In the first quarter of 2012, the leading maker of mobile devices as measured by page impressions was Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL), followed by Samsung Electronics (OTC: SSNLF.PK), HTC Corp., Motorola (now folded into Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG)), and Research in Motion Ltd. (NASDAQ: RIMM). These are all leading smartphone makers, while a tablet-only maker, Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) finished ninth, just ahead of Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK). Barnes and Noble Inc. (NYSE: BKS) did not make the top 20 with its Nook e-reader.
The top mobile phone advertising platform was the iPhone, with 15% of the market, followed by RIM’s Blackberry Curve with 4.4% and Motorola’s Droid Razr with 4%. When combined with advertising served to tablets, Apple grabbed about 28% of impressions, followed by Samsung with 18%.
As a group, smartphones took 73% of all advertising in the first quarter, up from 62% in the same period a year ago. Tablets, however, took 20% of impressions, up from 15% last year, and now claim nearly 3x the ad impressions for feature phones.
Millennial also note that of the top 10 devices that display ads, 3 were tablets. A year ago only Apple’s iPad made the top 20. The two additions this year were Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and Amazon’s Kindle Fire.
As tablets attract more buyers, it’s reasonable to expect that their share of the ad market will grow. Recent research from Nielsen indicates that tablets get 24% of all Worldwide Web ad clicks, compared with just 11% for phones. Tablets are more like desktop and laptop computers and users may click on ads because of the more familiar size of the screen. The small screens on smartphones are not as easy to use to find things quickly — and that’s the appeal of smartphones and smartphone apps — to find exactly what a user wants with the least amount of fuss.
This is good news for Apple, of course, and not-so-good news for Google, which pays a hefty price in traffic acquisition costs to maintain its position as the default search engine on OEM smartphones, including iPhones. By one estimate Apple gets 50%-60% of the revenue from a Google search on iOS, whether from an iPhone or an iPad. Google probably does not have to part with quite as much revenue for devices from other makers, but a cut of about 40% would match Google’s reported traffic acquisition costs. Google needs to find a way to hold onto more of its search revenue because its mobile ad network simply can’t make up the lost cash flow.