Apple's mobile-operating system is losing its advantage over Google's Android when it comes to attracting advertisers' dollars, according to a new study.
In a report published Tuesday, mobile-ad platform Opera Mediaworks found that devices running Android sent a greater percentage of ad requests in the first quarter of 2014 than those running Apple's iOS.
"Last year at this time, agencies were still saying, 'Hey, I prefer iOS users,'" said Mahi de Silva, CEO of Opera Mediaworks. He said Apple's operating system delivered deeper engagement and a glossier platform. That's no longer the case. "The quality of the advertising that we can deliver on a Samsung and Android device is pretty much on par with an iOS," Mr. de Silva added.
The report (pdf) found that, in the first quarter, Android devices' share of mobile-ad requests reached 42.8%, up from 31.3%. Over that time iOS's share fell to 38.2% from 44.5%.
Despite that shift, Apple remains the biggest money-maker, raking in more than half (52%) of the revenue in Opera Mediaworks' platforms. However, the gap narrowed in the first quarter, with Android claiming 33.5%, up from 26.7% a year earlier. Mr. de Silva said he expects the two to be even by the fourth quarter.
Opera Mediaworks analyzed revenues and traffic, as measured by ad requests, for the roughly 14,000 sites and 64 billion ad impressions its platform powers. The platform works with large publishers like Condé Nast, News Corporation and Pandora, as well as marketers such as Wal-Mart and Samsung.
Ad requests from tablets helped Android push ahead. But the system's gains came largely from the popularity of Samsung smartphones, which command more than 60% of Android ad impressions, according to Opera Mediaworks.
(Samsung is reportedly ramping up its own software platform and apps, although Mr. de Silva said the Korean manufacturer is unlikely to drop its lucrative Android partnership in the U.S.)
Android's growth came at the expense of Symbian, BlackBerry and Windows. Their dwindling share is a continuation of a dogged consolidation trend in the mobile economy. After serving 76% of impressions in the first quarter last year, Android and iOS now control 81% of all traffic and 86% of revenue.
The pair are increasingly squaring off in Asia, which solidified its position as the second largest market behind the U.S. in mobile ad traffic in the Opera Mediaworks report. iOS has made gains this year in China's nascent mobile ad market, thanks to its partnership with China Mobile. "Apple is making inroads," Mr. de Silva said of the country. "But it's still an Android market."