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.
Regardless of a company’s earlier success, thriving in the new mobile app economy depends on engagement and retention. After acquiring users, the real battle to keep and ultimately monetize consumers begins. In the brave new world of “mobile first,” engagement is the new battleground.
This research is a redux to one of Flurry’s most popular reports, entitled Mobile Apps: Money, Models and Loyalty. Released three years ago, the initial report organized app category usage into a loyalty matrix. We do the same again now, while also acknowledging that a lot has changed in the app economy since then. To start, there is an order of magnitude more available apps in the App Store, now brimming with over 700,000 app choices for consumers. We are three generations beyond the then-new iPhone 3GS. We have since met the iPad, and perhaps tomorrow will meet the iPad Mini.
Combined, smart devices – iOS and Android smartphones and tablets – are the fastest adopted technology in history; adopted faster than electricity, televisions, microwaves, personal computers, cell phones, the Internet, dishwashers, stoves, and a whole lot more. Last month, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook – the number two most visited website on the web – declared “we are now a mobile company” explaining that “you just could do so much better by doing native [application] work” versus using languages like HTML5 on top of browsers. Each month, approximately 600 million of Facebook’s 1 billion monthly active users already accesses Facebook via mobile.
Each app category has different user engagement and loyalty characteristics. Understanding a given app audience based on the category to which it belongs can inform a company’s app acquisition, retention and monetization strategies. For this analysis, we use a sample of apps used more than 1.7 billion times each week. In total, more than 80,000 companies use Flurry Analytics across more than 230,000 apps to understand consumer behavior and improve their apps.
The above matrix plots application categories by how often they’re used compared to how long consumers continue to use them over time. Specifically, we plot the 90-day retention rate of app categories on the x-axis against the frequency of use per week on the y-axis. We lay the “scatterplot” out in a Cartesian coordinate system with four quadrants. For our categories, we started by taking the application categories defined by Apple in the App Store. In cases where a cluster of applications within a parent category showed meaningful usage differences, we created a sub-category. For example, Flurry divides games into Social Games and Single Player Games given how differently consumers use these sub-categories.
Quadrant I includes apps that are used intensively and to which consumers are loyal over time. News and Communication apps are the two categories that appear in this category. On average, because these apps tend to have stable, growing audiences, they are best positioned to generate advertising revenue or charge a subscription. Consumers perceive these apps to deliver enduring value over time.
Quadrant II is comprised of apps that are used intensively, but for finite periods of time. They are perceived by consumers to deliver value in bursts. Streaming Music, Dating and Social Games best typify this quadrant. Consider for a moment why Dating is a category that appears in this quadrant. For most people, we can assume that finding a long-term “significant other” is the ultimate goal of dating. As a result, the app maker should expect customer churn. While usage may be high during the time when a consumer looks for a suitable partner, once that person is found, usage stops. An implication could be that to maintain a growing audience, apps in this category require heavy, constant acquisition to find consumers who are “in the market” for dating. Ironically, the better the app is at match making, the more churn it should expect.
Quadrant III contains apps that are used infrequently and have high churn. They contain the most “one-and-dones.” Personalization is an example that makes sense for this quadrant, since a consumer uses this app to change her screen saver or select a theme for her operating system. Once this set-up is complete, it’s unlikely that the user will need to re-use this application. Since the app’s value is diminished almost immediately, applications with this kind of usage pattern are best served with premium pricing models; that is, charging the consumer before providing access to the content.
Quadrant IV is made up of apps that are used infrequently but deliver very high value when used. Even though they’re used only occasionally, these apps can remain on a consumer's handset almost indefinitely. For example, consider how useful an airline, hotel or rental car-booking app is to a business traveler. While the app remains unused between business trips, its value spikes as soon as the next business trip needs to be scheduled.
