In August of 2013 Google suffered a rare two minute outage. During that infamous two minutes 40% of the web went dark. Forty percent! This event was a clear reminder of the ultimate control Google has over the web and web traffic.
Since the early days of the web, control of discovery and web traffic has been the focus of many. In the mid- to late-nineties, such control was in the hands of ISPs such as AOL and Earthlink. In the late nineties, the control shifted to portals with Yahoo and its MyYahoo service in the lead position. (I recall a conversation in 2000 with a former colleague of mine asking for an introduction to the MyYahoo team: “If you are not on MyYahoo, you simply don’t exist. It costs too much to promote your site.”) In the early to mid 2000s, Google dis-intermediated Yahoo and stole that position with Search and AdWords. Google has since reigned supreme over web discovery, organic and paid traffic acquisition. An entire industry has been built around SEO and SEM and both of these acronyms have become synonymous with the name Google.
Then came mobile and its apps. In just over five years since the launch of the Apple AppStore, apps have taken the mobile industry by storm. Today, 86% of time spent on mobile devices is spent inside applications, with just 14% left for the mobile web. App discovery has been a major challenge over the past five years. That led to the fast rise of the paid App Install market. In fact, Marketers are expected to spend over $2.4 billion USD in the US alone to get their apps noticed.
Climbing into a Walled Garden
Discovering relevant content and services within apps has also been a big challenge. Consumers want such a service. As an example, if a consumer is searching for a flight to Las Vegas, in an ideal scenario the phone or discovery service would launch whatever flight booking app is installed on the phone and send the consumer directly to the reservations page. But apps (alongside the content and services in them) can’t be crawled. They are not just about index and links, and hence are hard to “page rank.” As a result it is difficult for a search engine to discover apps and offer consumers an entry point.
Consumer behavior on mobile is very different than the desktop web. The de-facto behavior on the web is to launch the browser to google.com, type a sentence and be re-directed to content. The de-facto behavior in mobile is to launch an app (previously installed on the device) and enjoy the comprehensive experience offered within it. You are rarely, if ever, linked out to a mobile webpage from an app or sent to another app. Each experience is essentially an island unto itself, completely reliant on the consumer to come ashore.
The industry and some major mobile players are looking to solve this problem and the battle is raging for the “gateway” for mobile apps, content and services. In short, the Google position for mobile is up for grabs and billions of dollars are at stake.
At Flurry, we are in the middle of that battle and have built solutions to help apps get discovered and acquire traffic. We watch the space very carefully. We have seen a lot of companies, large and small, try to solve this problem: Apple with Siri, Google with Search and Google Now, Facebook with App Install and App Conversion Ads, and myriad others. But recently we have been most intrigued by Android Personalization apps, also called Launchers, especially after the creation of Facebook’s Home and Yahoo’s acquisition of Aviate. So we have taken a closer look at this category and the chart below shows the very fast adoption and usage of these personalization apps on Android.
The majority of these apps offer a personalized homepage for Android, and do some form of app discovery and app launch.
There are over 4,500 apps in this category on the Flurry platform and the data shown represents the aggregate usage of these apps. It shows the number of app sessions recorded by Flurry in apps in the Android Personalization category, by quarter, since the beginning of 2012. The growth in that category is astonishing. In fact, Q1 2014 (and the quarter is not over yet) usage is higher than all of 2013. While the cumulative reach of these apps is still relatively small (30 million monthly users in the US), the usage growth is eye catching.
This data set is telling us something. In fact, this data set is telling us something big. It is telling us that consumers are eagerly waiting for an innovative service that help them discover apps, content, and services around them in a personalized way. While the numbers are still small, the fast adoption of these apps can’t be ignored. The battle for the mobile homescreen has begun. The battle for the “Google position of mobile” has entered a new phase, and it is “must-win” battle for many.
In less than a decade, connected devices have become an integral part of Christmas. They are commonly wished for and given as gifts, and Christmas is the biggest day of the year for new device activations. That tradition continued this Christmas, with device activations up by 63% compared to an average day in the first three weeks of December.
To identify what types of devices are most gifted, we compared new device activations on Christmas to the average for the first three weeks of December. This approach adjusts for the fact that the smartphone and tablet installed base is growing all the time, and therefore a large part of the difference between one Christmas and the next is a result of growth in the installed base rather than increased Christmas giving.
Who Needs Drones When You Have Reindeer?
The chart below shows the smartphone and tablet manufacturers that experience the greatest increase in activations on Christmas compared to a typical December day. For the past three years, Amazon has been the brand of device that has experienced the largest bump in Christmas activations compared to its normal level of activations.
