The era of mobile computing, catalyzed by Apple and Google, is driving among the largest shifts in consumer behavior over the last forty years. Impressively, its rate of adoption is outpacing both the PC revolution of the 1980s and the Internet Boom of the 1990s. Since 2007, more than 500 million iOS and Android smartphones and tablets have been activated. By the end of 2012, Flurry estimates that the cumulative number of iOS and Android devices activated will surge past 1 billion. According to IDC, over 800 million PCs were sold between 1981 and 2000, making the rate of iOS and Android smart device adoption more than four times faster than that of personal computers.
Powerfully, smartphones and tablets come with broadband connectivity out-of-the-box, instantly combining the best of “Silicon” and “The Cloud” for consumers. The Internet, which served to connect the installed base of PCs, grew to 495 million users by the end of 2001, according to the International Telecommunication Union. With the Internet beginning its commercial ramp in 1996, iOS and Android devices will see double the number of device activations during its first five years compared to the number of Internet users reached during its first five years (Internet 1996 – 2001 vs. Smart devices 2007 – 2012).
On top of this massively growing iOS and Android device installed base, roughly 40 billion applications have already been downloaded from the App Store and Android Market. More than ever, consumers are splitting their time accessing services on the Internet from PCs versus doing so on mobile devices from apps. Last summer, Flurry published a report detailing how the average smartphone user, for the first time ever, began spending more time in their mobile applications than they do browsing the web. Updating the analysis, Flurry finds the usage gap continues to widen. Let’s look at the updated numbers.
The chart compares how daily interactive consumption has changed over the last 18 months between the web (both desktop and mobile web) and mobile native apps. For the web, shown in green, we built a model using publicly available data from comScore and Alexa. For mobile application usage, shown in blue, we used Flurry Analytics data, which tracks anonymous sessions across more than 140,000 applications. We estimate this accounts for approximately one third of all mobile application activity, which we scaled-up accordingly for this analysis.
Since conducting our first analysis in June 2011, time spent in mobile applications has grown. Smartphone and tablet users now spend over an hour and half of their day using applications. Meanwhile, average time spent on the web has shrunk, from 74 minutes to 72 minutes. Users seem to be substituting websites for applications, which may be more convenient to access throughout the day.
Our analysis shows that people are now spending less time on the traditional web than they did during the summer 2011. This drop appears to be driven largely by a decrease in time spent on Facebook from the traditional web. In June 2011, the average Facebook user spent over 33 minutes on average per day on the website. Now, that number is below 24 minutes. Time spent on the web without Facebook has grown at a modest rate of 2% between June 2011 and December 2011.
The analysis also shows that people are spending ever more time in applications. In fact, time spent in apps and the web, combined, has grown as users lead a more connected life. This growth though has been driven entirely by applications. The growth in time spent in mobile applications is slowing – from above 23% between December 2010 and June 2011 this year to a little over 15% from June 2011 to December 2011. The growth is predominately being driven by an increase in the number of sessions, as opposed to longer session lengths. Consumers are using their apps more frequently.
Facebook Pushes into Mobile Apps
Based on our analysis, we believe that Facebook users, and users of other traditional style websites, are increasingly accessing services through mobile applications than from desktops. Nielsen recently reported that Facebook is the most used app on Android among 14 – 44 year olds, surpassing usage of Google’s own native, pre-installed apps. Additionally, Facebook Messenger became the top downloaded app, at least one time during 2011, across more than 100 different App Store countries. In the U.S., the largest App Store market, Facebook Messenger ranked as the top overall app across most of the holiday week, during which more downloads occur compared to any other week.
With Facebook’s recent push into HTML5 with Project Spartan, where apps built for Facebook’s platform can run on top of the Facebook app, instead of requiring the user to launch the iOS app equivalent, this poses a disintermediation challenge to Apple. As Apple and Google continue to battle for consumers through the operating system and devices, Facebook is demonstrating that it can leverage its hold over consumers at the software level, through the power of the social network, across multiple platforms.