Which Pill to Take
The quadrant an app falls into can help the content creator decide what business model is best. On average, Quadrants I and IV (the right-hand side) are better suited to subscription and advertising-supported models. The main reason is that these apps have perceived enduring value by consumers over a long period of time, and therefore more successfully retain their user bases. For ad-supported apps, high repeat usage translates into more ad impressions served. Categories on the left-hand side, Quadrants II and III, are better suited for one-time download fees. Additionally, quadrants II and IV (top left and bottom right) are likely best for in-app purchase models. For Quadrant II, the intense usage means that consumers find very high value during a short window. This creates the opportunity to offer new content or functionality during “binge” usage. Adroit social game makers are masters at driving in-app purchases during a consumer’s greatest moment of engagement. For Quadrant IV, because the user will return again and again, there also exists the possibility to find new ways of increasing value, which includes offering add-on functionality or content for a fee.
For more data, the table below provides 30, 60 and 90-day retention rates as well as weekly frequency of use numbers. Note that some of the categories included in the table below are not included in the matrix chart above.
Compared to Flurry’s 2009 analysis, 90-day retention rates have increased from 25% to 35%. Additionally, frequency of use has decreased from 6.7 in 2009 to an average of 3.7 now. We attribute increased retention rates to increased quality in the market, driven by more competition. With tens of thousands of more companies building apps and hundreds of thousands of more available apps, the quality of apps has risen dramatically. Simply put, app makers are getting better at holding a consumer's attention longer. Additionally, we believe usage rates are lower because consumers have more choice than ever and are splitting their time across more applications. While Flurry included 19 categories in its 2009 report, we now include 30 distinct categories as the industry has matured and more distinct verticals have appeared.
Brave New World
With more than a billion smartphones and tablets now in use, as well as the eventual move of apps into the living room through connected TV efforts by the likes of Apple and Google, digital distribution is changing the way the world does business. No matter what category your app belongs to, understanding and improving user engagement is the new currency of doing business in the new digital world.
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 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 week, wedged between Apple’s WWDC and Google I/O is Microsoft’s Windows Phone Summit in San Francisco on Wednesday, June 20. Additionally, Microsoft is holding a last-minute press conference that “you don’t want to miss” tonight in Los Angeles. Barnes & Noble claims they are not part of the announcement, and others speculate that Xbox Live streaming will be part of the offering. Given the popularity of gaming on smartphones and tablets, and the strength of the Xbox platform, this would be a strong move for Microsoft. Because the development community is strongly made up of gaming studios, a move such as this could help galvanize the 3rd-party development community. Over the last couple of years, there has been an all-out war among Apple, Google, Microsoft, RIM and others to win the hearts and minds of developers. It appears that Microsoft is now making its move.
This report follows up on another released by Flurry earlier this month, showing that Apple continues to hold a strong lead over Google’s Android for developer support. Looking beyond the top two platforms supported by developers, Flurry evaluates the possibility for a 3rd legitimate platform provider to emerge at this stage of the game. 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. Flurry Analytics has been adopted by more than 70,000 companies across more than 190,000 applications. Let’s start with a comparison of the Research in Motion (RIM) versus Microsoft.
Microsoft Blows by Beleaguered RIM
The chart above shows the percent of new project starts represented by Microsoft and RIM among all platforms Flurry supports (e.g., iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, etc.). A new project start in the Flurry system is when a developer sets up an application for analytics tracking prior to the launch of that app. Over the past 12 months, Project starts for Windows Phone have grown by more than 600%, now accounting for 6% of all new project starts in the Flurry system during June 2012. As a percent of new project starts, RIM has remained flat. Overall, on an absolute basis, total new project starts within Flurry have grown by approximately 50%.
Microsoft Sets Its Sights on Android
We next combine all new projects across the top 4 platforms within the Flurry system, comparing Q2 2011 versus Q2 2012.
