdMob’s ads.”
Sounds nice. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t have anywhere near that market share.
Is the iPhone an incredibly significant mobile device? Absolutely. Could it reach 40% market share someday? Why not! But you’ll never be able to base that on AdMob’s ad data.
(Meanwhile, Gartner — which actually specialises in this sort of information — says Apple represented 13.3% of the worldwide smartphone market in Q2. There’s another point here — the difference between market share, usage share, and installed base — but we’ll save that for another day.)