Facebook and Google are already locked in a battle for the online consumer, with Facebook having steadily taken share from the search engine giant over the last several years. Recently, as Google countered with its socially-oriented Google Plus, Circles and Hangouts services, Facebook added features such as news feeds to further lock in consumers to its service by obviating the need to discover content through search.
Likewise, Apple’s recently launched iCloud service, which allows consumers to store their most personal content, including music, photos and contacts, as well as its deep integration with social-service, Twitter, appears to buttress against Facebook’s ability to control the consumer relationship. With games as the top app category across Facebook, iOS and Android, as well as having become increasingly social in nature, Facebook is countering to reclaim valuable game play sessions it earned from its own platform play launched in 2007, rather than simply surrendering them to iOS and Android, who have effectively wooed consumers off of the web platform to mobile apps.
Games & Social Networking Dominate Mobile App Usage
With mobile app usage soaring, Flurry additionally studied which categories most occupy consumers’ time. The results are shown in the pie chart below.
The chart clearly shows that Games and Social Networking categories capture the significant majority of consumers’ time. Consumers spend nearly half their time using Games, and a third in Social Networking apps. Further considering that Flurry does not track Facebook usage, the Social Networking category is actually larger. Combined, from just what Flurry can see, these two categories control a whopping 79% of consumers’ total app time. This breakdown in usage reveals Facebook’s inherent popularity as the leading social network, as well as how important controlling the game category is for all platform providers. As we drill down into the category data, consumers use these two categories more frequently, and for longer average session lengths, compared to other categories.
Any way we slice it, Games and Social Networking apps deliver the most engaging experience on the web and mobile today, and set the stage for the battleground for controlling the consumer relationship going forward for all platform providers on all platforms.
Although the Internet entered the mainstream a mere 15 years ago, life without it today is nearly incomprehensible. And our use of the web has rapidly changed as well. In simple terms, it has evolved from online directories (Yahoo!) to search engines (Google) and now to social media (Facebook). Built on the desktop and notebook PC platform, the web’s popularity is significant.
Today, however, a new platform shift is taking place. In 2011, for the first time, smartphone and tablet shipments exceed those of desktop and notebook shipments (source: Mary Meeker, KPCB, see slide 7). This move means a new generation of consumers expects their smartphones and tablets to come with instant broadband connectively so they, too, can connect to the Internet.
In this report, Flurry compares how daily interactive consumption has changed over the last 12 months between the web (both desktop and mobile web) and mobile native apps. For Internet consumption, we built a model using publicly available data from comScore and Alexa. For mobile application usage, we used Flurry Analytics data, now exceeding 500 million aggregated, anonymous use sessions per day across more than 85,000 applications. We estimate this accounts for approximately one third of all mobile application activity, which we scaled-up accordingly for this analysis.
Our analysis shows that, for the first time ever, daily time spent in mobile apps surpasses desktop and mobile web consumption. This stat is even more remarkable if you consider that it took less than three years for native mobile apps to achieve this level of usage, driven primarily by the popularity of iOS and Android platforms. Let’s take a look at the numbers.
The preceding chart compares the average number of minutes consumers spend per day in mobile native apps vs. the web. For mobile apps, Flurry tracks iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and J2ME. And for the web, our figures include the open web, Facebook and the mobile web.
Flurry found that the average user now spends 9% more time using mobile apps than the Internet. This was not the case just 12 months ago. Last year, the average user spent just under 43 minutes a day using mobile applications versus an average 64 minutes using the Internet. Growing at 91% over the last year, users now spend over 81 minutes on mobile applications per day. This growth has come primarily from more sessions per user, per day rather than a large growth in average session lengths. Time spent on the Internet has grown at a much slower rate, 16% over the last year, with users now spending 74 minutes on the Internet a day.
As a note of interest, Facebook has increasingly taken its share of time spent on the Internet, now making up 14 of the 74 minutes spent per day by consumers, or about one sixth of all Internet minutes. Considering Facebook’s recent leak regarding Project Spartan, an effort to run apps within its service on top of the mobile Safari browser, thus disintermediating Apple, it appears Facebook seeks to counter both Apple and Google’s increasing control over consumers as mobile app usage proliferates.