The chart above compares the percent of new projects built by developers per platform within Flurry. For this snapshot, we compare Q2 2011 versus Q2 2012. Year-over-year, developer support has shifted, with Microsoft’s dent becoming more visible, now representing 4% during Q2 2012. iOS and Android share continue to oscillate mildly now clocking in 67% for iOS and 28% for Android. BlackBerry remains flat. What is important to note is that all four platforms are growing, just at different rates. Specifically, growth rates per platform for year-over-year growth are: iOS 66%, Android 82%, Windows Phone 521%, BlackBerry 13%. Viewing the relative growth rates show just how much Microsoft is gaining against the market.
Considering the first chart in this report, Microsoft growth has been accelerating within Q2. If we look at just Android and Microsoft in the month of June, for every Windows Phone new project started, 4 have been started for Android. Considering the much smaller Windows Phone installed based compared to Android, Microsoft is currently over-indexing. From Google’s point-of-view, this must elevate Microsoft from an “also-ran” to a potential competitive threat with the resources and know-how to kick-start momentum and mount a campaign to reel in the second place player.
Generally, Windows Phone could be gaining against the entire market as a result of developer frustration for Android fragmentation, concern for increasing competition on iOS and a lack of faith in BlackBerry. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that Microsoft still knows how to attract third party developer support. With its Nokia-partnership and high anticipation around today’s Microsoft Tablet announcement, Flurry expects Microsoft to make continued headway over the course of 2012.
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.
The app revolution has changed the way software is distributed and used among consumers. With a perfect storm of digital distribution, free content and powerful touch screen devices, the success of mobile apps has disrupted industries from telecommunications and games to music and news. To date, no category of apps has been more successful than Games, directly disrupting the traditional gaming industry. Flurry recently wrote about the impact iOS and Android game popularity has had on Sony and Nintendo. And with low barriers to entry for armies of entrepreneurial developers, indie game developers continue to thrive on iOS and Android.
Something Disruptive This Way Comes
Consider for a moment Facebook’s speedy billion-dollar acquisition of Instagram, a service that succeeds by delivering Facebook’s core value proposition of photo sharing, but only on mobile. When one understands that consumers now spend more time in mobile apps than they do online, Instagram’s value begins to make sense. With over 500 million iOS and Android devices in the market, mobile apps are the new battleground for consumer engagement. If Facebook feels compelled to snap up Instagram in this way, perhaps this is an indication of how relevant social networking has become in mobile apps, or simply how relevant mobile has become overall. In this report, Flurry focuses on the rise of the Social Networking category in mobile apps. Let’s start by looking at where consumers spend their time by application category.
In the chart above, Flurry compares the time consumers spend across different application categories when using smartphones. Starting on the left, we look at the average number of minutes a consumer spent each day, over the course of Q1 2011, across different app categories. For this period, we calculated that consumers spent 25 minutes (37%) of their app-using time in Games. They additionally spent 15 minutes (22%) of their time in Social Networking apps. News and Entertainment were the next most popular categories, garnering an average of 11 (16%) and 10 (15%) minutes per day, respectively. All other categories combined made up the final 7 minutes (10%) of time. During Q1 2011, Flurry tracked approximately 30 billion application sessions worldwide.
On the right, we conduct the same analysis for Q1 2012. Compared to the same quarter in 2011, time spent per consumer each day increased from 68 to 77 minutes. Additionally, the distribution of time spent per category shifted. Games usage dropped by 4% down to 24 minutes per day, while Social Networking increased by 60% up to 24 minutes per day. Games and Social Networking categories each controlled 31% of consumers’ time. News, Entertainment and Other categories commanded 12 (15%), 10 (13%) and 7 (9%) minutes, respectively. Flurry tracked approximately 110 billion application sessions during Q1 2012.
The most significant trend is that, for the first time in the history of applications (Flurry began tracking application usage in 2008), another app category is rivaling Games. We take the rise in Social Networking apps as a signal of maturation for the platform. As game demand may be hitting its saturation point, consumers are also discovering other apps, namely Social Networking. The year-over-year growth in Social Networking has been staggering. Not only has time spent increased by 60%, but also within a growing amount of total time spent in smartphone apps among consumers, from 68 to 77 minutes, or a growth rate of 13%.
