iPhone App Downloads Are Up. What About Their Usage?


The iPhone App Store is red hot: In its first month, more than 60 million software programs were downloaded, and it generated about $1 million a day in sales. That information comes from Steve Jobs in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. In his interview, Jobs says the developers took home $21 million in the first month, of which $9 million went to the top 10 developers. One of the biggest selling app: Sega Corp’s $9.99 Super Monkeyball game, which sold more than 300,000 copies in 20 days. (iPhone as a gaming platform isn’t such a crazy idea after all!) [digg=http://digg.com/apple/iPhone_App_Downloads_Are_Up_but_Not_Their_Usage]

About 10 million apps were downloaded in the first week of the launch of the Apps Store. Jobs said that Apple takes 30 percent of the total sales and that covers the costs associated with keeping the App store running, including the cost of credit card transactions. “This thing’s going to crest a half a billion, soon…Who knows, maybe it will be a $1 billion marketplace at some point in time,” he told the Journal. Jobs said that going forward, in the world of mobile phones, the differentiating factor is going to be software.

The big question about the Apps store is whether downloads are going translate into actual and sustained usage of these apps.

Downloads Yes, Usage – Maybe

I have downloaded nearly three dozen apps: Loopt, Where, Nearby, Shozu, WordPress, Twinkle, Shazam, NetNewsWire, MLB At Bat and Facebook being amongst the most notable ones. Only Twinkle, Facebook, NetNewsWire andShozu are truly worth using on a daily basis. The MLB At Bat’s video (over 3G) is simply deplorable.

I wondered if I was the odd man out here, downloading and then not using the apps. To get some clarity, I asked Greg Yardley, founder of New York City-based Pinch Media, a startup that has developed analytics for iPhone apps.

Using the caveat that only a few app makers were using the Pinch Analytics library, he pointed out that as per their data, the ratio of free downloads to paid downloads is at least 10:1. He also said that the pace of downloads is slowing, which is expected because the early rush is behind us. According to data collected by Pinch Media, on average, less than 20 percent of an application’s overall unique users return to an application each day. Yardley also pointed out that people are using the apps for just under five minutes at a time, on average. The majority only use the applications once per day; the average number of uses per day is around 1.2.

Looks like I am not the only one who is getting bored with some of the more blah apps. Phew!


DJ Burdick

It’s going to be interesting to see where the balance of free vs paid apps finally lies. I’ve got to think that it can only follow the route of the web where free is king. This is a much more interesting debate though for two reasons: a) the iPhone SDK allows you to create truly robust applications more similar to desk top apps than web apps.
b) Apple has made it just as easy for the consumer to get paid apps as they have free apps.
These are both strong arguments for a continued amount of high paid app sales.


Seems like most are in agreement that the best apps are yet to come. Aside from the iPhone 2.0 platform just rolling in, is it merely a blind belief that the apps keep getting better with time or just that a lot of the apps now are , uhm, crap.

Anyway, maybe it’s still a period of just checking all the things that work well with iPhone and that true followers will soon form around particular apps.



Don’t forget about the 100+ billion users that will be added when more countries are selling the iPhone. The will want to load apps and they will want to develop apps for their languages and/or cultures. When you first started using a computer, how many applications did you have and use?

free iPod Touch

Om, I hope you can do a write up on cracked apple Apps and how it will affect the sales in the Apple App Store. There have been communities and torrents sharing apps illegally and distributing them on their blogs, and other various places. Just doing a Google search brings you up with a lot of cracked Apple apps. Developers won’t be happy when they see this! Hopefully Apple finds a way to patch the cracks.

Om Malik

@ john said:

You asked “How many apps do you use every day on your Mac? I’d wager less than 10.”

About 15 apps on a regular basis. I don’t download new apps every day – sometimes – and those occasions aren’t often.

You said: “Yet like me you probably have at least 100 apps in your app folder.” 30 apps, apart from the ones bundled with a Mac.

I think the point is that some of the more useful apps are yet to show up. I think we have been trying them furiously, but using them – not really. Actually if you read the headline, that is essentially what I am saying.

Om Malik

@ Jake McKee @AdamE & Others

As the data shows, this is a rather small data set, but it is a broad indicator of what is going on with the apps. I think we are all very curious about applications and are trying them out furiously. We will soon see rationality return to the buying patterns of the apps. I think at point it will become clear what apps work, what don’t and what is truly the “financial” impact of the Apps store.

Do I argue that Apps Store is a game changer? Absolutely not – I just think the current crop of apps are leaving a lot to be desired, and over a period of time we will see some interesting stuff emerge.


Are you serious?

Averages don’t mean anything. Who’s to say there aren’t 1000 different conversion utilities or distraction apps and only 100 useful, extended use applications (IM programs, Email programs, blog software, photo managers, video records, etc.)?

This “news” is meaningless.

Mark Sigal

I would echo AdamE’s sentiments. The iPhone 2.0 platform just rolled out, and as a fanatical user of Pandora (free), Crash Bandicot ($9.99), Instaper (free), MotionX Poker ($3.99) and Trism ($4.99), I can say that the capabilities of the platform TODAY are really pretty damn sweet relative to anything out there that calls itself mobile. Plus, the nature of App Store is such that it makes impulse buy really easy, which reduces the friction to user adoption of new apps.