Games & Social Networking Dominate Mobile App Usage
With mobile app usage soaring, Flurry additionally studied which categories most occupy consumers’ time. For this snapshot, Flurry captured time spent per category from May 2011 across all apps it tracks, now totaling more than 85,000. The results are shown in the pie chart below.
The chart clearly shows that Games and Social Networking categories capture the significant majority of consumers’ time. Consumers spend nearly half their time using Games, and a third in Social Networking apps. Combined, these two categories control a whopping 79% of consumers’ total app time. Further, as we drill down into the data, consumers use these two categories more frequently, and for longer average session lengths, compared to other categories. Any way we slice it, Games and Social Networking apps deliver the most engaging experience on mobile today.
With a better understanding of how consumers spend their time across app categories, Facebook’s Project Spartan makes even more sense. As a category, social networking – which is Facebook’s core competency – commands the second largest allocation of consumers’ time. Games, which typify the most popular kind of app played on the Facebook platform itself, are also the top categories on both Android and iOS platforms. As interactive media usage continues to shift from the web to mobile apps, one thing is certain: Facebook, Apple and Google will all expend significant resources to ensure that no one company dominates owning the direct relationship with the consumer.
Mass market consumer adoption of Apple iOS and Google Android mobile devices has attracted an unprecedented volume of content, delivered through applications. Because the majority of these applications downloaded are also free, many ecosystem players have assumed that advertising revenue models will dominate how these apps are monetized.
However, new analysis by Flurry reveals that the sale of virtual goods is overtaking advertising in top categories on the iOS platform. Note that because Google’s Android Market does not yet support in-app purchases (micro-transactions), this model is not yet viable for Android apps. This study was conducted using data collected from a sample of leading iOS social networking and social gaming applications, with a combined reach of 2.2 million daily active users.
Reviewing the chart above, the majority of revenue generated from advertising occurs during the 2009 holiday period. During 2010, however, revenue increasingly shifts from advertising to virtual goods sales until reaching a proportion of more than 80% from virtual goods. Admittedly, the idea that consumers acquiring virtual swords, gold coins and respect points can outperform advertising seems counter-intuitive; however, this phenomenon is neither new nor unique to the iOS platform.
In fact, virtual goods sales already represent the primary source of revenue for social gaming on Facebook. Michael Pachter, Wedbush Morgan Securities video game analyst, reports that social gaming has grown from approximately $600 million in 2008 to $1 billion in 2009. Further, he forecasts that social gaming will generate nearly $1.6 billion this year, and grow to more than $4 billion by 2013.
One factor responsible for low advertising levels may be advertising agencies’ slow acceptance of mobile as a media platform, with skepticism about the viability of social games and social mobile media as a channel for advertisement. With these agencies representing and guiding the biggest brands, they appear to be missing a meaningful opportunity to reach a mass market of consumers who have adopted new platforms and forms of content.
As social games continue to expand their consumer reach, demonstrating their ability to attract an audience beyond teenagers using iPod touches, their relevance will increase. In fact, with mobile social game critical mass now rivaling TV prime time viewership, Flurry anticipates a stronger ad revenue generation through mobile social networking and games in 2011. Over the next 18 to 24 months, Flurry predicts strong revenue growth from both virtual goods and advertising revenue from social gaming. We say play on!
Each month, Flurry leverages its data set collected from iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and J2ME applications to identify, study and share industry trends. Flurry tracks over 20,000 live applications and over 2 billion user sessions each month. Applications that include Flurry Analytics have been downloaded to more than 80% of all iPhone, iPod Touch and Android devices. Additionally, each day, approximately one of out every five downloaded applications from the App Store and Android Market include Flurry Analytics. The Pulse report is generated in the first half of each month, looking back at data up through the previous month. Different than other reports that provide updates to the same set of statistics each month, Flurry explores different business themes and topical issues relevant to mobile developers and other industry players.