Money Pools Where Audiences Aggregate
Through its mobile app traffic acquisition network, Flurry AppCircle, the company can also see how apps with growing audiences earn revenue through advertising. When app developers amass larger audiences, among the chief ways to monetize their businesses is by showing ads to their consumers. In the chart below, we show revenue earned by publishers in the Flurry AppCircle ad network for each of the last three months. Flurry AppCircle reaches over 300 million unique devices per month, making it one of the industry’s largest ad networks by reach. The columns in the chart grow from month-to-month at the same proportion as AppCircle publisher revenue growth. From just February to April of this year, Flurry AppCircle publisher revenue has grown by 23%. Please note that we forecast the remaining few days of April for the chart below.
From inspection, ad revenue in apps is driven primarily by Games and Social Networking categories. In other words, audiences using these apps a combination of the largest and most receptive to ads. For February, March and April, Games apps earned 35%, 35% and 36% of total ad revenue in the AppCircle network. Over the same three months, Social Networking climbed from 24% in February to 25% in March, and then to 37% in April. This is the first time in Flurry’s history that any category has surpassed Games in ad revenue generated (Flurry launched AppCircle summer 2010).
SoLoMo Not So Loco?
Over the last couple of years, the term “SoLoMo” was coined to describe the convergence of social experiences on mobile devices that leverage some element of proximity (i.e., location) to the experience. While a Silicon Valley term in origin, it speaks to the new consumer experiences possible when dreaming up any combination of these three factors. Phones are powerful, connected and always with consumers. And they are considered personal devices that easily enable sharing of personal content and information through apps. Build a clever app that leverages these aspects in a compelling way, and you could have the next Pinterest or Instagram.
As business ventures, the ability for Social Networking apps to engage consumers in a meaningful way is driving a wave of investment and bullish valuations. Social networks like Pinterest, Path and Skout are raising major venture capital rounds. This month, Andreessen Horowitz invested $22 million into Skout, and Greylock and Redpoint helped plow $30 million into Path. Pinterest, which has a strong mobile component, has become the third most popular social network behind Facebook and Twitter, and ahead of LinkedIn, Tagged and Google+. With so much innovation, coupled with high engagement among consumers, this appears to be only the beginning.
Games Don’t “Like” Social Networking Apps
The rise of Social Networking apps also signals the end of the era of gaming dominance within mobile apps. While the free-to-play business model performs extremely well, enabled by in-app-purchases, it does so primarily for simulation games, a sub-genre of the total games category. As long as the total iOS and Android installed base grows, all categories will continue to grow naturally. However, as we reach saturation for mobile gaming on a per user basis (one consumer can play only so many free-to-play games), the Games category could start behaving more like a “zero sum game” from here on out, meaning that game companies would have to fight over a finite group of consumers in order to grow their businesses. For one app to grow, it would have to take from its competitors. Even with an influx of new consumers into the market, the expected would-be casual gamers will be increasingly wooed away from games by compelling Social Networking and other apps. Going forward, the Games category will have to look to innovate on mobile to maintain its dominance and growth.
A Note about Methodology
For the comparison of minutes spent in this blog post, it’s important to clarify that these figures exclude tablet usage, and focus on smartphones only. While Flurry calculates that consumers spend an average of 94 minutes per day using mobile apps, that figure is a reflection of total usage spread over both smartphones and tablets. When we isolate just smartphone usage, as we’ve done in this analysis, the number of minutes spent on apps is lower.
Flurry recently quantified China’s meteoric adoption of iOS and Android applications. While China ranked 10th in application sessions at the beginning of 2011, it finished the year in 2nd place, only behind the United States. With its large population and rapidly emerging middle class, adoption of apps vaulted China into the position of world’s 2nd largest app economy. In additional analysis, Flurry also determined that China has the most market upside, based on calculating those in China who can afford smartphones versus the current installed base.
