iPhone users lean heavily on Wi-Fi for Web access

More than 40 per cent of all U.S. traffic last month between Apple Inc.’s iPhone and the world’s largest mobile ad network took place over WiFi connections, not over AT&T’s cellular data network, AdMob said Thursday.

During November, 42 per cent of the iPhone connections to AdMob’s 6,000 advertising partners were over Wi-Fi, said the company in its most recent metrics report.

iPhone users’ heavy reliance on wireless is part of a growing trend, according to the report. “In the U.S., 8 per cent of total requests in November were on Wi-Fi networks, up from 3 per cent in August. [The] 42 per cent of iPhone requests made on Wi-Fi networks [is] notably higher than most other Wi-Fi capable phones, which average between 10-20 per cent.”

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The iPhone, in fact, accounted for 51 per cent of all wireless requests to AdMob’s advertisers, while Apple’s iPod Touch — a music player with all the functionality of the iPhone except for its cell phone — was responsible for 28 per cent of all wireless requests.

Because the iPod Touch lacks a connection to a mobile carrier’s data network, all of its Web traffic is conducted over Wi-Fi.

“iPhone Wi-Fi usage is generally higher on iPhone specific sites and applications than on normal mobile Web sites,” added AdMob’s report.

The iPhone’s reliance on wireless backs up the thinking of analysts who see the device as Apple’s defacto “netbook,” the term given to the small, lightweight and low-priced notebooks that have been selling well because of the recession.

During an October conference call with Wall Street analysts, Apple CEO Steve Jobs essentially dubbed the iPhone, and its iPod Touch sibling, the company’s current netbook.

“One of our entrants into that category, if you will, is the iPhone for browsing the Internet and doing e-mail and all the other things that a netbook lets you do,” Jobs said at the time. “Being connected via the cellular net wherever you are, an iPhone is a pretty good solution for that, and it fits in your pocket.”

Analyst Ezra Gottheil of Technology Business Research Inc. agreed at the time, and today said that AdMob’s numbers reinforced that view. “For sure, it’s yet another piece of evidence to support the idea of the Web in your pocket — something that doesn’t have to be in a carrying case, boots fast or is always on. That’s a very handy thing to have.”

The browser, after all, Gottheil continued, “is not just something that’s inside your computer, it’s the reason why you have a computer. So if you can run it on something else that’s more convenient, you will.”

AdMob also noted that total iPhone requests — over both mobile networks and Wi-Fi — to its partners jumped by 52 per cent in November compared to the month before. The iPhone accounted for 6.3 per cent of all requests during the month, leading any other individual handset by a wide margin.

As a handset manufacturer, however, Apple accounted for only 7.8 per cent of all requests, putting it in fifth place behind Nokia, Motorola , Sony Ericsson and Samsung. Nokia’s handsets collectively held 31.9 per cent of the AdMob share, for instance, while Motorola accounted for 12.7 per cent.

Research in Motion Ltd., the maker of the BlackBerry line of smart phones, was seventh on AdMob’s list, with a 3.9 per cent share in November.

AdMob’s November report can be downloaded from the company’s Web site.

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