We believe price, business model, target market, and form factor all contribute to the big boost in Kindle activations at Christmas relative to other times of the year. Amazon sells Kindle tablets at cost, putting them within the Christmas budgets of more people than some other devices. The reason Amazon sells tablets at cost is that for them tablets are a channel for promoting physical goods and promoting and delivering digital content. That same retail business model means that Amazon is top of mind for many consumers during the holiday season, giving it lots of opportunity to promote its tablets as Christmas gifts. As we discussed prior to Christmas, Kindle’s new Mayday button makes it a particularly good gift for mobile newbies, and Amazon’s mass-market reach makes it available to those people. Last but not least, as we show subsequently, tablets in general, and WiFi tablets in particular, are the form factor that does best at Christmas, and many Kindles tick both of those boxes.
The combination of form factor and relatively low price probably also helps explain why Acer experiences a greater lift in Christmas activations than many other manufacturers, though the size of that bump is still only a fraction of what Amazon experiences.
In each of the past three years, Apple has experienced a larger Christmas lift than Samsung; however the gap between them narrowed this year compared to previous years. While the magnitude of the Christmas increase is smaller for these manufacturers than for Amazon, their baseline level of activations is so large that even a doubling of daily activations on Christmas (1.9x for Samsung and 2.3x for Apple this year, according to our data) represents a large number of devices.
Overall, while still significant, we can see that the size of the Christmas activation bump has declined over time for most manufacturers who ever had one. Even Amazon has dropped from forty-one times its baseline activations on Christmas 2011 to twenty-four on Christmas 2013. This is likely to be due to the increased overall penetration of smartphones and tablets, and is expected in a maturing industry. With more people having smartphones and tablets there are fewer new users to give them to, and giving to existing users is more challenging since existing users are already tied into carrier contract renewal cycles, app ecosystems, etc.
Wifi Tablets Are The Most Gifted Devices
As shown below, in each of the past three years WiFi tablets have been the most gifted devices, with activations this year more than six times greater on Christmas Day than on an average day in the first three weeks of December. Smartphones are the least gifted connected device form factor with cellular-enabled tablets in between. We believe WiFi tablets are the preferred connected device gift since they work out of the box. Cellular-enabled tablets and smartphones require a data plan, creating an adult gift recipient version of children receiving toys with “batteries not included”. WiFi tablets also tend to be among the least expensive connected devices, making them more accessible gifts for more people.
Will There Be An Amazon Smartphone In Time for Christmas 2014?
Yesterday CNET predicted that Amazon will come out with a smartphone in 2014. We agree. Three of the four factors that help boost Kindle sales at Christmas -- price, business model, and target market – also imply that it would make sense for Amazon to have a smartphone in its connected device portfolio. Whether it arrives by reindeer or drone, you may find one in your stocking next year.
Smartphones and tablets have gone from being the latest gadgets for relatively affluent people in relatively affluent countries to ubiquitous devices in mainstream use in many countries around the world. In fact, as we reported in February of this year China surpassed the US to become the country with the largest installed base of connected devices as measured by Flurry Analytics. As we also reported, a second wave of countries around the world is now experiencing the type of growth mobile pioneer countries experienced previously. For example, the mobile markets in the BRIC countries are now all growing faster than the mobile markets in the U.S., U.K., and South Korea.
Knowing that the landscape is constantly shifting, we are beginning a series of blog posts reporting on the use of smartphones, tablets, and apps in particular countries and geographic regions around the world. Given China’s world-leading installed base and considering the China Joy conference (China’s largest digital conference) is this week we thought we would begin there.
In June of this year Flurry Analytics measured 261,333,271 active smartphones and tablets in China. That represented a whopping 24% of the entire worldwide connected device installed base measured by Flurry. The chart below documents the growth in the installed base. The left axis and blue line show China’s growth over the years. The right axis and red line show growth in the world as a whole (including China) a basis of comparison. As can be seen from the gap between the two lines growing through 2010 and much of 2011, growth in smartphones and tablets in China lagged the world as a whole through that period. But starting toward the end of 2011, the installed base in China began a period of exponential growth. During this period it surpassed the growth rate for the world as a whole, as shown by the blue line catching the red line in the graph. We expect China to maintain its leadership (in terms of active installed base) for the foreseeable future because device penetration rate is still relatively low and much opportunity remains, as we reported in a previous post.
Xiaomi Is A Local Manufacturer To Watch
Examining a random sample of 18,310 of the devices in our system in China that run iOS or Android apps revealed that Apple and Samsung are the top two device manufacturers, as they are most everywhere. China’s own Xiaomi was a strong third, with a 6% share of the market, ahead of HTC, Lenovo and a multitude of others. As we noted in a previous post, Xiaomi has been successful in accumulating a large number of active users for each device model it releases. Worldwide, only Apple, Amazon, and Samsung have more active users for each device model released.
It will be interesting to see if Xiaomi can continue to gain share in China – possibly by mopping up share from smaller manufacturers of Android devices – and also if they can begin making gains in other markets outside of China to become more of a global player. With rumors of a Xiaomi tablet circulating, we will also be watching to see if their entry into the tablet market will increase the use of Android tablets in China. Currently 21% of the iOS devices in our randomly drawn sample were tablets compared to only 4% of the Android devices.