This report reveals that, for the first time ever, China now leads in new smart device adoption (iOS and Android smartphones and tablets). We also update app usage velocity trends for China and the rest of the world, since first studying this late last year. For this report, Flurry used its entire data set, tracking more than 1 billion anonymous, aggregated application sessions per day. More than 60,000 companies use Flurry Analytics across more than 160,000 applications.
China's Growth Spurt
Let’s start with a look at the fastest growing countries, as measured by app session growth.
Comparing Q1 of 2011 versus Q1 2012, the chart above shows the ten fastest growing countries in terms of app sessions. A session is the launch and use of an application. For example, a consumer who opens a news application and then spends two minutes reading various articles counts as one session. Starting on the left, China leads the world in app session growth, with an enormous growth rate of more than 1100% between Q1 2011 and Q1 2012. China’s growth rate is particularly staggering given that it was already the world’s 7th largest country in terms of app sessions by the end of Q1 2011. This speaks to the country’s sheer population as well as increasing affluence among a meaningful part of its population. Please note that we project the last ten days of Q1 2012.
Building an App? Go East, Young Man!
We next study new device activations between China and the U.S., with amazing results.
The above chart shows new iOS and Android device activations per month in the U.S. and China for the last 15 months, from January 2011 through March 2012. In January 2011, the U.S. accounted for 28% of the world’s total iOS and Android device activations, while China accounted for 8%. In February, Flurry calculated that China surpassed the United States in monthly new iOS and Android device activations for the first time in history. China is now the world’s fastest growing smart device market. For March, we project that China will account for 24% of all iOS and Android device activations, while the U.S. will account for 21%. Again, please note that we project the several days of March to round out Q1 2012.
With China now activating more devices per month than the U.S., this means that the gap is closing between the two countries in terms of installed base. Not only is China already the second largest app economy, but also could eventually overtake the U.S. as the country with the largest installed base of smart device users. We estimate that the U.S., a more mature market, currently has more than twice as many active devices than China. However, China, a faster growing, emerging market, already has twice as large an installed base as the next largest market, the UK.
Apps Without Borders
In this last chart, Flurry looks at the shift in application usage across the world.
The chart above compares mobile app sessions tracked by Flurry Analytics in Q1 2011 versus Q1 2012. The green area shows the percent of app sessions occurring in the United States, the leading mobile app market. While the absolute number of sessions in the U.S. has more than doubled between Q1 2011 and Q1 2012, its share of total sessions has declined from 56% to 46%. In other words, while the U.S. app market is growing rapidly, the rest of the world is growing even faster. Looking at the balance of the top 10 countries (ranks 2 – 10: China, UK, South Korea, France, Australia, Canada, Japan, Germany and Spain), this group has increased in collective sessions by 3.4 times between Q1 2011 and Q1 2012, resulting in an increase in total session-share from 27% to 30%. Further, the rest of the world (another 217 countries across which Flurry tracks user sessions), has grown by more than 4 times, increasing in session-share from 17% to 24%.
No matter how we slice it, the application market continues to grow at unprecedented rates, and increasingly across more borders. With smart devices adoption rates more than four times greater than those witnessed during the 1980s PC revolution and twice as great as those seen during the 1990s Internet Boom, no other consumer technology has been more accessible than smart device application software. It’s literally taking over the world.
The popularity of iOS and Android gaming is driving among the largest disruptions in video game history, already eclipsing portable platform gaming revenue. With low barriers to entry and potent revenue generation possibilities across more than 500 million active iOS and Android devices in the market, casual gaming is reaching new heights on mobile.
In this report, Flurry compares traditional versus independent game companies in the new mobile app marketplace. To set the stage, let’s get a current read on which kinds of apps consumers use most.
Gaming Dominates Mobile App Usage
For the first two months of 2012, Flurry Analytics measured that more than half of all end user sessions were spent in games. Across January and February, Flurry observed sessions across a sample of more than 64 billion applications sessions across more than 500 million iOS and Android devices. In addition to the snapshot above, we lay out the trend in app session growth over the last three years.
