Smartphones and tablets have gone from being the latest gadgets for relatively affluent people in relatively affluent countries to ubiquitous devices in mainstream use in many countries around the world. In fact, as we reported in February of this year China surpassed the US to become the country with the largest installed base of connected devices as measured by Flurry Analytics. As we also reported, a second wave of countries around the world is now experiencing the type of growth mobile pioneer countries experienced previously. For example, the mobile markets in the BRIC countries are now all growing faster than the mobile markets in the U.S., U.K., and South Korea.
Knowing that the landscape is constantly shifting, we are beginning a series of blog posts reporting on the use of smartphones, tablets, and apps in particular countries and geographic regions around the world. Given China’s world-leading installed base and considering the China Joy conference (China’s largest digital conference) is this week we thought we would begin there.
In June of this year Flurry Analytics measured 261,333,271 active smartphones and tablets in China. That represented a whopping 24% of the entire worldwide connected device installed base measured by Flurry. The chart below documents the growth in the installed base. The left axis and blue line show China’s growth over the years. The right axis and red line show growth in the world as a whole (including China) a basis of comparison. As can be seen from the gap between the two lines growing through 2010 and much of 2011, growth in smartphones and tablets in China lagged the world as a whole through that period. But starting toward the end of 2011, the installed base in China began a period of exponential growth. During this period it surpassed the growth rate for the world as a whole, as shown by the blue line catching the red line in the graph. We expect China to maintain its leadership (in terms of active installed base) for the foreseeable future because device penetration rate is still relatively low and much opportunity remains, as we reported in a previous post.
Xiaomi Is A Local Manufacturer To Watch
Examining a random sample of 18,310 of the devices in our system in China that run iOS or Android apps revealed that Apple and Samsung are the top two device manufacturers, as they are most everywhere. China’s own Xiaomi was a strong third, with a 6% share of the market, ahead of HTC, Lenovo and a multitude of others. As we noted in a previous post, Xiaomi has been successful in accumulating a large number of active users for each device model it releases. Worldwide, only Apple, Amazon, and Samsung have more active users for each device model released.
It will be interesting to see if Xiaomi can continue to gain share in China – possibly by mopping up share from smaller manufacturers of Android devices – and also if they can begin making gains in other markets outside of China to become more of a global player. With rumors of a Xiaomi tablet circulating, we will also be watching to see if their entry into the tablet market will increase the use of Android tablets in China. Currently 21% of the iOS devices in our randomly drawn sample were tablets compared to only 4% of the Android devices.
Chinese Users Over Index in Reading, Utility, Productivity
In looking at how Chinese people use their connected devices we see similarities and differences compared to the rest of the world. As a general rule worldwide, games dominate time spent in apps measured by Flurry Analytics, and China is no exception. On average, Chinese owners of iOS devices spent 47% of their app in games. The percentage of app time devoted to games was even greater for Android at 56%.
Smartphones and tablets are not just about fun and games in China. Compared to iOS device owners elsewhere, the average time Chinese owners spend using Books, Newsstand, Utility, and Productivity apps is greater than the rest of the world (1.8x, 1.7x, 2.3x, and 2.1x respectively). On average Chinese owners of Android devices spend more than seven times as much time in Finance apps (7.4x) than Android owners elsewhere spend in Finance apps, but they also spend more time in Entertainment apps (1.7x).
Will China’s Exponential Growth Change The Device And App Markets?
It will be interesting to see how China now having leadership in terms of its installed base will impact the device and app markets elsewhere. Given Xiaomi’s success at building a large number of users for each model it releases, it might try to add further scale by expanding internationally – particularly to the other rapidly-growing BRIC markets where brand preferences are not already well-entrenched.
Within China itself, Chinese competitors may have an even greater advantage in the app market since cultural influences and differences are likely to be even more important in the app market than in the device market. There are already strong Chinese app companies such as Baidu and Tencent and clusters of app developers emerging in places like Chengdu
. At first they are likely to concentrate on apps for the large local market, but that may eventually lead to growing app exports. For example, the fact that Chinese consumers over-index on some more work and educational-oriented apps may encourage Chinese developers to focus on those areas and innovate, and that could lead to creation of apps that end up being adopted elsewhere in the world. We’re looking forward to discovering what app is to China what Angry Birds was to Finland
Many consumer surveys point to an obvious conclusion: most people hate seeing ads on smartphones and tablets. But the truth is, contrary to the desire for an ad-free experience, when faced with the choice between free apps with ads, or paying even $.99 for apps without ads, consumers overwhelmingly choose the free apps and tolerate the ads.