Chinese Users Over Index in Reading, Utility, Productivity
In looking at how Chinese people use their connected devices we see similarities and differences compared to the rest of the world. As a general rule worldwide, games dominate time spent in apps measured by Flurry Analytics, and China is no exception. On average, Chinese owners of iOS devices spent 47% of their app in games. The percentage of app time devoted to games was even greater for Android at 56%.
Smartphones and tablets are not just about fun and games in China. Compared to iOS device owners elsewhere, the average time Chinese owners spend using Books, Newsstand, Utility, and Productivity apps is greater than the rest of the world (1.8x, 1.7x, 2.3x, and 2.1x respectively). On average Chinese owners of Android devices spend more than seven times as much time in Finance apps (7.4x) than Android owners elsewhere spend in Finance apps, but they also spend more time in Entertainment apps (1.7x).
Will China’s Exponential Growth Change The Device And App Markets?
It will be interesting to see how China now having leadership in terms of its installed base will impact the device and app markets elsewhere. Given Xiaomi’s success at building a large number of users for each model it releases, it might try to add further scale by expanding internationally – particularly to the other rapidly-growing BRIC markets where brand preferences are not already well-entrenched.
Within China itself, Chinese competitors may have an even greater advantage in the app market since cultural influences and differences are likely to be even more important in the app market than in the device market. There are already strong Chinese app companies such as Baidu and Tencent and clusters of app developers emerging in places like Chengdu
. At first they are likely to concentrate on apps for the large local market, but that may eventually lead to growing app exports. For example, the fact that Chinese consumers over-index on some more work and educational-oriented apps may encourage Chinese developers to focus on those areas and innovate, and that could lead to creation of apps that end up being adopted elsewhere in the world. We’re looking forward to discovering what app is to China what Angry Birds was to Finland
Apps are telling – they signal our personal tastes and interests. There are probably nearly as many unique combinations of apps as there are devices, and the apps we use reveal a lot about us. Based on Personas that Flurry has developed for its advertising clients, we are beginning a series of blog posts to shed light on different groups of smartphone and tablet users and their app usage patterns. Moms -- who often control household budgets and expenditures -- are considered the prime audience for many brands. So we thought, where better to start our Personas series than by examining what moms are doing with apps?
Our analysis for this post relies on iPhone, iPad, and Android app usage during May of this year for a large sample (24,985) of American-owned smartphones and tablets. Discussion of app usage is based on time those devices spent in the 300,000+ apps that use Flurry Analytics.
What Apps Do Moms Use?
Moms, like most other groups, spend a lot of smartphone and tablet time playing games. In fact, on Android, more than half of the time American Moms spent in apps was spent playing games. Similarly, on iPad moms spent about half their time in games, but on iPhone, that percentage drops to a little less than a third of their time. On iPhone, lifestyle apps capture a larger proportion of Moms' attention (12%) than on iPad and Android devices.
As shown below, the second most popular category among moms on iPhone and Android devices is social networking. On iPad, newsstand (24%) was the second most popular category, demonstrating its strength as a screen for displaying magazine type content.
Where Do Moms Over-Index?
Most mobile consumers spend a large proportion of their app time in gaming and social networking apps, so what makes moms different from the other American owners of smartphones and tablets? Across iPhone, iPad, and Android, American Moms spend more time in education apps than the general population. Also, moms who own an iPhone or an Android device spend a greater share of their app time in health and fitness apps. Unsurprisingly, moms are also heavy shoppers. Android moms over-index for time spent in shopping apps, and iPhone moms over-index for time spent in catalog and lifestyle apps. (For this post, we have honored The App Store and Google Play’s systems for classifying apps. In iOS, shopping apps can fall into either the catalog or lifestyle category, whereas Android has a dedicated “shopping” category.)
Moms Own More Tablets And Gravitate Toward iOS
Compared to other American device owners, moms are enthusiastic users of tablets. As shown below, among the general population 25% of connected mobile devices were tablets, but for moms that percentage is 35%. This could be driven by the fact that many parents use tablets for sharing games and stories with their children.
60% of the smartphones and tablets we looked at were iOS devices. (Note that this number is a function of the installed base of active devices, so does not reflect market shares from sales in recent quarters.) For American Moms, the numbers lean even further toward iOS devices. A whopping 77% of moms own iOS devices while just 23% own Android. There are at least two factors that may explain this. First, it could be a function of Moms’ greater tablet ownership since iPad dominates the tablet market. Second, surveys show that women in general skew toward iOS devices. The key takeaway is that moms are much more likely to be found using iOS devices than Android devices.
For Moms, Connected Devices Are More For Escape Than Utility
So what can we infer about American Moms based on their app usage? For one thing, it appears that they use smartphones and tablets as a refuge from their busy lives. On average, half or more of the time they spend in apps is spent on social networking and game apps. In this sense, they are not that different from other Americans, but it does show that even busy moms need to escape and socialize, and mobile devices provide a way to do that.
