Flurry recently revealed that China’s installed base of smartphones and tablets surpassed that of the United States. Further, two thirds of all app sessions now occur outside the United States. With the app market becoming increasingly international, developers need to better understand how app consumer behavior varies across different countries to remain competitive.
This report focuses on how the top 30 heaviest app using countries vary in terms of app usage. As developers build apps for the largest international markets, they need to consider deviating from what has worked in the United States, the former number one market. Can developers simply localize for different markets, or are there meaningful cultural differences in app usage to consider? How different is behavior in China and India, the world’s two most populous countries?
For this study, Flurry grouped countries according to their similarity in app category usage using cluster analysis. Cluster analysis is a statistical technique that creates groupings based on associations; in this case, among the proportions of app users who use different categories of apps. This technique controlled for differences in populations, device penetration rates and app store taxonomies. We ran this analysis for the top 20,000 apps in the 30 heaviest app using countries as of January 2013. For purposes of this report, we focus on app categories used by at least 5% of app users in at least one country cluster. We also excluded social networking, since use of those apps tends to be more country-specific.
Membership in the resulting country clusters are discussed next, followed by a description of some of the differences in app engagement across country clusters.
App Usage Around the Globe
The cluster analysis process produced six country groupings shown in the map below and the country list that follows.
As shown in the map above, the first group of countries in blue is made up of countries that tended to be early adopters of mobile technologies.
The second category, in purple, is comprised of the most hyper-connected parts of Asia: South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
China and Japan had app usage patterns that were unique to them, making each country its own cluster.
Most of the countries in green are neighbors in South East Asia; however, app usage patterns across the Pacific in Mexico also put it in that same category.
The final category, in yellow, includes many large countries, such as Brazil, Russia and India as well as smaller but influential countries such as Switzerland and Israel. Besides sharing similarities in app usage, these countries tend to have lagged behind the Mobile Pioneer and Connected Asia countries in adopting mobile technologies.
Countries shown in gray were not included in the analysis because they are not among the 30 heaviest app using countries.
Interest In Gaming Is Global. Genre Preferences Are Local
The chart below shows the proportion of app users who used apps within each of the gaming categories shown, as defined in Google Play, during January 2013.
Overall, games are the most-used types of apps in each country cluster, with the biggest Android game category being Arcade and Action games for all country clusters. While Android game categories follow a similar rank ordering across country clusters, there is clear variation between clusters. For example, compared to app users in Japan, almost twice the proportion of app users in the Equatorial Pacific country cluster use Android Arcade and Action games. And while countries in the Mobile Pioneers’ cluster are among the most enthusiastic users of Casual Games and Brain and Puzzle Games, they are less enthusiastic users of Arcade and Action games compared to those in most other country clusters.
The chart below shows similar data for iOS apps within each of the gaming categories as defined by the Apple App Store. Please note that these classifications have changed over time and that games are assigned to categories by developers; however those things are common to all countries and therefore should not, on their own, result in differences between countries.
Once again, note that the main Games category attracts a large proportion of people who use any iOS apps, and that the Equatorial Pacific has the greatest proportion of users and Japan has the least though the differences are not as great for iOS as they are for Android. It’s interesting to note that while Japan tends to lag the other country clusters in the proportion of device users engaging with most game app categories, the country that gave us karaoke leads in the proportion of app users who use iOS Music Games.
Interest In Productivity and Utility Apps Varies
While Japanese app users are disproportionately unlikely to play most types of games (with the exception of music, as noted above), they are disproportionately likely to use productivity and utility apps. Chinese app users are also disproportionately heavy users of these more functional types of apps.
Use of More Lifestyle-Oriented Apps Maps To Offline Behavior
Hobbies often associated with Japan came through in app usage for music games, and also in use of lifestyle-oriented apps in terms of Japanese enthusiasm for photography. Japanese device owners are more likely than device owners in other country clusters to engage with photography apps on both iOS and Android devices. Entertainment categories within both app stores are fairly broad so it’s not entirely clear why, but those from China and the Lumbering Giant country clusters are disproportionately heavy users of Entertainment apps on both of the major mobile operating systems.