Game Session Growth Exploding
The above chart compares normalized game session levels seen in 2010 versus 2011 and 2012. We did so by first taking game sessions tracked by Flurry Analytics in Q1 of 2010 and setting that as a baseline. We then compare gaming sessions observed in subsequent years against the 2010 baseline. By our calculations, 2011 and 2012 gaming session grew by 5.3 times and 20.5 times, respectively, over the level observed in 2010. Note that we use the first quarter of each year, extrapolating Q1 2012 from January and February of this year.
Indie Games Dominate Consumer Usage
For the above chart, Flurry separated game sessions between indendent game developers who started their businesses on iOS and Android versus established gaming companies who extended to iOS and Android from other platforms. Starting from the left, in 2010, we see that about 60% of all mobile game sessions occurred in games built by independent studios. In 2011, this figure declined slightly to 56% primarily due to a wave of consolidation by established game companies who acquired independent studios (e.g., EA acquiring Chillingo, Zynga acquiring Newtoy, DeNA acquiring Ngmoco and Gameview, etc.). However, in 2012, another larger wave independent companies appeared to emerge, overwhelming established companies once again, pushing indie game session share to 68%.
Historically, the video gaming industry has been ruled by brands and established IP from a few major game publishers such as Electronic Arts, Activision, Ubisoft, THQ and others. High production, marketing and distribution costs created formidable barriers to entry. High retail price points created risk for consumers to try new titles with which they were not familiar. For these reasons, brands published by larger companies dominated the landscape.
With Apple and Google entering the ecosystem, the rules of competition have changed dramatically, arguably creating the most open, egalitarian market in the history of video games. Flurry first wrote about this phenomenon in 2009 in a series entitled The Rise of the Middle Class. While we would have expected indie game developers to fare better early on in the history of iOS and Android mobile app platforms, it's remarkable that their dominance has grown over the last several years, with no signs of slowing. Even when traditional, established game companies have attempted to buy a stronger position on iOS and Android through acquisition, the reduced importance of brand power in mobile app gaming allows indie developers to continue to innovate and capture increasing consumer mind share.
In the new smartphone app economy, Apple and Google have truly empowered indies to thrive. And among indies, game developers are thriving the most.
Smartphones and tablets continue to break new consumer technology adoption records. From earlier research, Flurry found that iOS and Android smart devices have experienced twice the uptake rate compared to that of Internet adoption, and four times the rate compared to that of PC adoption. Following this unprecedented adoption, advertising dollars are beginning to flow into mobile. A recent IAB study reported that 63% of top brand marketers have increased their mobile advertising spending over the last two years, and that 72% plan to increase advertising spending over the next two years.
Focused on mobile advertising, this report has two parts. First, Flurry compares the allocation of advertising spending across various media versus the actual time consumers spend across those same media. Next, through detailed demographic breakdowns, we share which audience segments are best responding to mobile advertising. Let’s start by understanding trends in media usage versus ad budget allocation.
The Great Mobile Ad Spending Gap
In the above chart, Flurry aggregated publicly available data from VSS and Mary Meeker (KPCB), then layered in its own analysis to reflect the growth in app usage we observe. With our adjustment, we resized the totals for U.S. advertising spending by media and consumer time spent using each media. From left to right, represented by the green columns, is the proportion of advertising spending across each major media. TV and Print command the greatest advertising spends in the U.S. with 43% and 29% of the total, respectively. Web, Radio and Mobile channels round out the balance of media spending with 16%, 11% and 1%, respectively. Adjacent to the ad spending columns is the amount of time consumers spend by media type, represented by blue columns. TV leads consumption with 40%, followed by Mobile and the Web with 23% and 22%, respectively. Radio and Print complete the picture with 9% and 6% of usage, respectively.
Comparing where usage and spending vary most, one notes severe over-spending in print advertising and even more severe under-spending in mobile. Web usage also shows sizable under-investment, relative to platform usage, though not as dramatically as seen on mobile. In short, despite the fact that mobile advertising is growing, the platform is far from getting rational levels of spending compared to other media.
