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    This is the personal blog of Simon Kendrick and covers my interests in media, technology and popular culture. All opinions expressed are my own and may not be representative of past or present employers
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New data and trends from the iTunes store

The release of iOS 2.0 in July 2008 is arguably the defining moment of the smartphone era, contributing (along with 3G connectivity) to the iPhone moving from a good if limited device to the archetype that, even 5 years later, all other mobiles are striving to first replicate and then improve upon.

The App store has been a major success for Apple, with Horace Dediu estimating that they produce $1.6bn in revenue per quarter. We are approaching the occasion of the 50 billionth worldwide app download, and to coincide Apple have updated their all-time charts for a number of territories.

They previously did this on the occasion of the 25 billionth app download, in March of last year. 25 billion apps downloaded in 14 months equates to an average of around 60m downloads a day (with Horace Dediu putting the current daily rate at around 70m).

Last time I took a look at some of the trends within the charts. I’ve repeated that here, with ten bullets below. All data correct (apart from any typos that slipped through) as of May 2nd 2013.

  • Stability: The majority of the top apps are holdovers from the previous list – 13 of the 50 paid apps are new, and 20 of the 50 free apps. I’ve counted YouTube and Google Maps as new apps, although different builds did exist previously
  • Games still dominate: 17 of the top 25 paid apps on both iPhone and iPad are games
  • But What’s App stands alone: What’s App is the most popular paid for iPhone app, and is the only paid-for social networking app fits in the list. Although existing downloads won’t be discounted, it will be interesting to see whether the mooted 69p a year fee will deter new users from downloading
  • Franchises have emerged: Although there are exceptions, many of the top apps are from major companies and even those grassroots successes – Angry Birds, Draw Something – have been sucked up into either major merchandising and sequelitis, or bought out. Angry Birds is the poster-child for success, and Angry Birds Rio is the only title of theirs not to make the chart
  • But it is still possible to break through: 4 Pics 1 Word has become this year’s Draw Something, and has made both the top iPad and iPhone free charts despite being out for less than 3 months
  • Price homogeneity: The rise of in-app purchases as a legitimate – if controversial – revenue generator means that prices have dropped to around the 69p mark. Electronic Arts have heavily discounted their titles, including FIFA 13, to raise the user base and drive in-app purchases
  • Few five star games: Inevitably, scale can lead to hype and disappointment and so only 3 of the 100 apps featured have 5 star ratings – Cut the Rope and Plants vs Zombies in iPhone, and The Room on iPad
  • Free entertainment apps lag in score: Free music and entertainment apps score relatively lowly – with the exception of TV Catchup, the highest score is 3.5. YouTube trails with a score of 2, presumably due to complaints that the previous pre-installed app was removed (at Apple’s behest)
  • Device differences remain: 12 free apps and 9 paid apps appear in both iPad and iPhone lists, but the differences point to how the devices remain distinct. The iPhone is a personal device used on the go for timely information; the iPad is a lean-back device, that can also be used for creation
  • The future: How will the list differ when the next milestone (100 billion?) is reached? Will we see Vine or Snapchat enter the free charts? Will the next wave of franchise games prove more popular than the last? Will the TV companion app to beat all other companion apps truly emerge? I’m going to chicken out of making any predictions, but any or all of the above could happen

Pictures of the charts are below, and can be clicked on to expand into a more readable version.

iphone paid ipad free ipad paid iphone free

sk

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Data and trends from the iTunes store

To tie in with their 25 billionth app download (made by Chunli Fu of Qingdao, China), Apple have released the top 25 rankings for their paid and free apps within the UK iTunes App Store. Some interesting (and in some cases unexpected) things have emerged.

Data below is correct as of March 6th. Where apps are universal (ie they can be downloaded on both iPhones/iPods and iPads), I have included their reviews and rating within the iPhone charts as iPad cannot be split out (and the disparity in installed bases means it is safe to assume that the majority of actions relate to iPhones). Apple don’t release download figures, but news stories such as this one can help establish some benchmarks for estimates.