In this post we explore that revealed preference for free content over content free of ads by examining four years worth of pricing information for the nearly 350,000 apps that use Flurry Analytics.
Our Apps Tell A Story
Each time we download an app, we reveal a little bit about ourselves. A glance at the apps on your phone can indicate whether you are a fan of sports, gaming, or public radio, and whether you love to hike or cook or travel. But our choices of apps also reveal our individual tolerance for advertising, and how we feel about the trade-off between paying for content directly, or paying indirectly by (implicitly) agreeing to view ads.
In many cases, apps are available in two forms: free (with ads) and paid (no ads). If you truly can’t stand to see ads in apps, you can usually pay $.99 or $1.99 to eliminate the ads and possibly get some additional functionality too. Even when a specific app does not come in paid and free versions, there are often other apps to choose from, free and paid, that perform very similar tasks like calling a taxi or looking up recipes.
So what are consumers choosing? Let’s start by considering iOS apps since they have been available for longer than Android apps. Note that all of our measurements in this post are weighted by user numbers so the apps with more users contribute more to the total trend.
People Want Content To Be Free
The chart below shows how the proportion of free versus paid apps has changed over the years in the App Store. Between 2010 and 2012 the percentage of apps using Flurry Analytics that were free varied between 80% and 84%, but by 2013, 90% of apps in use were free.
Some might argue that this supports the idea that “content wants to be free”. We don’t see it quite that way. Instead, we simply see this as the outcome of consumer choice: people want free content more than they want to avoid ads or to have the absolute highest quality content possible. This is a collective choice that could have played out differently and could still in particular contexts (e.g., enterprise apps or highly specialized apps such as those tracking medical or financial information).
Android Users Are Even Less Willing to Pay For Apps
Up until now, we have focused on iOS apps because they have been around longer, but what about Android? Conventional wisdom (backed by a variety of non-Flurry surveys) is that Android users tend to be less affluent and less willing to pay for things than iOS users. Does the app pricing data support that theory? Resoundingly.
As of April 2013, the average price paid for Android apps (including those where the price was free) was significantly less than for iPhone and iPad apps as shown below. This suggests that Android owners want app content to be free even more than iOS device users, implying that Android users are more tolerant of in-app advertising to subsidize the cost of developing apps.
These results also support another belief derived from surveys and some transaction data: iPad users tend to be bigger spenders than owners of other devices, including iPhone. On average, the price of iPad apps in use in April of this year was more than 2.5 times that of iPhone apps and more than 8 times that of Android apps. This is likely to be at least partly attributable to the fact that on average iPad owners have higher incomes than owners of other devices.
Developers’ Pricing Decisions Were Data-Driven
On the surface, the rise of free apps could be seen as herding behavior: maybe app developers saw how much free competition there was and decided to make their apps free too. It’s certainly possible that may have happened in some instances, but by digging deeper into app pricing patterns over time, we were able to see that many developers took a much more thoughtful approach to pricing.
We looked at historical iOS app data (again because iOS apps have a longer history) to identify apps that have been the subjects of pricing experiments. That typically took the form of A/B testing, where an app was one price for a period of time then the price was raised or lowered for a period of time, then raised or lowered again. This lets developers assess users’ willingness to pay (i.e., price elasticity of demand) based on the number of downloads at different price points.
The chart below shows the percentage of tested and untested apps that were free (again, weighted by user numbers). The vast majority of untested apps in green were free all along, so it’s most interesting to look at the trend among apps that were subject to pricing experiments, in blue. As shown, there was an upward trend in the proportion of price-tested apps that went from paid to free. This implies that many of the developers who ran pricing experiments concluded that charging even $.99 significantly reduced demand for their apps.
The People Have Spoken; It’s Time To Change The Conversation.