Mapping the Future of Apps
While this analysis only scratches the surface of variation in usage of 20,000 apps across more than 800 million devices being used in 30 different countries, it shows systematic variation across country clusters even at a high level. This has important implications considering the great potential for growth of connected devices and app use in countries and country groupings such as China and the Lumbering Giants, given their large populations and relatively low current rate of device penetration. App usage patterns in those places don’t always mirror those in Mobile Pioneer countries, which up until now have been the source of a lot of app development. For example, productivity and utility apps are more popular in China and Japan than they are in the United States. Differences such as these suggest that app developers in Mobile Pioneer countries may need to give greater consideration to the usage patterns and preferences of those in other countries or else that we may see growing app developer communities in some of those other countries.
Marshall McLuhan popularized the idea of the “global village” in the 1960s through his books The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of the Typographic Man and Understanding Media. McLuhan, who is credited with predicting the concept of the Internet decades before it actually existed, described the instantaneous movement of information from every quarter to every point at the same time, enabled by electric technology. The result is that the globe contracts into a village.
Post-Internet, the explosive adoption of iOS and Android smart devices best extends his theory. Enabled by this new computer-mediated platform is the distribution of apps, from every quarter to every point, at the same time. Consider that in the United States today, right now, teams from Finland, Japan, Israel and the UK share top grossing positions alongside U.S. teams in the iTunes App Store and Google Play. Today, in the top Chinese app stores, one can find American, French and Japanese companies alongside Chinese companies for a top share of revenue. And in the top UK app stores, companies from Serbia, Finland, Japan, China and the U.S. are counted among local UK companies as top revenue generators.
Welcome to the new global village built on a foundation, per Flurry’s count, of three quarters of a billion active iOS and Android smart devices, simultaneously running across more than 220 countries and territories that will generate revenue approaching $10 billion in 2012. This report focuses on the further shrinking of the global village, driven by the prolific spread of global smart devices over the last 12 months. We show which countries have the largest active smart device installed bases, are experiencing the fastest growth and how the distribution of app usage is shifting to become increasingly international. For its analysis, Flurry uses data from more than 250,000 applications that it tracks, running on more than 750 million devices worldwide. With its application coverage, Flurry estimates that it can reliably detect over 90% of all iOS and Android devices active in the world during a given month.
Let’s start by looking at which countries make up the world’s largest app markets.
The chart above shows the top markets by their active iOS and Android user bases during October 2012. The US and China tower over the next group of top markets by at least five times. And while the U.S. has added a whopping 55 million net active devices since October 2011, China has added a dizzying 125 million, a figure that totals the sum of the UK, Japan and South Korea’s combined, current active user base. Flurry predicts that China will surpass the U.S. in total installed base by the end of Q1 2013, delayed only by the upcoming massive holiday season that will spike the U.S. installed base.
The chart above shows the growth in active devices per country between October 2011 and October 2012. China leads the world with an impressive 293% year-over-year growth rate, spurred by the potent combination of its vast population and rapidly growing middle class. For this chart, Flurry selected countries that had a minimum of a half a million active devices as of October 2011. Compared to prior Flurry international growth studies, we note that a new set of fast-growers has now entered the top 10 including Colombia, Ukraine, Venezuela and the Philippines, further demonstrating the shrinking global village.
Lastly, we look at the volume of application usage across the globe tracked by Flurry, which we estimate comprise of approximately one fifth of all worldwide app sessions on iOS and Android, the world’s largest cross-platform sample. Year-over-year app sessions in the U.S. declined as a proportion of WW sessions between October 2011 and October 2012, from 48% to 29%. The balance of the top 10 (ranks 2 -9) grew from 27% in October 2011 to 39% in October 2012. The rest of the world also made gains from 25% in October 2011 to 32% in October 2012. In total, 71% of all app sessions now take place outside the U.S.
Over the last century, the distribution of the world’s information has migrated from print (e.g., books and newspapers) to mass media (e.g., radio and television) to computer-mediated media (i.e., the Internet). Over just the last five years, however, we’ve taken the most significant step forward in the evolution of media distribution with the unprecedented adoption of smartphones and tablets: portable, broadband-connected super computers connected to The Cloud. Applying McLuhan’s point of view that “the message is the media,” apps are the new message.