We believe the main reason for this disparity is that the mobile app platform has emerged so rapidly over such a short period of time. With the iOS and Android app economy only three-and-half years old, Madison Avenue and brands have yet to adjust to an unprecedented adoption of apps by consumers. Further, the mobile advertising ecosystem remains nascent, without sophisticated platform tools. Concepts of audience measurement and segmentation on mobile are still forming, and mobile lacks the kinds of systems that agencies take for granted on the web. For instance, mobile inventory is difficult to buy in volume, ad networks have yet to be integrated into Demand-Side Platforms (DSPs) and common standards for ad serving, tracking and settlement are yet to be defined. Just consider that large publisher properties like Facebook have yet to monetize their mobile properties, with many still needing to hire media sales organizations to position themselves to do so. As the mobile platform matures, and these problems are addressed, mobile advertising is poised to take off in earnest.
Mobile Advertising Audience Sweet Spot
For the second part of our analysis, we measure which audience segments respond best to mobile advertising, leveraging data from our own ad network, AppCircle, as well as publicly available data. Taking a sample of 60,000 daily active users on iOS, from among a total group of 6 million for whom we have demographic data, we calculated the effective cost per mille (“thousand” in Latin), or eCPM, earned by publishers. Using eCPM allows us to consider both branding (e.g., CPM) and performance (e.g., CPC and CPA) advertising campaigns in our calculations to get an accurate read on which mobile audiences monetize best. In the following charts, we display eCPMs by age and gender, household income and educational level attained. The higher the eCPM earned by audience attribute, the more valuable the audience is to both advertisers, who pay top dollar to reach this audience, and publishers, who earn the most revenue for selling access to this audience. Let’s start with audience breakdown by age and gender.
The chart above shows the value of mobile application segments by age and gender. Males are shown in green and females are shown in blue. The value above each respective column is the eCPM earned by that segment. For example, 25 – 34 year old females fetch the highest eCPMs at around $13, driven by underlying high click-through and conversions rates. In fact, females are the more desirable target audience across most age breaks, tied with men in the 18 – 24 year old age range, and exceeding them at 25 and older.
Breaking out eCPMs by household income shows that income ranges from $60,000 to $100,000 are the most valuable, with $100,000 to $150,000 also performing very well. For mobile advertising, there appears a strong correlation between affluence and eCPMs. This squares with earlier analysis from Flurry that found households with iOS and Android smartphones are, on average, 50% more affluent ($44,000 average U.S. household income vs. $66,000 average U.S. smartphone household income). Smart device owners are, on average, more affluent and more educated.
Similar to household income, we find that those who attained higher levels of education are more valuable segments in terms of eCPM generation. Those with a bachelor degree fetch the highest eCPMs, close to $8.00. The second most valuable segment are those even more educated, having earned a master degree or higher.
The Cream-Skimmed Smartphone Upper Middle Class
As a total snapshot, our analysis shows that females and males, between the ages of 25 and 34 years old, who have higher levels of disposable income and a bachelors degree or higher, more strongly interact with mobile ads. Leading sociologists William Thompson and Joseph Hickey define this class as “the rich” or “upper middle class,” comprised of highly educated salaried professionals whose work is largely self-directed. Typical professions for this class include lawyers, physicians, dentists, engineers, accountants, professors, architects, economists and political scientists.
What bodes best for the outlook of mobile advertising is the quality and quantity of the audience that not only uses smartphones and tablets, but also interacts with ads on these devices. Based on our analysis, revealing that the most sought after segments already interact most with mobile ads, a key ingredient required to realize the promise of mobile advertising is the introduction of mobile ad platforms that can segment publisher audiences and enable targeting by advertisers to reach segments of their choice. Like online, which is infinitely more measurable than Print, Radio and TV, mobile advertising is poised to grow radically with the introduction of scalable, data-driven solutions that put advertisers and publishers in control of their own destiny. Actionable data and well-built platforms are the keys to unlocking Madison Avenue spending.