While consumers may not like in-app advertising, their behavior makes it clear that they are willing to accept it in exchange for free content, just as we have in radio, TV and online for decades. In light of that, it seems that the conversation about whether apps should have ads is largely over. Developers of some specialized apps may be able to monetize through paid downloads, and game apps sometimes generate significant revenue through in-app purchases, but since consumers are unwilling to pay for most apps, and most app developers need to make money somehow, it seems clear that ads in apps are a sure thing for the foreseeable future. Given that, we believe it’s time to shift the conversation away from whether there should be ads in apps at all, and instead determine how to make ads in apps as interesting and relevant as possible for consumers, and as efficient and effective as possible for advertisers and developers.
Apps are telling – they signal our personal tastes and interests. There are probably nearly as many unique combinations of apps as there are devices, and the apps we use reveal a lot about us. Based on Personas that Flurry has developed for its advertising clients, we are beginning a series of blog posts to shed light on different groups of smartphone and tablet users and their app usage patterns. Moms -- who often control household budgets and expenditures -- are considered the prime audience for many brands. So we thought, where better to start our Personas series than by examining what moms are doing with apps?
Our analysis for this post relies on iPhone, iPad, and Android app usage during May of this year for a large sample (24,985) of American-owned smartphones and tablets. Discussion of app usage is based on time those devices spent in the 300,000+ apps that use Flurry Analytics.
What Apps Do Moms Use?
Moms, like most other groups, spend a lot of smartphone and tablet time playing games. In fact, on Android, more than half of the time American Moms spent in apps was spent playing games. Similarly, on iPad moms spent about half their time in games, but on iPhone, that percentage drops to a little less than a third of their time. On iPhone, lifestyle apps capture a larger proportion of Moms' attention (12%) than on iPad and Android devices.
As shown below, the second most popular category among moms on iPhone and Android devices is social networking. On iPad, newsstand (24%) was the second most popular category, demonstrating its strength as a screen for displaying magazine type content.
Where Do Moms Over-Index?
Most mobile consumers spend a large proportion of their app time in gaming and social networking apps, so what makes moms different from the other American owners of smartphones and tablets? Across iPhone, iPad, and Android, American Moms spend more time in education apps than the general population. Also, moms who own an iPhone or an Android device spend a greater share of their app time in health and fitness apps. Unsurprisingly, moms are also heavy shoppers. Android moms over-index for time spent in shopping apps, and iPhone moms over-index for time spent in catalog and lifestyle apps. (For this post, we have honored The App Store and Google Play’s systems for classifying apps. In iOS, shopping apps can fall into either the catalog or lifestyle category, whereas Android has a dedicated “shopping” category.)
Moms Own More Tablets And Gravitate Toward iOS
Compared to other American device owners, moms are enthusiastic users of tablets. As shown below, among the general population 25% of connected mobile devices were tablets, but for moms that percentage is 35%. This could be driven by the fact that many parents use tablets for sharing games and stories with their children.
60% of the smartphones and tablets we looked at were iOS devices. (Note that this number is a function of the installed base of active devices, so does not reflect market shares from sales in recent quarters.) For American Moms, the numbers lean even further toward iOS devices. A whopping 77% of moms own iOS devices while just 23% own Android. There are at least two factors that may explain this. First, it could be a function of Moms’ greater tablet ownership since iPad dominates the tablet market. Second, surveys show that women in general skew toward iOS devices. The key takeaway is that moms are much more likely to be found using iOS devices than Android devices.
For Moms, Connected Devices Are More For Escape Than Utility
So what can we infer about American Moms based on their app usage? For one thing, it appears that they use smartphones and tablets as a refuge from their busy lives. On average, half or more of the time they spend in apps is spent on social networking and game apps. In this sense, they are not that different from other Americans, but it does show that even busy moms need to escape and socialize, and mobile devices provide a way to do that.
Apps where American Moms spend a disproportionate share of time relative to other Americans also tell us something about their more serious side. Those apps tend to be improvement-oriented: education and health and fitness, for example. Moms are using their devices to help them achieve personal goals and possibly to educate their children.
We hope this post gives brands and developers a better idea of where the coveted American Mom is most likely to be during mobile time, and what is capturing their attention. App developers can tap into this valuable group by building experiences that give moms an escape from their hectic day-to-day routine, keep them socially connected, and help them improve different aspects of their lives. Media planners who want to reach American Moms should continue to buy ad inventory in gaming, news / magazine, and social networking apps, and to weight their budgets toward iOS apps.