Symbian’s Dominance Erodes in Emerging Markets vs. the iPhone: AdMob

The worldwide smartphone battle is a lesson in geography, according to figures released this morning by AdMob (PDF), which shows that Apple’s (s aapl) iPhone dominates in the Western world while Nokia’s (s nok) Symbian operating system outpaces the rest of the field in Africa and Asia. But the iPhone operating system is picking up steam in some of those emerging markets, too.

Symbian devices accounted for 69 percent of smartphone ad requests in Asia through AdMob’s network in the fourth quarter of 2009, down substantially from its share in the third quarter. Meanwhile, the iPhone nearly doubled its share of traffic from Asia quarter-over-quarter. And while Symbian maintained a dominant share among users in Africa, its lead was erased in Eastern Europe for the first time as the iPhone generated 51 percent of AdMob’s smartphone activity.

The iPhone OS also accounted for an overwhelming majority of smartphone requests in Western Europe as Symbian activity fell to a mere 10 percent, and Apple gadgets maintained a substantial lead in North America. In the meantime, Android (s goog) is beginning to emerge as a force, generating more than one-fourth of AdMob’s smartphone activity in North America and 8 percent in Western Europe. Android is beginning to find an audience in Eastern Europe, too, primarily at Symbian’s expense.

Nokia’s strong traction in emerging markets is nothing new, of course, and the company has opted not to focus on North America with its ambitious Ovi service. While that may be a sound strategy, it will require the company to ramp up Symbian traffic on the mobile web and maintain the leads it’s built in the African and Asian markets that have become its focus. If AdMob’s figures are any indication, that simply isn’t happening.

Image courtesy Flickr user Jeffrey Simms Photography.