Apps where American Moms spend a disproportionate share of time relative to other Americans also tell us something about their more serious side. Those apps tend to be improvement-oriented: education and health and fitness, for example. Moms are using their devices to help them achieve personal goals and possibly to educate their children.
We hope this post gives brands and developers a better idea of where the coveted American Mom is most likely to be during mobile time, and what is capturing their attention. App developers can tap into this valuable group by building experiences that give moms an escape from their hectic day-to-day routine, keep them socially connected, and help them improve different aspects of their lives. Media planners who want to reach American Moms should continue to buy ad inventory in gaming, news / magazine, and social networking apps, and to weight their budgets toward iOS apps.
Over the past four years, Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android have been locked into a two horse race for mobile OS ownership. In the past year, there has been a lot of focus on the rise of Android and its lead in device market share. More recently, many analysts started questioning the true value of Android’s market share especially in the high-end smart phone and tablet markets. At Flurry, we felt that it was important to take a step back and look beyond straight device or activation numbers to simply understand what market or markets are being contested.
In this report we do just that, arguing that there is more than one race for mobile market share occurring simultaneously. We analyzed four years worth of Flurry’s data to understand who is ahead in which contests, discuss the apparent strengths and weaknesses of the competitors, and consider the implications for the overall mobile ecosystem.
Android Leads In Device Market Share
It is clear from announcements from device manufacturers such as Apple and Samsung that Android is winning the race for device market share. Flurry’s own data supports this. The number of Android devices we are tracking worldwide doubled in the past year, reaching 564 million as of April of 2013. While the installed base of iOS devices that we track has also grown over that time, Android pulled ahead in active device share in late 2012 and has maintained that position ever since. This is shown in the chart below. This lead followed a period of just over a year in which the number one spot was changing hands. Prior to that Apple dominated the connected device market following the launch of first iPhone and then iPad. Approximate launch dates of some of the major iOS and Android devices are also shown on the chart as points of reference.
iOS Leads In App Market Share
In spite of Android’s rapid rise and current lead in device market share, iOS continues to lead in terms of time spent in apps. Total time in Android apps nearly equaled that in iOS apps in March of 2012, but it has declined somewhat since then, after the launch of the 3rd generation iPad.
Considering that there are more active Android devices than iOS devices but iOS users collectively spend more time in apps, it’s not surprising that more time per device is spent in iOS apps than in Android apps. The exact proportion of time spent in apps per Android device relative to iOS devices is shown below.
Why Doesn't App Share Follow Device Share?
An obvious question that arises when looking at the charts above is why app usage shares don’t follow device shares. We think there are at least three possible explanations.
One is that at least up until now the two dominant operating systems have tended to attract different types of users. Once Apple established the app ecosystem many of the consumers who purchased iOS devices were doing so to be able to run apps on those devices. They were buying a computer that fit in their pocket or purse. In contrast, many Android devices were provided free by carriers to contract customers upgrading feature phones. To the extent that those customers were just buying replacement phones, apps may be a nice add-on, but not a central feature of the device.
A second possible reason for why Android’s share of the app market lags its share in the device market is that the fragmented nature of the Android ecosystem creates greater obstacles to app development and therefore limits availability of app content. Hundreds of different device models produced by many manufacturers run the Android operating system. App developers not only need to ensure that their apps display and function well on all of those devices, but they also need to contend with the fact that most devices are running an old version of Android because the processes for pushing Android updates out to the installed base of Android devices are not nearly as efficient as those for pushing iOS updates to iOS device owners.
The final possible explanation for the differences in device and app usage shares relates to the first two. It is that the arguably larger and richer ecosystem of apps that exists for iOS feeds on itself. iOS device owners use apps so developers create apps for iOS users and that in turn generates positive experiences, word-of-mouth, and further increases in app use.
While app share and device share are two key races in the competition for mobile supremacy, they are not the only races. Another that has been in the news recently is the race for profits, in which Apple is the clear leader. Apple also currently appears to be winning the race for developer attention – probably both because of its share of app usage as described above and because both surveys and anecdotal evidence indicate that iOS device owners tend to generate greater advertising and in app purchase revenue.
A side race that Android appears to be winning is that for the emerging world, where its lower prices and open architecture give it an advantage. Apple has taken notice of that and is fighting back with incentives, monthly payment plans and cash backs in several emerging countries. In India, for example, a Times of India article suggests that these programs have given the iPhone a 400% boost in sales in the past few months.
As we’ve shown, there are multiple contests for mobile market share occurring simultaneously. That raises a question about whether that is a temporary state that will eventually give way to a clear overall winner or if there can be multiple long-term winners. For the moment it seems as though the consumer is winning in that they are able to choose devices from two dominant ecosystems as well as several smaller ecosystems.
More iOS and Android devices are activated on Christmas Day than on any other day of the year. This year was no exception. On this Christmas Day 2012, more iPhones, iPads, Galaxys, Kindle Fires, and more, were activated than on any other day in history. Moreover, as soon as we could tear the wrapping paper off our cool new devices, we started downloading a record volume of apps. Let’s get into the numbers.
