In just two years, tablet computing has gained unprecedented traction. According to research firm Strategy Analytics, global tablet shipments more than doubled during the last three months of 2011, rising to 26.8 units, up from 10.7 million a year earlier. And while Apple continues to dominate the tablet category, having sold a record 15.4 million units during the final quarter of 2011, Android OS tablets have increased their share of the tablet category, growing from 29% in Q4 2010 to 39% in Q4 2011.
The increase in market share is due largely to the entry of the Kindle Fire by Amazon. With Flurry in tens of thousands of Android apps, including many of the most popular, the company estimates that it tracks over 20% of all consumer sessions on more than 90% of all Android devices each day. A session is defined as the launch and subsequent exit (or pause for more than 10 seconds) of an app. For example, a consumer may play a game in one sitting for five minutes. Let’s take a look at the data.
The chart above compares application sessions among all Android tablets before and after the holiday season. For January, we use month-to-date figures, at the time this report was written. Since we’re looking at proportions of use, estimating the remainder of January would not change percentages. For an easier visual comparison, we label Amazon Kindle Fire in orange and Samsung Galaxy Tab in blue. On the left, in November, we see that Samsung Galaxy Tab dominated application session usage on Android, with the Kindle Fire only having recently launched. At that time, the Samsung Galaxy Time was widely considered the only viable competition to the iPad, though a distant second. In January, after the holiday boom in devices and in apps, we see that strong adoption of Kindle Fire, combined with significant downloads driven from the Amazon App Store, resulted in a massive surge in session usage that just edges out the Galaxy Tab. Unrounded, Kindle Fire represents 35.7% of sessions and Galaxy Tab represents 35.6%. Remarkably, and from a standing start, the Kindle Fire overtook the Galaxy Tab in just a few short months. Total Android tablet sessions in January more than tripled over November, with Galaxy Tab sessions increasing by more than 50%. Overall, Android Tablets are growing aggressively as a category.
Amazon Uses Its “Fork” to Eat Samsung’s Lunch
So how can a late entrant like Amazon, with little-to-no hardware DNA, waltz in and knock off a consumer electronics juggernaut like Samsung, a company that also enjoyed strong growth in 2011? This is where we believe things get interesting. In short, Amazon’s launch of Kindle Fire had more in common with an Apple-style launch than it did with aligning with the Android system. To date, the Android world has focused on marketing the operating system and the “power” of the devices, with quality of content and the consumer experience subordinated in priority. With Google managing the Android Market, which lacks content control and a seamless commerce experience, inertia pushes those developers who choose to build for the platform toward advertising models. Developers who monetize through other means tend to make less on the platform. To ensure that it could take full advantage of its unique digital store prowess, Amazon forked the Android operating system.
Apple, on the other hand, understands that great content is the key to increasing the attractiveness of hardware. They learned this hard way during the 1980s when an inferior combination of PC hardware and operating systems overtook Apple computers, primarily due to a lack of software. This time around, for the iPhone and iPad, Apple created a robust economy in which developers could thrive, ensuring their allegiance to innovating for the Apple platform, ultimately making Apple hardware more desirable, and creating a rare, but powerful virtuous cycle. To understand how well Amazon might attract developer support, we studied how well Amazon drives paid downloads in its store versus the Android Market through the Kindle Fire and Galaxy Tab, respectively.
To build this chart, we gathered download data from a “basket” of 5 paid apps that ranked in the top 10 apps in both the Amazon App Store and Android Market during January 2012. We then compared how many of these paid downloads were downloaded to the Galaxy Tab versus the Kindle Fire. From our analysis, we found that the Kindle Fire drove over 2.5 times more paid downloads to consumers than the Samsung Galaxy Tab. This shows that for tablets, the Amazon App Store can already deliver more direct revenue to developers than the Android Market. Even more impressive is that the Galaxy Tab, launched in November 2010, has a much larger existing installed base than the newly launched Kindle Fire. Flurry estimates that the active number of Galaxy Tabs in the market is at least twice that of the Kindle Fire.
Amazon Thinks Different
Amazon’s go-to-market strategy for the Kindle Fire is ground breaking among the Android guard. With its offering, Amazon takes the focus away from the device and operating system, emphasizing content, a differentiated consumer experience and commerce. For its launch, it lined up key content such as Facebook and Angry Birds, as well as offering Amazon Prime, its own streaming TV and movie service. Beyond leveraging its cloud and e-commerce infrastructure, Amazon controls its own store, commanding among the largest aggregations of consumer credit card accounts on the planet. Upon launching the Kindle Fire, consumers must either link to their Amazon account or enter credit card information. This makes the user base 100% payment enabled.
Amazon’s approach to the distribution of digital content is the ultimate razor-razorblade model, where the “stalk” (tablets) is given away for as little as possible and profits are made from the sale of razors (content). Understanding that Amazon is a high volume seller of goods, now becoming ever more digital than physical, sheds light on why they embrace the end-user experience and the religious focus on making the sale of content compelling and easy. Further, it shows us why launching with an aggressive low price penetration strategy for their hardware, priced at $199, was critical to its strategy.
Making the Old New Again
Amazon, who once moved the world from buying goods at retail to buying them online and having them shipped to doorsteps, is now distributing the new form of mobile store via tablets. In a move that reduces the possibility of its own disintermediation, Amazon’s distribution model starts with its own roots: books, music and video (aka “BMV”). Through this move, Kindle Fire is changing the rules of engagement on the Android platform to shape the playing field into one where they, the consumer and the developer win.
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.
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.