The economic boom created by Apple and Google through their iOS and Android platforms has precipitated a renaissance among entrepreneurial developers. With some of the lowest barriers to entry in the history of software development and distribution, apps are getting built and downloaded at breakneck speeds. Earlier this month, Apple crossed a record 25 billion downloads from more than 550,000 available apps. Google announced in December 2011 that it had crossed 10 billion downloads from 400,000 available apps.
As markets mature, rational economic behavior emerges. Even the most passionate, idealistic software start-ups focus increasingly on markets where revenue generation is highest. In this report, Flurry compares the ability for app developers to generate revenue per user across the major app stores. We examine a basket of top-ranked apps that have similar presence across iOS, Amazon and Android. Their primary business models are in-app purchase, which is the revenue type we compare for this analysis. Additionally, earlier research by Flurry found that the in-app purchase revenue model generates the majority of revenue for apps. Combined, these apps average 11 million daily active users (DAUs). We measured their revenue per user over a 45-day period, from mid-January through the end of February 2012.
The chart above compares revenue generated per user across iOS, Amazon and Android app stores. We start by taking the revenue generated per user in the iTunes App Store and setting it to 100%. We then compare the relative revenue generated per active user from Amazon and Google to the amount of revenue per active user generated by the iTunes App Store. Doing so, we find that Amazon Appstore revenue per active user is 89% of iTunes App Store revenue, and Google Play revenue per active is 23% of iTunes App Store revenue. Another way to interpret the results is that, for the same number of users per platform, every $1.00 generated in the iTunes App Store, will also fetch $0.89 in the Amazon Appstore and $0.23 in Google Play. These results mirror those of a similar analysis conducted by Flurry last December, where we found for every $1.00 generated per user in the iTunes App Store, developers generated $0.24 per user in the Android Market.
Amazon's bet to fork Android in order to put consumers into their own shopping experience on Kindle Fire appears to be paying off. Showing its commerce strength, Amazon already delivers more than three times the revenue per user in its app store compared to what Google generates for developers.
For some possible insight, let's consider the DNA of each company. Apple runs the highest revenue-per-square foot generating retail store on the planet as well as the successful iTunes store. Amazon, who invented the one-click purchase, perfected online shopping with data, efficiency and customer service. Google’s strength is in scalable online search engine and advertising technology. Running a store, retail or digital, has not been Google's traditional core competency.
As developers make decisions to support different platforms, the ability to generate revenue per user will always be a key factor. Based on revenue potential, we expect to see an increasing number of developers support Amazon. We also believe that companies such as Samsung, the leading Android-supporting OEM, could also consider emulating Amazon’s move to fork Android. Google, who recently saw the departure of Eric Chu, the most public-facing proponent of Android Market improvement, will need to reduce commerce friction to maintain strong developer support. From an ecoystem perspective, the emergence of Amazon as an additional distribution channel appears to be a boon for developers.
[UPDATE: For clarity, I went back through this post and specified, where appropriate, including in the title of the chart, that the revenue comparison in this analysis was per user, not total revenue generated. Peter]
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.