The rate of iOS and Android device adoption has surpassed that of any consumer technology in history. Compared to recent technologies, smart device adoption is being adopted 10X faster than that of the 80s PC revolution, 2X faster than that of 90s Internet Boom and 3X faster than that of recent social network adoption. Five years into the smart device growth curve, expansion of this new technology is rapidly expanding beyond early adopter markets such as such as North America and Western Europe, creating a true worldwide addressable market. Overall, Flurry estimates that there were over 640 million iOS and Android devices in use during the month of July 2012.
This report reveals which countries have the largest active smart device installed bases, are experiencing the fastest growth and are most penetrated. We also show how the distribution of app usage is shifting to become increasingly international. For this report, Flurry uses data from more than 200,000 applications that it tracks, running on more than 640 million devices worldwide. With its application coverage, Flurry estimates that it can reliably detect over 90% of all iOS and Android devices active in the world during a given month. Let’s start by looking at which countries make up the world’s largest app markets.
Compared to July 2011, the United States and China continue controlling the top two spots, with China dramatically closing the gap on the United States. Year-over-year, Flurry calculates that net active devices in the U.S. grew by approximately 30 million, while China saw more than 100 million new active devices enter the market. At this rate, China’s active installed base could overtake the United States as early as the 2012 Holiday season. Please note that Flurry detects actual active devices upon which apps are running, and that these numbers will differ than reported hardware sales by OEMs. Compared to last year, 9 of the top 10 countries remain unchanged, excepting Brazil, which pushes Australia just out of the top 10, into the 11th position.
The chart above shows the growth in active devices per country between July 2011 and July 2012. China leads the world with an astounding 401% year-over-year growth, demonstrating the power of the country’s vast population coupled with its rapidly growing middle class. Notably, all four BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are represented in the top 10-ten growth countries for smart devices, reinforcing their new stage of advanced economic development. For this chart, Flurry selected countries that had a minimum of a half a million active devices as of July 2011.
In addition to the fastest growing countries, Flurry also measured which markets are mostly rapidly nearing saturation. Specifically, we compared the number of active devices in each country relative to its adult population, between ages 15 and 64 years old. While Singapore, Hong Kong and Sweden form the top three countries in terms of smart device penetration, indicating their strong consumer technology economies, each country has a relatively small total population, ranging between 5 to 10 million. By comparison, the United States, the fifth most penetrated country with 78% of its adult population using smart devices, has a total population of more than 310 million. South Korea and the United Kingdom have the 2nd and 3rd largest populations among the top 10 penetrated markets, with roughly 50 million and 60 million respectively.
Finally, we look at look at the volume of application usage across the globe tracked by Flurry, which we estimate comprise of approximately one fifth of all worldwide app sessions on iOS and Android, the world’s largest cross-platform sample. Year-over-year app sessions in the U.S. declined as a proportion of WW sessions between July 2011 and July 2012, from roughly one-half to a little over one-third. The balance of the top 10 (ranks 2 -9) grew from 27% in July 2011 to 36% in July 2012. The rest of the world also made gains from 21% in 2011 to 28% in 2012. In total, 64% of all app sessions now take place outside the U.S.
Enabled by digital distribution across the unprecedented growing base of iOS and Android smart devices, global software distribution has never been so frictionless. After building an application, a development team can distribute its app on Android instantaneously and, after review by Apple, can be in the App Store within roughly one week. With international growth accelerating, there has never been a better time, in the history of technology, to be a software developer.
The last week of the year, from December 25 through December 31, sees more iOS and Android device activations compared to any other week of the year. Starting with Christmas Day, the largest single device activation day of the year, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is filled with significantly elevated device activations and app downloads. For application makers, this holiday “power week” is far more important than the run-up to Christmas itself. This report reveals that the last week of 2011 was the largest week for device activations and app downloads in iOS and Android history.
For this report, Flurry leverages its data-set from over 140,000 apps running on the significant majority of iOS and Android devices. With its application penetration, Flurry can detect over 90% of all new devices activated each day. Additionally, with its analytics service in more than 20% of all applications downloaded on a given day from the App Store and Android Market, Flurry can reliably estimate total iOS and Android downloads. To benchmark against the market, Flurry regularly triangulates its device and download figures with data released publicly by Google and Apple.
