Mobile device manufacturers love to trumpet how many apps are available for their particular operating system - but they may be wasting their breath.
New research from Nielsen’s Smartphone Analytics project shows that while Android users have about a quarter of a million apps to choose from, most have no interest at all in any outside the top 50.
According to Nielsen, the top ten apps account for 43 percent of all the time spent by Android users on mobile apps. The top 50 apps account for 61 percent of all time spent.
“With 250,000-plus Android apps available at the time of this writing, that means the remaining 249,950-plus apps have to compete for the remaining 39 percent of the pie,” points out Don Kellogg, the company’s director for telecom research and insights, in the initial release of results.
The figures bear out the findings of a recent report from analyst firm Distimo, which found that 80 percent of paid apps in the Android Market have been downloaded fewer than 100 times. Even for free apps, the figure was 20 percent. For developers, this is an awful lot of work for very little result.
Mobile apps as a whole are a big business - and getting bigger all the time. Nielsen also found that the average Android user in the US spends 56 minutes per day actively interacting with the web and apps on their phone. Of that time, two-thirds is spent on mobile apps while one-third is spent on the mobile web.
But the Nielsen research highlights the fact that it’s not just users that Android needs to keep sweet - it’s app developers too. Developers don’t just make money from sales, but also rely on income from advertising or in-app purchases. Indeed, with free apps making up an increasing proportion of app downloads, this is more the case than ever. And if users are spending little time on their apps, this revenue stays low.
This is one reason why developers are keen to produce apps for Apple’s iOS. Apple is far tighter in its policies on what can be sold in the App Store, meaning that what does make it in already has a badge of quality. It’s also created a far more coherent store than Android, meaning it’s easier for users to find things they might be interested in. Possibly as a result of this, iOS users are far more willing to download apps beyond the obvious top-sellers.
Google’s working on improvements to the Android Market. Last month, it launched a new user interface, adding an app list which can be easily flipped through, and which allows users to check out what others are downloading in a variety of different categories.
The Nielsen data was gathered in June, just before Google introduced the changes. Time will tell whether Android users, like their iPhone-using counterparts, will respond by getting a bit more app-happy. In the meantime, the company might please developers as well as users by focusing a little more on the quality of its apps, rather than the sheer number.