How Did Santa Fit All Those Devices Into His Sleigh?
The chart below shows the number of new iOS and Android devices detected worldwide by Flurry on Christmas Day. With more than 260,000 apps using Flurry Analytics, Flurry detects over 90% of all new iOS and Android devices activated each day. The company regularly triangulates its device coverage with publicly announced figures from Google and Apple.
In order to appreciate the magnitude of new devices activated on Christmas Day, Flurry established a baseline using the average from the first 20 days of December. Over this period, daily activations averaged around 4.0 million per day, with variance of a few hundred thousand in either direction per day. On Christmas Day, activations soared to more than 17.4 million, a 332% increase over the December baseline. By comparison, Christmas Day 2011 held the previous single-day record, having reached 6.8 million device activations. Christmas 2012 is more than 2.5 times larger than Christmas 2011, which surpassed its own baseline by more than 300%.
With a record number of iOS and Android devices flooding the market, we next look at the surge in app downloads. For these figures, Flurry estimates its percentage penetration per platform to estimate total market app downloads. The company also benchmarks download volumes tracked in its system against publicly released app download milestones from Apple and Google.
More App Downloads Than Partridges in Pear Trees
The above chart shows that, compared to the baseline, app downloads more than doubled on Christmas. Specifically, over the December 1 – 20 baseline, download volumes increased by 112% on Christmas. Despite the ever-growing installed base of existing smart devices, the influx of new devices on Christmas Day still helped deliver a record download day, besting that of any previous day in history.
It Was Christmas All D*mn Day
For our next chart, we look at the distribution of downloads per hour across Christmas Day 2012. The shape of this curve looks like a table top, with downloads jumping early in the day to around 20 million per hour, when most of us were still in our pajamas, and remaining at this level for most of the day, even after the egg nog was gone. For perspective, we compare this to the average distribution of downloads per hour clocked between December 1 – 20.
More of Us Asked Santa for Tablets This Year
For our final chart, we drilled down into the split between smartphones versus tablets. While smartphone activations typically outpace that of tablets by 4:1, on Christmas Day 2012, more tablets were activated than smartphones. The big winners were Apple iPads, Apple iPad Minis and Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7” tablets. In particular, Amazon had a very strong performance in the tablet category, growing by several thousand percent over its baseline of tablet activations over the earlier part of December.
Over the next week, up through New Year’s Day, app download rates will remain significantly elevated. Flurry anticipates downloads to surpass more than 1.5 billion, and have a shot at breaking through the 2-billion download barrier for the first time ever. We look forward to accelerated growth in 2013, and continued success for developers.
The iTunes App Store and Google Play now offer more than 600,000 apps each. And Apple’s most recent earnings call revealed that the company has paid out more than $5.5 billion to developers since the launch of the App Store. With unprecedented consumer adoption of iOS and Android devices, low barriers to entry for developers and throngs of paying customers, Apple and Google have created massive economic opportunities for developers.
In particular, iOS and Android have made it possible for independent developers and mobile app start-ups to thrive. As industries mature, however, we expect established players and brands to invade from other platforms, depressing opportunities for many early entrants. Along with this, we expect to see market revenue concentrate among fewer larger players. For this report, with these typical patterns in mind, Flurry modeled worldwide mobile app revenue, revenue sources and revenue concentration among top-ranked mobile apps on iOS and Android. For this report, we used data from over 200,000 mobile applications in the Flurry Analytics data set. Let’s start with market growth.
The chart above compares worldwide revenue generated by iOS and Android apps in 2011 vs. 2012. For 2012, we modeled the first half of the year based on actual data, and then applied growth rates to estimate the rest of the year based on the proportion of revenue observed in 2011 between the first and second half of that year. In 2011, Flurry calculates that iOS and Android applications generated a total of $5.4 billion across premium, in-app purchase and advertising revenue. Advertising made up 18% of the revenue. In 2012, Flurry forecasts that revenue will grow by 60% over the previous year, reaching $8.7 billion. Advertising is the fastest growing revenue category with growth forecasted at more than 100%, from $980 million in 2011 to $2 billion in 2012, delivering 23% of 2012 total revenue. Likewise, premium and in-app purchase revenue is also increasing at a rate of 50%, from $4.5 billion in 2011 to $6.7 billion in 2012.
Next, we look at the concentration of revenue among top ranked apps from 2010 to 2012. Please note that for this analysis, we focus on premium and in-app revenue only, excluding ad revenue. Comparing these two years shows how dramatically the distribution of revenue is shifting across the long tail. Starting on the left, in 2010, the green part of the column shows that 28% of revenue was generated by the Top 25 ranked titles on iOS and Android. In 2012, we estimate that the Top 25 will drop to commanding about half of total revenue, or 15%. Likewise, comparing the grey sections of each column, the rest of the Top 100 apps will drop from earning 27% of revenue in 2010 to 17% of revenue in 2012. Conversely, revenue generated by the long tail significantly grows from 2010 to 2012. Comparing the blue sections, any apps ranked beyond the top 100, we observe that long tail revenue explodes from earning under half of all premium and in-app purchase revenue in 2010 to over two-thirds in 2012.