In its most recent report, Flurry estimated that a record-breaking 6.8 million iOS and Android devices were activated on Christmas Day, along with an equally record-breaking 242 million application downloads. Studying the data from December 25 – December 31, additional records were set, now for the highest number of device activations and app downloads of any week in history. Over the holiday “power week,” Flurry estimates that over 20 million iOS and Android devices were activated, and 1.2 billion applications were downloaded. Let’s drill down further into the downloads.
The columns in the chart compare the number of app downloads during Christmas through New Year’s Day (on the right) versus the average of the first two equivalent weeks of December (on the left). The seven days from December 25 – December 31 spanned from a Sunday to a Saturday. As such, we take the average of the first two full Sunday-to-Saturday weeks in December to establish a baseline. The average downloads over these weeks are surprisingly even. For background, the third full Sunday-to-Saturday week, not shown in the chart, December 18 – 24, is elevated slightly due primarily to December 24 downloads. Up until the final week of the year, this penultimate week set the download record with 857 million downloads. The final week of the year, between Christmas and New Year’s Day, grew by 60% over the early-December baseline, historically punching through the billion download barrier for the first time ever to deliver 1.2 billion downloads.
This second chart shows the top twenty countries across which the record 1.2 billion downloads were distributed. Starting from the left, the U.S. took the lion’s share with 509 million downloads, or 42.3%. Referencing an earlier report, wherein Flurry sized the current installed base and market upside for each country, it’s not surprising that the U.S. continues to lead the rest of the world by such a large margin. We estimate that just prior to the holidays, there were 109 million active iOS and Android devices in the U.S. market. Compared to the worldwide total active installed base of 246 million, this was 41%. China, the world’s second largest app market, which has roughly one-third of the U.S. installed base saw only one-fifth of the relative downloads. It’s important to note that the celebration of Christmas as a holiday impacted download performance. While the United States widely celebrates Christmas, China is largely non-religious, with over 60% of the population considering themselves agnostic or atheist. In China, Christians make up just 3 – 4% of the population.
Following the trend that Western countries more widely celebrate Christmas – note the higher positions of countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, France, Australia, Italy, Spain and Mexico in the chart – these countries over-indexed against largely non-Christian countries of China, South Korea and Japan. For example, South Korea and Japan have the 4th and 5th largest smart device installed bases of all countries, yet they ranked 7th and 10th, respectively, for downloads over the record week. Christmas is not recognized as a national holiday in Japan, and in South Korea, roughly half the population self-identifies as non-religious. As a point of interest, Canada appears to have over-indexed the most, using its 8th largest installed base to drive the 4th most downloads over the holiday period.
Looking forward to 2012, Flurry expects breaking the one-billion-download-barrier per week will become more common-place. While iOS and Android growth continues to amaze, the market is still by all measures relatively nascent. We look forward to continuing to chart the unprecedented adoption of mobile computing devices, usage of applications and the way in which this technology is changing consumer behavior worldwide. Happy New Year from everyone at Flurry.
In 2007, Apple and Google started a mobile computing revolution. Over the last four years, adoption of this new class of smartphone has been unprecedented. With powerful devices, connected to broadband networks and rich digital stores, an app economy was quickly built on top of it.
Beginning last year, Flurry observed that consumers using apps began expanding beyond early-adopting U.S. and Western European markets, starting to include more emerging economies. In a previous post, we shared details about this shift, highlighting the fastest growing international markets, with emphasis on China’s extraordinary growth.
As 2011 comes to a close, and we look forward to 2012, we size today’s installed base of iOS and Android smart devices (smartphones and tablets) as well as identify markets where the most future upside exists. We start by looking at how many active iOS and Android devices run applications by country.
Using data collected from Flurry’s data-set of more than 140,000 apps running on smart devices worldwide, we get a snapshot of how many iOS and Android devices ran apps over the last 30 days. Note that we gross up our figures to reflect differences in penetration per platform to provide market-level estimates. Among the top 20 countries, the U.S. still makes up the largest chunk of the world’s active installed base, with 109 million out of 264 million, or 41%.
