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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



Will the general public become tablet owners?

Way back in January 2010, I wrote a blog post entitled “The general public doesn’t need an iPad“. I felt that the iPad would struggle to achieve mainstream success as it was a disruptive technology that people had little reference to – it was competing with something that didn’t exist rather than something inferior. Furthermore, I argued that none of its features were truly unique, and that the functionality could be enjoyed using other devices.

Since then?

“U.S. tablet usage hits ‘critical mass,’ ComScore reports”

“iPods changed the media industry, iPhones ramped even faster; iPad growth leaves siblings in the dark” – Mary Meeker.

Tablets have been more successful than I envisaged.

However, we’re not quite in “mea culpa” territory yet. Comscore’s stat is among smartphone owners, not adults, while the iPad has benefited from iPod and iPhone’s introduction and success – from production and distribution mechanisms to consumer desire of the Apple brand. Also, just because last year saw x% growth doesn’t mean this year will see x% growth. And finally, semantically, people still don’t need an iPad. People just want one.

Tablets aren’t mainstream. Yet. Could they be?

Potentially, the main barrier to tablets becoming mainstream is category distinction. There is a dotted line going from the iPhone’s 3.5 inch screen to the Galaxy Note’s 5.3 inches to the Kindle Fire’s 7 inches to the iPad’s 9.8 inches to the Galaxy tab’s 10.1 inches. With the Asus Transformer Prime paving the way for touch-screen laptops, tablets could get squeezed between smartphones and next generation computers into oblivion. The battle could be less about size, and more about open vs closed ecosystems.

But if the tablet market stabilises at one or two form factors – say 7 and 10 inches – could it achieve mainstream success? Possibly, though I think game console ownership could be a useful comparison point in that tablet computers are desirable but not essential.

Their desirability stems from their usage occasions, which is the key component I overlooked in my 2010 post. Tablet use does not compete directly with phones (out and about) or computers (largely fixed location at home/office) – instead they are used primarily in the living room, bedroom and on holiday (Source). Why is that?

  • Living rooms are a social space. The tablet is the most social device – it is tactile and better than either a mobile or laptop for showing and sharing
  • Living rooms are dominated by the television. The tablet is the best device to switch out of standby and begin browsing or chatting – whether as a companion experience or independent to the viewing
  • Living rooms are a place of relaxation. Casual gaming is now huge. Angry Birds on a tablet is a far better user experience than on a phone (particularly for the less dexterous), and casual games aren’t as visible on laptops
  • Bedrooms are for preparing for sleep as well as sleeping. E-readers and tablets are fundamentally changing the book-reading industry (and potentially the newspaper and magazine industry, though I think this will be more difficult given that a book is a coherent narrative, and newspapers and magazines are great at editing disparate content)
  • Holidays and travel in general require equipment that can do as much as possible in as little space as possible. A tablet is ideal.

All of these functions can be performed by phones, laptops or traditional media but the tablet hits the sweet spot. Hence penetration grows, and with the introduction of the Kindle Fire, Nexus 7, Surface etc it will continue to do so for a while yet. Though I’m still not certain tablets will become mass, they can certainly become mainstream.


Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pswansen/5680074913

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?


Some things I’ve learned about tablet computers

The shorter version:

Some things I’ve learned about tablet computers include:

  • Penetration remains small but is growing
  • iPads are the only tablet in town
  • They have their own niche in the media landscape
  • Tablet use is largely additive to other forms of media
  • They aren’t mainstream yet – but could be

The longer version:

Some facts and data about tablet computers that I’ve sourced (from publicly accessible information) include

  • 3.62m people in the UK now own a tablet computer, equivalent to 7.6% of the population and up from 2.8% in November 2010 (equivalent US figures put penetration at 11%)
  • The iPad represents 73% of UK sales, and 97.2% of all US tablet traffic
  • Tablets combine mobile’s portability and flexibility with computer’s power and screen real estate. However, they are most likely to be used in the living room, with 62% of iPad owners never or rarely take their devices out of home. Although they are owned by the individual, 7 in 10 owners share their device with others – most likely a partner or spouse
  • With the exception of desktop computers – at least two thirds of US tablet owners said their usage of other devices (ranging across all four screens) was either the same or had actually increased
  •  326m tablets are forecast to be sold worldwide in 2015 – more than five times the figure estimated for 2011 (63.6m)



Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/doug88888/2800841720/