Finally, we rank the revenue generated by each of the top 100 positions across the iTunes App Store and Google Play. For each year, we set the revenue generated by the top spot at 100%. Then, relative to the top spot, we take the percent each position generates from the 2nd rank all the way through the 100th. By normalizing each curve in this way, we can compare the relative revenue generated per ranked position in the top 100 per year. For example, we can see whether ranking number 50 generates more relative revenue in 2012 versus 2010. Most interestingly, this kind of analysis shows whether the developer “middle class” is better off today than its “parents’” generation.
Now that we have relative earning power mapped per ranked position, we can study the heights and shapes of the curves. Comparing 2010, the green curve, to 2012, the blue curve, we notice that two things are happening simultaneously. First, each position in the top 100 is more valuable now, which makes sense because the market has grown overall. Second, the blue 2012 curve is flatter. Unlike the green 2010 curve, which steeply drops during the top 10 ranked positions, indicating the wealth is more concentrated at the top, the blue 2012 curve stabilizes shortly after the top 5 positions and then maintains a high, gently sloping plateau all the way through the 80th position, where it then settles just above the green curve, ostensibly continuing to “fly” at an altitude higher than that of the green curve out across the long tail. In short, this means that the middle class has more earning power, taking a substantial share of total wealth in the economy.
With the app economy booming, companies like Facebook, Twitter and Zynga are under tremendous pressure from investors to seize the opportunity presented by this new platform. However, with software delivered in the form of downloadable applications, unguaranteed network connectivity, different consumer behavior and control exerted by platform providers such as Apple and Google, the mobile app landscape creates different, meaningful challenges for companies attempting to enter the app space from other platforms. Combined with a marketplace that reduces the power of brand recognition (e.g., apps are free for consumers to try risk free), market wealth unexpectedly continues to shift to the long tail, funding continued R&D, advertising budgets and other activities that increase their competitive strength. The age of middle-class app developer has arrived. In this economy not only are the rich getting richer, but so too are the poor, and gaining on the rich.
This month, the world’s two largest mobile app platform providers, Apple and Google, enter what is arguably the most critical month of the year for each company, when each hosts their annual developer conference, the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) and Google I/O. While engaged in a multi-year platform war, their success largely depends on innovation provided for their platforms by the third party developer community. If the developer community embraces one platform over the other, developers will build the software that infinitely extends the value of the consumer experience, giving a platform a meaningful edge. The perceived availability of a large, steady stream of high quality apps is a key reason for consumers to initially choose an Android or iOS device, and then to remain loyal. Moreover, given that the mobile industry is among the leading sectors in the worldwide economy, the outcome of these two conferences can largely impact the fate of some of the most prolific, innovative forces in the world’s economy today. Combined, Apple and Google have a market cap of approximately three quarters of a trillion dollars.
This report compares developer support for iOS versus Android and explores the underlying factors that could explain varying levels of developer loyalty. We use the data set collected by Flurry Analytics, now powering consumer insights for more than 70,000 companies across more than 185,000 mobile apps. Each day, Flurry tracks more than 1.2 billion anonymous, aggregated end user sessions across more than 100 million unique devices. Each month, Flurry tracks over 36 billion end user sessions across more than a 500 million devices, a number that is more than 60% of Facebook’s monthly active user base.
Oh Captain, My Captain
At Flurry, we track developer support across the platforms that compete for their commitment. When companies create new projects in Flurry Analytics, they download platform-specific SDKs for their apps. Since resources are limited, choices developers make to support a specific platform signal confidence, as they invest their R&D budget where they expect the greatest return. Further, because developers set up analytics several weeks before shipping their final apps, Flurry has a glimpse into the bets developers are making ahead of the market.
The chart above shows that Apple continues to garner more support from developers. For every 10 apps that developers build, roughly 7 are for iOS. While Google made some gains in Q1 2012, edging up to over 30% for the first time in a year, we believe this is largely due to seasonality, as Apple traditionally experiences a spike in developer support leading up to the holiday season. Apple’s business has more observable seasonality.
The Apple 2-for-1 Proposition
Among the reasons iOS appears more attractive to developers is the dominance by Apple in the tablet category. Not only does Apple offer a large, homogenous smartphone base for which to build software, but also when developers build for smartphones, their apps run on Apple’s iPad tablets as well. That's like getting two platforms for the price of one. Apple offers the most compelling ‘build once, run anywhere’ value proposition in the market today, delivering maximum consumer reach to developers for minimal cost.
The pie chart above demonstrates just how much Apple dominates the tablet category. The Galaxy Tab and Amazon Kindle Fire hold very distant second and third places in terms of consumer usage. To build the chart, Flurry aggregated total worldwide user sessions across the first five months of the year, January through May.