Click the images or open them in a new tab in order to make them more legible.

So what can we tell from these charts?

  • Games dominate the paid-for charts: 42 of the 50 paid apps are games, but it doesn’t dominate the free charts to the same extent – although people pay for games, they are transitory and can be superseded by sequels or alternatives – unlike information-based apps
  • Games are much better at encouraging ratings/reviews: Games have three times as many reviews/ratings as non-games: Demographics might play a factor (younger game players being more likely to rate) but many games also prompt people within apps to give reviews or ratings, as positive reviews are a major factor in deciding which app to download
  • It helps to be early: Despite ever-increasing user bases, only 4 of the top 50 iPhone apps were released after 2010. Getting in early, and reaping the benefits of large numbers of reviews and ratings, provides a strong profile even among newer users
  • Time sensitivity on iPhone is key: Nearly all of the top iPhone apps (outside of games/entertainment) are either time sensitive or impulse – social networks, news, weather, search etc.
  • Three of the top 4 iPad apps are TV catch-up services, and another four of the top apps are news services. The tablet is living up to its reputation for lean-back media consumption
  • But can the iPad also cater to business needs?  A quarter of the top Paid apps (including the number one app) are productivity or education based. This suggests the affluent, business-orientated user base are experimenting with using their iPads to replace other devices. Will this experimentation turn into habit?

sk

Foursquare uses for my iPhone

In my post on mobile yesterday, I mentioned that the mobile internet is changing people’s conception of what a mobile can do.

Initially, a mobile phone was purely about communication. This is no longer the case. Broadly speaking, there are four main ways in which a mobile phone is now used:

  • Communication
  • Information
  • Entertainment
  • Utility

To illustrate the multiple ways in which a mobile phone can now be used, I shall give personal examples of how I have been using my iPhone in the month or so I have had it.

Foursquare is Mashable’s tip for the tool that makes location-based services acceptable for the masses. It is not yet available in London, but offers a nice title for the below 4×4 (i.e. four squared) examination of my behaviour.

By the way, I am not going to do a Morgan Stanley and extrapolate one person’s experiences into the behaviour of an entire generation. This is anecdotal only.

Communication

  • Phone – this has been relegated to the position of “just another app”. On the iPhone, it has equal prominence with Mail, Safari and iPod
  • Mail – I have both my Essential and Gmail accounts set up, and reply to emails when away from my desk/home
  • Tweetdeck – my preferred Twitter client, which is free and works extremely well as an app
  • Facebook – A big driver of mobile internet use, according to this report

Information

  • BBCReader – this is an unofficial tool; the BBC should bring an official version to market as it is incredibly useful. I cache all of the top stories onto my phone memory, and then am able to browse the news while on the tube
  • NYTimes – similar to the above, except that it is official and thus much smoother. They’ve started experimenting with disruptive interstitial ads, which I am willing to put up with in exchange for free access
  • London Tube Deluxe – there are free versions available, but a handy tool to keep abreast of closures and delays, as well as planning journeys
  • Flixster – it is US focused, but it does recognise my UK location and tells me my local cinemas and the showings. I can see the Rotten Tomatoes ratings, and review films I go on to see.

Entertainment

  • Slugger – the game that has seen most usage. An addictive home-run derby game, which uses the iPhone motion detector as the aim for your swing
  • iPod – ingeniously, this continues to work in the background while other apps are used. Apps themselves shut down when not in primary use, which means that if the Spotify app is approved, listeners will not be able to do anything else while using
  • Tap Tap Revenge – a Guitar Hero esque game that provides free tracks to play along to, with the option of going on to buy them
  • Simon The Sorcerer – I only downloaded this Monday and haven’t played it yet, but loved it when I was a kid. And at £1.19 it is far cheaper than any (legal) PC version

Utility

  • Calendar – it automatically syncs with Outlook but not Gmail (annoyingly)
  • Clock – I use my phone as an alarm clock. I’m not alone.
  • Camera – I still carry around a digital camera for events, but the camera is good enough for basic daylight photos that can be quickly emailed
  • Voice Memos – I haven’t had a great deal of need to use this yet. Aside from Twin Peaks impressions – “Diane, I am holding in my hand a small box of chocolate bunnies”.