To argue otherwise is somewhat to argue that mobile computing as a platform won’t be compelling beside web, email and phone, which seems just silly when you consider all of the venues that mobile is at least a companion to what you are doing – work, out and about, home office, living room, etc.

Put another way, one could argue that iPhone 2.0 is akin at this stage to where Windows 3.0 was in setting the stage for the rise of the PC as a mainstream computing device.

If that’s a fair comparison, it should be clear that this is the tip of a really big, compelling iceberg. The hardware, software, service functions, tools, developer acumen, marketing and consumer awareness will only get better.

Here’s a post I wrote assessing the experience to date from a user perspective:

iPhone 2.0 – What it Means to be Mobile

Check it out if interested.



I wish I could use some of the apps I have downloaded, but the damn iPhone crashes so often when running any of them it is not really possible for more than a few minutes.

Jake McKee

Respectfully, I’d like to disagree with the conclusions (rather than the points made) in this article.

Is it surprising that ~5 minute usage for apps is occurring? Not really – it’s a mobile device, after all. I tend to fire up Super Monkey Ball when I have a few minutes to kill in a waiting room. Or I use the Jott app when I need to…uh…jott off a quick reminder. These are not “bad” use cases, they are PERFECT.

And yes, I’ve downloaded quite a few apps that I’ve then deleted. I realized some (Facebook) aren’t really necessary to my own *personal* daily use, while Jott has become invaluable.

The problem with these assessments about the apps is that it’s being written in the “I don’t do X, therefore X sucks” perspective. That simply doesn’t fly.


Om’s information is interesting, but not compelling. The question isn’t how often a user is now using one of the downloaded iPhone apps, but whether that user (and others) will download (and pay for) apps in the future. First, the best apps are yet to come because the platform is new and investors have only now began to invest in developers. Second, I might buy 5 apps and only use 1, but that one could easily justify my purchase of the other 4. Third, I may only use an app once a week for 1 minute (the tipping apps are a good example), but the value makes me keep looking for more useful apps, and will allow the developer to up-sell and cross-sell. Fourth, the free apps, combined with the smorgasbord of paid apps, and the novelty of having them available, drive sales of the iPhone. That in turn will increase the user base, attract more developers, and more investors. That will continue will drive sales of the iPhone, and Mac computers.

Finally, I would like to know how quickly people tire of their paid ring tones, and yet drove it past $2B as a market.

Brian Kirk

The concern about how often various iPhone apps are used after they are downloaded is valuable but the statement that Apple is making, that developers are making, & more importantly that users are making is that there is a need & a demand to use the mobile phone for things other than making phone calls & sending text messages. The mobile phone has become the new personal computer & as network speeds continue to improve & users are educated on the power of the existing applications & the many applications that are to come it’s going to change the way we all live. The way we conduct business, process transactions, & communicate is going to change!


Om, great article.

Would you agree that one of the biggest problems is that developers have been sidetracked with either recreating the desktop experience or scratching the surface (no pun intended) of the most obvious UI enhancements (think Koi pond)? Shouldn’t they be thinking about really ground-breaking things that can emerge from location based awareness?


Weird, every person that claims to disagree, actually agrees with the article, and provides further evidence proving his claim.

People do not use most of the apps they download.


There is a lot of truth in what Mr. Om says. He is talking about his experience and generalizing it to the rest of us and I also feel its true. As an iPhone app developer I would say its a good new market. The pent up demand in the first two weeks was like a dam burst. Now things are getting down to day to day business. Early apps were quick and sometimes dirty, those will continue but we should start to see more thoughtful, larger and more complex apps emerging.

Of course as I walk around NYC I won’t use the iPhone as much as sitting down at my Mac but neither do I use the iPhone as little as I did my last cell phone which served to make calls and thats it.

Dave Zatz

I’ve downloaded a bunch of Apps and most suck. I haven’t spent too much money, which is fortunate since many pay Apps do not offer free trials (Lite) and there’s no return option as far as I can tell, regardless of how many times an App crashes.

Sam Dawkins

Let’s face it, the apps were purchased because the whole platform is new. I don’t use ANY of them. This was a one time deal and until compelling apps come out (Loopt the exception, although more users needed), it will remain a one time deal. The phone is too big, the apps too limited.



You’re wrong. How many applications do you use on your laptop daily? How many of those are specialty apps for once a week/month when you truly need it? See my point?

Even though I too have a ton of apps on my iPhone, Mail and Safari are used 99% of the time. But those other apps are great for when you really need them.


“…the pace of downloads is slowing, which is expected because the early rush is behind us.”


There are millions and millions of NEW users to be added to the iPhone phenomenon, just think XMas and 70+ new countries. What do you think they’ll do with the App Store?

The narrow mindedness and short focus of some is remarkable.


disagree with you here Om

How many apps do you use every day on your Mac? I’d wager less than 10. Yet like me you probably have at least 100 apps in your app folder. The same thing happens on the iPhone. I use about 7 apps daily but have lots more which will prove useful from time to time.

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