Android Fragmentation Pain
Opposite to the efficiency Apple offers developers through their homogenous device base, Android fragmentation appears to be increasing, driving up complexity and cost for developers. Further, this fragmentation is concentrated primarily in just smartphones, as there is no serious Android tablet contender to the iPad. For Android, Flurry observes fragmentation along two significant vectors, devices and firmware. Let's look at device fragmentation first.
The chart above shows the number of consumer application sessions across the top 20 Android devices in May 2012. Four major OEMs – Samsung, Motorola, HTC and Amazon – have Android devices in the top 20. 17 of the top 20 hold a share of 6% or fewer, among the top 20, meaning that each additional device a developer supports will deliver only a small increase in distribution coverage. However, on Android, both devices and firmware contribute to fragmentation, so let’s look at firmware fragmentation next.
The above chart reveals that the majority of devices in the market run Gingerbread, which is only the third newest iteration of the Android OS. Honeycomb, more optimized for tablets, and Ice Cream Sandwich, which put a lot of effort into the user interface, have a combined 11% of penetration in the market. Froyo, which shipped before Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich, alone has a higher share of firmware penetration than the two newer, more advance firmware versions combined. This means that the majority of consumers are running on an Android operating system that is three to four iterations old.
Running a comparison of revenue generated by top apps on both iOS and Android, Flurry calculates that the difference in revenue generated per active user is still 4 times greater on iOS than Android. For every $1.00 a developer earns on iOS, he can expect to earn about $0.24 on Android. These results mirror earlier findings from similar analysis Flurry conducted in Q4 of 2011 and Q1 of 2012.
At the end of the day, developers run businesses, and businesses seek out markets where revenue opportunities are highest and the cost of building and distributing is lowest. In short, Android delivers less gain and more pain than iOS, which we believe is the key reason 7 out of every 10 apps built in the new economy are for iOS instead of Android.
Over the next two weeks, the momentum of two of the world’s most innovative, influential and prolific technology companies will be impacted by the reaction of the development community to their conferences, Apple WWDC and Google I/O. And as developers watch Apple and Google, the world should watch developers.
With the frenzy created by the speed and price for which Facebook bought Instagram, app entrepreneurs and investors are excitedly looking for where consumers will next flock within mobile apps. In a recent report, Flurry quantified the dramatic increase in usage among social networking apps on smartphones. For the first time since the App Store launched in summer 2008, the Games category found itself rivaled by another category in terms of time spent in apps. The rise in popularity of apps like Instagram, Path and Skout signals a new era of content consumption on mobile phones where consumers are finding new, compelling ways to spend their time beyond just games.
This report reveals emerging trends in mobile app category usage. By studying how consumer time is shifting across app categories, we provide an early, clear demand signal. In other words, we see where consumers are spending an increasing amount of time in apps beyond Games and Social Networking to show what’s next in mobile app popularity. For this study, Flurry leverages a sample of 8 million active mobile app users across all app categories. Flurry Analytics tracks more than 180,000 applications for more than 67,000 companies across iOS, Android, HTML5, Windows Phone and BlackBerry. The chart below shows the fastest growing app categories based on where consumers are spending their time.
The above chart shows the top five app categories based on growth in minutes spent from October 2011 to March 2012. Starting on the left, the Photo & Video category has grown the most, by 89%, in minutes spent per active user. Music, Productivity, Social Networking and Entertainment round out the top five with growth of 72%, 66%, 54% and 40%, respectively. These categories represent the fastest growing categories in mobile apps over the last 6 months. When considering what’s hot beyond the gaming category on mobile, this gives us a strong indication. Beyond the topical Instagram success story, chances are that future hits are among these categories. Some apps with momentum today include Path, Skout, Viddy, SocialCam, Evernote, Spotify and more. Please note that for iOS and Android, Flurry looks at equivalent categories (e.g., Photos & Videos in the iTunes App Store vs. Media & Video on Google Play). For all charts we use iOS category names.
Trendspotting: The Instagram of Video
We next drill down into the Photo & Video app category to better understand growth in this category. Expanding the time range in this chart, we show the number of minutes spent by active user per month from July 2011 through March 2012.
The “overnight” sensation of video sharing apps like Viddy and SocialCam has actually been more like a 9-month tsunami gaining power. Looking at growth from July 2011 to March 2012, time spent in Photo & Video has grown by 166%. Video sharing apps offer a compelling benefit to consumers, allowing them to conveniently capture, edit and share videos on-the-fly using the powerful mobile computing devices in their pockets. Trained by the sharing behavior of Facebook, and enabled by a confluence of underlying technology like built-in HD video cameras, hardy on-device processors, increased network bandwidth, cloud storage and user-friendly applications like Viddy and SocialCam, social video apps are taking off. It’s a meaningful example of the unique innovation possibilities afforded by mobile apps.