In terms of weight of behaviour, I would estimate the majority of my behaviour is centred on information and entertainment. My phone is incredibly useful in particular situations (thanks to my dodgy sense of direction) but I derive the most consistent usage on my commute. Reading material (whether free newspapers, a book or the Economist), my “standalone” iPod and my Nintendo DS are all seeing far less usage as a result.

However, this is just one anecdote. Some may use it primarily as a communication tool (whether telephony or social media) and others as a utility (e.g. Nike+).

One of the greatest things about the App store is the customization it affords us. Rather than just changing the look of a phone, we can now alter the functionality.

Therefore, if we are to understand how mobile media is to be used (and potentially how it can be monetized), we first need to understand people’s motivations and interests. And since customization is near limitless, we need to try and do this at the individual level.

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sigalakos/

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A new era for mobile?

Mobile phones on a train in Japan

I’ve been speaking to a lot of people about mobile recently – partially because I have finally got an iPhone, but primarily because I am working on a project around how mobile phones fit into the media landscape.

Mobile phones as a technology are unquestionably mainstream, and have been so for about a decade. There are currently more mobile phones than people in Europe, and a recent study suggested that children get their first mobile when they are eight years old.

However, mobile as a media has taken a lot longer to infiltrate mainstream behaviour. There have been numerous false dawns in the past – notably around mobile TV – but the time for mobile does finally seem to have arrived.

And the driver for that is the mobile internet.

SIDENOTE: The mobile phone has found some exceptionally important uses in the developing world – Mo Ibrahim‘s work is a good place to start in this respect – but my research is focusing upon the West, and primarily the UK.

The four factors that have been influencing take-up of the mobile internet (in the UK at least) are

  • Faster network/connection speeds
  • Emphasis on unlimited data packages (even on pay as you go tariffs)
  • Greater choice of content
  • Better (in functionality and usability) handsets

In my opinion, the third and fourth points are a result of the iPhone. Relative penetration of the iPhone may still be low, and few of its functions may actually be “new”, but both the iPhone and the App store have changed the public’s conception of what a phone is and what it is used for.

To indicate how revolutionary it is, consider how many other phones are referred to by their brand name? Only BlackBerry, and that is arguably because it the initial emphasis was on email rather than telephony. The iPhone managed to set itself far apart from all other handsets on the market. It is aspirational and has caused other manufacturers to fundamentally change the way they design and market their handsets.

Furthermore, the iPhone has disrupted the mobile market. I believe iterative upgrading of handsets is still the most prevalent form of changing phones, but a significant minority are abandoning the previously well-formed “upgrade curve” and converging around high-end smartphones.

By changing the perception of what a phone is, a new coalition of users can be persuaded to change their willingness to pay. A person may have been willing to pay £20 per month for their mobile subscription to make calls and texts. However, that person may be willing to pay £35 per month for a smartphone subscription that gives them email, games, maps, videos and so on in addition to calls and texts.

These people may still have different levels of comfort with technology, and thus usage of the different features will vary, but the capability is there for all to engage in this new behaviour.

And that is quite exciting.

Not just in itself, but also in the effect this behaviour has on consumption of other media channels. The mobile extends the PC behaviour in complementary and competing ways, and it is important to understand the relationship that the two platforms have with one another (in addition to the other media channels – this remote record tool from Sky is a great example on how mobile can feed into the core business).

The environment is fast-moving and volatile, but it does appear that mobile is finally emerging as a media channel to be reckoned with.

I anticipate this a topic I’ll be returning to on numerous occasions – both here and on the Essential Research blog where I hope to update on the progress we are making on this project. In the meantime, I’m bookmarking all relevant articles and blogs here.

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cocoarmani/

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