Of note, China and South Korea now hold two of the top five positions, boasting addressable audiences greater than that of more developed countries such as Japan, France and Germany. Also worth noting is that our count of 264 million active units in the market is about half of what Apple and Google publicly state have been activated. The difference is primarily due to old device replacement. Flurry is counting recently used devices versus life-to-date device activations.
With smart device adoption skyrocketing worldwide, we next look at which markets hold the most future promise. With greatly varying disposable income per country, and recognizing that children do not purchase devices, Flurry used available data from several sources to adjust its data for an apples-to-apples comparison. First we used the “adult” population counts from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which IMF defines as 15 to 64 years of age. Next, we adjusted our numbers based on the size of the middle class in each country, primarily using a study by Miller-McCune. We finally estimated the size of the upper class per country, who by extension can also afford a smart device. After making adjustments, we are left with adult consumers who have the financial means to afford a smartphone device per country. Doing so, populous countries like India, China and Brazil, which also suffer from income disparity, are not over-estimated in our addressable market calculations.
Starting from the left, China has 122 million consumers who do not yet use an iPhone or Android device, but could afford one. In short, this chart represents untapped potential. Emerging economies – China, India and Brazil – make up three of the top five market opportunities. Over the next several years, as these countries continue to modernize, they will significantly expand the worldwide addressable audience for smartphones.
Bringing the data together, we next look at market maturity, which is the measure of how penetrated smartphone devices are among a country’s addressable audience. To illustrate which markets are most mature, we chart the top 10 countries ranked by penetration.
The vertical axis measures our total addressable audience (TAM), which we define as adults, 15 – 64, who are at least middle-class. The TAM per country is represented by the larger, light blue circles. The U.S., with the largest light blue circle, has the largest TAM at 200 million. The horizontal axis shows percent penetration, which is the active user (iOS or Android device that used an app over the last 30 days) divided by the TAM. For example, Sweden is the most mature country with 3.2 million of 5 million (66%) addressable consumers already using iOS and Android devices. France, which ranks 10th in maturity, has 9.6 million of 34 million (28%) consumers using iOS and Android devices. So, from left to right, penetration increases. And from bottom to top, TAM increases. The U.S. leads the world in installed base because its large, addressable audience has been well penetrated, 91 million of 200 million (55%).
Completing our study, we look at the world’s largest addressable markets, regardless of penetration.
Because this chart measures future potential, TAMs are much larger relative to active user bases. The result, visually, is a lot more “light blue.” Many of the world’s largest countries have largely un-penetrated markets, primarily due to standards of living (emerging markets) or increased competition for consumers’ disposable income (developed markets). In either case, the TAM is there, but the adoption hasn’t yet occurred. So, many of these markets are future bets with the time of maturity somewhat variable and unknown. In this chart, the U.S. has both the largest current installed base and market upside. Again, this is because of its unique, well-penetrated and large, affluent population. Next China, given its very large population (1.3 billion), along with a growing middle class who has already begun adopting smart devices, has the world’s second largest market potential. In comparison, even though India has the world’s second largest population (1.2 billion), its TAM is much smaller than China’s because of India’s very low standard of living. The result is that, even though its total population is not far behind China’s, its total addressable market is. Further, the adoption of smartphones and tablets among its TAM has been small. Finally, Japan, the world’s fourth largest market, has a lot of upside given light penetration of iOS and Anroid devices against its large, addressable market.
iOS and Android sales boomed in 2011, with international smartphone and tablet adoption accelerating. As we look forward to 2012 and beyond, we expect the trend of international expansion to continue. With the world’s estimated middle class now totaling 1.8 billion, there remains a lot of unconquered territory for Apple and Google, who currently lead the charge in driving smart device adoption. This is equally good news for developers, who build apps for these platforms, and directly benefit from their installed base growth.
The era of mobile computing, heralded by Apple in 2007 with the debut of the iPhone, has put powerful, networked computers into consumers’ hands. Onto these devices, consumers have downloaded billions of apps. In 2011 alone, we estimate that 25 billion iOS and Android apps will be downloaded. And Flurry expects that number to roughly double in 2012.