Cool Kids with Pumped Up Kicks tell YouTube: “You Better Run Faster than My Bullet”
Back in 2006, Google acquired the buzzy YouTube for $1.65 billion after its own Google Video service could not keep pace. Now it appears new “cool kids” in the form of Viddy and SocialCam threaten to disintermediate the web juggernaut’s acquisition. In a recent Forbes article, Eric Jackson laid out a hypothesis that the new breed of social companies, typified by Instagram, view mobile as their primary, often exclusive platform. “They don’t even think of launching via a web site. They assume, over time, people will use their mobile applications almost entirely instead of websites.” He concludes that “we will never have Web 3.0, because the Web’s dead.” Just consider that it’s now possible to capture, edit, share and view engaging, meaningful videos among friends, all from your phone, without ever touching a computer. In this perspective, a threat to YouTube begins to feels real.
To generate a comparison between mobile app and Internet video consumption, Flurry combined its data set with publicly available comScore Video Metrix data. In the chart above, we show the number of minutes consumers spend per month using smartphone video apps versus Google Sites on the Internet (primarily YouTube). Over the course of 2011, minutes spent viewing video content online grew from 276 minutes to 472 minutes, or 71%. Over the same time period, video apps grew from 63 minutes to 152 minutes, or 141%. While mobile app video consumption grew more than online consumption, the gap in usage at the end of 2011 was still meaningful. During 2012, however, is where things get interesting. As online video consumption dropped by 10%, mobile app video consumption increased by another 52%. By then end of March, consumers were spending 54% of amount of time in mobile video apps compared to Google Sites online, 231 minutes in apps versus 425 minutes online.
While it cannot be concluded that mobile video apps are cannibalizing YouTube, the shift in time spent between these two platforms appears to be a signal of disruption. Think of it this way: With every mobile video you share of friends, family, vacations, parties and weddings, you are likely loading another bullet in the chamber for Web 3.0. For YouTube, it appears they need to run, outrun your gun.
The economic boom created by Apple and Google through their iOS and Android platforms has precipitated a renaissance among entrepreneurial developers. With some of the lowest barriers to entry in the history of software development and distribution, apps are getting built and downloaded at breakneck speeds. Earlier this month, Apple crossed a record 25 billion downloads from more than 550,000 available apps. Google announced in December 2011 that it had crossed 10 billion downloads from 400,000 available apps.
As markets mature, rational economic behavior emerges. Even the most passionate, idealistic software start-ups focus increasingly on markets where revenue generation is highest. In this report, Flurry compares the ability for app developers to generate revenue per user across the major app stores. We examine a basket of top-ranked apps that have similar presence across iOS, Amazon and Android. Their primary business models are in-app purchase, which is the revenue type we compare for this analysis. Additionally, earlier research by Flurry found that the in-app purchase revenue model generates the majority of revenue for apps. Combined, these apps average 11 million daily active users (DAUs). We measured their revenue per user over a 45-day period, from mid-January through the end of February 2012.
The chart above compares revenue generated per user across iOS, Amazon and Android app stores. We start by taking the revenue generated per user in the iTunes App Store and setting it to 100%. We then compare the relative revenue generated per active user from Amazon and Google to the amount of revenue per active user generated by the iTunes App Store. Doing so, we find that Amazon Appstore revenue per active user is 89% of iTunes App Store revenue, and Google Play revenue per active is 23% of iTunes App Store revenue. Another way to interpret the results is that, for the same number of users per platform, every $1.00 generated in the iTunes App Store, will also fetch $0.89 in the Amazon Appstore and $0.23 in Google Play. These results mirror those of a similar analysis conducted by Flurry last December, where we found for every $1.00 generated per user in the iTunes App Store, developers generated $0.24 per user in the Android Market.
Amazon's bet to fork Android in order to put consumers into their own shopping experience on Kindle Fire appears to be paying off. Showing its commerce strength, Amazon already delivers more than three times the revenue per user in its app store compared to what Google generates for developers.
For some possible insight, let's consider the DNA of each company. Apple runs the highest revenue-per-square foot generating retail store on the planet as well as the successful iTunes store. Amazon, who invented the one-click purchase, perfected online shopping with data, efficiency and customer service. Google’s strength is in scalable online search engine and advertising technology. Running a store, retail or digital, has not been Google's traditional core competency.
As developers make decisions to support different platforms, the ability to generate revenue per user will always be a key factor. Based on revenue potential, we expect to see an increasing number of developers support Amazon. We also believe that companies such as Samsung, the leading Android-supporting OEM, could also consider emulating Amazon’s move to fork Android. Google, who recently saw the departure of Eric Chu, the most public-facing proponent of Android Market improvement, will need to reduce commerce friction to maintain strong developer support. From an ecoystem perspective, the emergence of Amazon as an additional distribution channel appears to be a boon for developers.
[UPDATE: For clarity, I went back through this post and specified, where appropriate, including in the title of the chart, that the revenue comparison in this analysis was per user, not total revenue generated. Peter]