I. Money Talks: App Store vs. Facebook Platform
Since the App Store launched in July 2008, 35,000 unique companies have released applications, which translates to 58 new companies launching apps each day. This appears to be the largest amassing of 3rd party developer support by any development platform in such a compressed timeframe. For example, comparing the number of applications created for the Facebook platform to the App Store over their respective first 9 months, Apple boasted 25,000 apps to Facebook's 14,000. Comparing respective growth in apps after 14 months, Apple had widened its gap to 85,000 apps over Facebook's 33,000. At the App Store's 18 month mark, reached this January, the number of iPhone apps was reported to have exceeded 140,000 compared to the 60,000 we estimate Facebook had reached over its first 18 months. We believe the difference in growth rates can be attributed to the App Store providing better monetization possibilities for application developers than Facebook did through its first 18 months. Developers, like all rational companies, pursue markets where the path to revenue generation is clear.
II. iPhone Developer DNA: O Brother, Where Art Thou (from)
Thinking about the sheer number of developers with applications in the App Store, we had the practical question: where'd they all come from? It's as if they've appeared over night. Has Apple created a magical new economy for application development start-ups, attracted existing content creators and brands from other platforms, or both? In this report, Flurry examines the genealogy of iPhone application content; that is, their platforms of origin. This sheds light on the mix of skills, motivations and frames of reference different content providers bring to the App Store economy, and which are winning.
To generate a sample that allowed us to compare across categories and pricing models (paid, ad supported, micro-transactions, etc.), Flurry created an index that took into account application rankings across both top 100 paid and top 100 free categories, additionally adjusting for frequency of use and user retention over time. Doing so enabled us to evaluate a free application's ability to retain a user base, important for generating advertising revenue past the download. Based on this index, we generated a list of 200 applications and identified six distinct "heritage" categories:
1. Native iPhone: Companies founded to create applications for iPhone (e.g., ngmoco, PageOnce)
2. Traditional Media: Companies established on Film, TV, Print and Radio (e.g., Disney, TBS, NYT)
3. Mobile: Companies having started on J2ME, BREW, BlackBerry, etc. (e.g., Digital Chocolate, eBuddy)
4. Retail & CPG: Brick-and-mortar companies or ones that manufacture goods (e.g., The Gap, DKNY, Kraft)
5. Online: Companies who began on the web including e-Commerce, social networks, online gaming, streaming music, etc. (e.g., Google, eBay, Facebook, Pandora, PopCap, Zynga)
6. Traditional Gaming: Video game companies from console, portable or PC (e.g., EA, Activision).
The pie chart below shows a breakdown of developers making top applications based on their heritage:
On any new media platform (or channel), entrepreneurial companies enter early in an attempt to establish themselves before a wave of large brands enters the space. At the same time, bigger companies typically take a wait-and-see approach when evaluating new channels and only invest after the ROI for the channel is proven. This combination of small and big company behavior, when evaluating new platforms/channels, creates the window for entrepreneurs to enter early and potentially disrupt big companies before they arrive. The iPhone platform is no exception.
Despite the fact that the App Store is now maturing, reaching its two year anniversary this summer, we are encouraged that native iPhone application developers are still relevant, representing 20% of the heritage pie, the second largest category. This means that the barrier to entry is still low enough for start-ups to enter and innovation to flourish. However, those days may be numbered as "discoverability" has become a significant issue, and now "marketing muscle" is starting to count more in the App Store. This favors brands and larger companies with resources to spend their way in. We are seeing signs that big brands are becoming more active, now perceiving that the iPhone has reached critical mass. With iPhone and iPod Touch now exceeding 70 million units world-wide, we expect 2010 to be the year of brands entering the iPhone. Going forward, we will especially see more movement by established brands from media, retail and CPG. In particular, traditional media (News, Books, TV, Film, Music, etc.) growth will accelerate aggressively with the introduction of the iPad.
The first and third largest heritage categories, Online and Traditional gaming, will likely see little change, or perhaps even a decline in "heritage share," since they were early iPhone entrants and their properties have largely already discovered.