Like other new technology, adoption of iOS and Android devices began primarily in North America and Western Europe, where disposable income is higher. However, as prices have come down for older iOS models, and OEMs supporting Android have offered more affordable down-market devices, we’re seeing a clear shift in consumer app usage to international markets, including emerging economies. Let’s warm up with a chart showing how mobile app sessions are expanding outside of the U.S.
The chart above compares mobile app sessions tracked by Flurry Analytics in January 2011 and October 2011. Flurry now tracks over 20 billion mobile app sessions per month across more than 120,000 applications. The green area shows the percent of app sessions occurring in the United States, the dominant mobile app market. While the absolute number of sessions in the U.S. has doubled between January and October, its share of total sessions has declined from 55% to 47%. This means that the rest of the world is growing faster. Looking at the balance of the top 10 countries (UK, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China), this group has increased in collective sessions by 2.7 times between January to October, resulting in an increase in total session-share from 28% to 31%. Further, the rest of the world (another 217 countries across which Flurry tracks user sessions), has increased in session-share from 17% to 22%. Among all this growth, there is one country that has caught our attention more than any other.
Meet the Mobile Dragon
You may have heard of China, and its 1.3 billion people. In fact, you most likely associate the country with high volume, affordable manufacturing. However, China is also fast becoming one of the world’s most promising consumer economies. Earlier this year, Bloomberg reported that 2010 foreign direct investment in China rose to a record $106 billion. Included in this are investments by companies such as Wal-Mart, which co-invested over $500 million in online retailing. According to the International Monetary Fund, China has the world’s second largest gross domestic product, behind the U.S., and ahead of Japan, Germany and France. Additionally, the Boston Consulting Group released a report in November 2010 forecasting that the number of middle-income and affluent consumers will almost triple in the next 10 years to 415 million. As it relates to mobile, China has the most cellphone users in the world, with over 950 million users according to statistics released by China’s Ministry of Industry last week.
To understand how this translates into mobile app adoption, Flurry compiled a list of the fastest growing mobile app markets in terms of sessions tracked by our service. We show the chart below.
This chart ranks the top 10 countries, in terms of mobile app session growth, from January 2011 to October 2011. To be included in the analysis, countries had to have generated at least 10 million monthly sessions in January. Inspecting the chart, it’s clear that China’s growth is astronomical. While the top 100 countries are averaging session growth of over 200%, China is delivering more than four times this growth rate, spurred by a massive population voraciously adopting applications.
China Vaults to Second Largest App Economy
With its hyper-growth in app sessions, China has moved up the ranks among the world’s top countries to now occupy the second spot behind the U.S. The graph below charts China’s share of total mobile app sessions per month, relative to other top countries during 2011. Note that to get a better view of movements among countries ranked second through fifth, we exclude the U.S. from the chart, given its scale.
China, represented by the red line, began the year ranked tenth in terms of app sessions, with 1.8% of all sessions tracked by Flurry. By April, China had climbed to fifth with 2.7% of all sessions, and, in July, overtook the United Kingdom to become the second largest country, with 5.4% of sessions. By the end of October, China had further grown to 7.3% of sessions. The U.S., which declined in sessoin-share over the year, finished in October with 47%. If both China and the U.S. were to continue along their respective trajectories, China could overtake the U.S. by the end of 2013, with both countries converging around 23% app session-share.
Finally, we took a look at AppCircle, Flurry’s mobile app traffic acquisition network to understand advertising dollars companies are willing to spend on acquisition per market. In this part of the business, we measure from which country consumers are downloading news apps advertised to them. The country of origin is a reflection of geographic consumer demand. Overall, downloads of new apps from China grew from 1.2% to 12% over the course of the year, from January through October. Similar to the total growth we saw in Flurry Analytics user sessions, the Flurry AppCircle network grew by 2.5 times. The chart below shows AppCircle-driven downloads per country for the month of October 2011.
Whether studying China by existing app session generated or new demand for apps, the growth rates are similar. As one of the fastest modernizing and largest countries in the world, the adoption of mobile apps in China is unprecedented. For app developers, who more traditionally look at North America and Europe, China is a market too compelling to ignore. A new market has emerged, and China is the new mobile app dragon.