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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

IAB Mobile Forum

Last Wednesday I attended the IAB‘s mobile forum (presentations are uploaded here).

It was an illuminating afternoon, though mainly in terms of what I didn’t take away. Mobile is still nascent as a media platform, and the industry understanding of it is still at a fairly basic (in my opinion) level.

Most information on how people use mobile seems to be on potential behaviour rather than actual (though there were exceptions).   As such, the emphasis of the event was very much on inspiration rather than effectiveness or impact. In part because of the fragmented nature of mobile (different handsets, networks, operating systems, functionality etc), it is difficult to emerge with overarching advice on using mobile.

However, it is clear that it is a medium ripe for innovation. Nearly all of the speakers had case studies as illustrations on how mobile can be used in new and interesting ways. These include:

  • Fitness First cold-texting people with information on their local gym (once people had responded with their postcode)
  • Comic Relief raising £7.8m through people messaging in to pledge donations that would be added to their monthly bill
  • The ringtone from the Cadbury’s “eyebrows” advert was downloaded over 250,000 times in less than a month
  • Pizza Hut’s pizza-building application where you can shake to remove toppings, click to order it (including regional discounts) and play a game while you wait for it to arrive
  • Ikea augmented reality tool to superimpose furniture into your living room
  • An Ocado shopping app that requires a four digit pin rather than a username/password each time you want to purchase.

Despite not coming away stunned, there were some useful pieces of information that I picked up at the event.

  • Chris Boddice from O2 made the comparison of a mobile phone to a personal assistant or life manager – it can do everything from diary management to your shopping via being an alarm clock
  • Alex Kozloff from Orange made the point that in addition to being relevant and innovative, mobile marketing also needs to reassure. Trust is much more of an issue on your mobile (it has people’s lives on it, yet there is no anti-virus or anti-phishing software) and so consumers need to be reassured that your site/brand is trusted and that they aren’t going to be surreptitiously charged for anything. For people who pay for their data, zero-rating can be used whereby the advertiser foots the data charges to visit that site.
  • Justyn Lucas from yodel warned of advertisers getting blinded by technology, and that the role of mobile should be established before deciding on how to proceed. In fairness, integrated marketing is hardly a new piece of information, but it is worth re-iterating
  • Jonathan Abrahams from Admob revealed that they are now seeing more traffic from Andriod than they are from Windows Mobile. This reinforces the asymmetry of mobile use in that while iPhones and Google phones still have relatively small penetration, they are driving the use of the mobile internet
  • The IAB’s Jon Mew said that the user experience should be paramount when browsing – from their first ad effectiveness study (for KitKat), they noted that respondents were much more likely to remember the ad if they had enjoyed browsing the site. Furthermore, regular users of the site were more likely to notice the ads (this was contrary to my assumption that the novelty of mobile ads would cause stand-out, but this effect is no different to other media platforms)
  • Tim Hussain from BSkyB had some great tips on apps – which he argued should provide a richer more creative experience for your customer. He also alluded to the asymmetry of action – in 6 weeks more people were using the Sky EPG on the iphone than on the 300 other handsets it is available on AND the pc combined. He pointed out that the iPhone has a massive advantage in that, from our iPods, we are familiar with iTunes and the iTunes store and so the comprehension barrier has already been overcome.

Tim’s six tips for apps were

  1. Understand the target audience
  2. Ensure the app is different to a mobile website
  3. Make it a destination, not a driver
  4. It should either save time or kill time (I liked this point, even if it does overlook the other uses of an app, such as inspiration)
  5. The idea should be aligned with the brand
  6. The app should be integrated to the wider campaign

Additional statistics I picked up from the event were:

  • Gartner predict that by 2012, 70% of all phones will be smartphones
  • There is an average of 37 apps per iPhone in the UK
  • Orange research suggests that 87% of mobile media users (“anything that a message can be delivered through” – so including SMS) use it at home
  • 95% of us don’t switch our phones off
  • Yahoo! is bigger than Google in mobile search (though I think this will change as iPhone/Google phones etc take share away from the network portals)

Although I didn’t pick up as much new information or knowledge as I was anticipating, it was an event worth attending. I’d particularly recommend Tim’s presentation on apps  – it can be downloaded here.

As the industry develops and matures, it is inevitable that our understanding of consumer behaviour and marketing effectiveness will improve – from my various discussions with people in the space there is definitely a market opportunity to fulfill some of these needs. I’m confident that the study I’m about to embark upon will contribute to this.

sk

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

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