Taking a deeper look at gaming, the iPhone's largest revenue generating category, shows the following distribution of developers based on heritage:
Given the specialized skill-set required to build a compelling game, it's no surprise that traditional game companies lead this category, including companies such as Electronic Arts and Activision. At the same time, native iPhone developers (i.e., brand new gaming start-ups) command the second largest category. The success of new iPhone game developers makes sense given the fact that the traditional gaming industry has long had pent up demand from garage and independent developers looking for new platforms where development and distribution costs allow them to compete. We've seen innovation from companies such as Tapulous, Backflip Studios, ngmoco and others. Online, the third largest segment, includes companies such as PopCap, Playfish and Zynga who have naturally expanded distribution to iPhone given its similar characteristics of being "casual gaming" friendly. Tied for third with Online, Traditional Media (e.g., licensed properties like SpongeBob and Disney Fairies) have long held a place in gaming since brands seek to use the gaming channel to promote their core properties (e.g., upcoming movies) and earn incremental revenue. The most surprising category is mobile gaming which only commands a 12% share. However, investigating more deeply reveals that most successful companies on mobile, prior to the iPhone, did not originally start on mobile. Rather they came from traditional gaming, online and traditional media platforms. Simply put, few pure-play mobile gaming start-ups exist. Some exceptions include Gameloft, Glu Mobile and Digital Chocolate.
Finally, we examine the News Category more closely:
Like gaming, the creation of compelling content in News is a specialized and costly operation. To source and report quality news, companies often have to span various media such as TV broadcast, radio and print, which further increases cost. It's therefore no surprise that Traditional Media dominates the News category, controlling nearly two thirds. For traditional media (e.g., New York Times, ABC News, NPR, etc.), the iPhone represents a large channel through which to distribute their existing content. The small incremental cost of expanding the distribution of Traditional Media's core content, and the attractiveness of reaching an educated, affluent and tech-savvy audience, makes iPhone the perfect platform through which to serve news. Looking forward, the iPad creates an even greater opportunity to increase reach because its larger screen size works better works for newspaper and magazine layouts, as well as TV broadcast.
Native applications represent the second largest category, due to innovation from native iPhone applications that allow personalized filtering, automatically work around gaps in connectivity to pull new content more seamlessly or aggregate and optimize new reading on the iPhone (e.g., Stitcher Radio, Byline, Conserva, etc.). Online, which represents a large share of news consumption in its own right, makes up the third largest category of news on the iPhone.
Finally, while Online is currently in 3rd, we believe the iPad's form factor will deliver a more familiar browsing experience. With ever-increasing wifi coverage, online media players will continue to increase their share just as the Internet cannibalized Print media in the 1990's and 2000's.
III. iPad Anticipation Continues to Stoke Developer Activity
After measuring that developers integrating Flurry analytics into iPhone OS applications in January increased by nearly three times over December, we were eager to follow up on this trend after February data rolled in. The January spike represented the single largest spike in Flurry history. Since iPad runs on a version of iPhone OS, Flurry automatically supports iPad applications (and we've done further testing on the SDK to verify this). This is also how Flurry was able to see application activity on the iPad since last October.
Now, over six weeks since Apple announced the iPad, Flurry continues to measure a significant increase in iPhone OS new application starts within its system. To measure, we took a "before vs. after" snapshot of monthly iPhone OS project starts in our system (iPad runs on iPhone OS 3.2). For the "before" we averaged August - December, 2009 monthly new iPhone app starts within Flurry, and for the "after" we did the same for January - February, 2010.
Historically, we've seen development spikes around new hardware announcements and releases including Motorola Droid for Android development and iPhone 3GS for iPhone OS development. iPad appears to be having a similar, albeit amplified effect, which we attribute to the excitement generated by the impending launch of of the device, now set for April 3 in the U.S. A large proportion of the applications we are seeing are custom ports of existing applications tailored for the iPad. With over 140,000 applications in the App Store, developers who modify, or build from the ground up, their applications early on for the iPad may have the opportunity to establish an early presence on this new device and drive more downloads. To wit, Apple announced today that it will include a dedicated "iPad" app category in the App Store.