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Android users only spend time on top apps

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Android (s goog) users have about 250,000 apps to choose from but most have little use for any of them outside the top 50. That’s according to new data from Nielsen’s Smartphone Analytics, a new initiative that analyzes data from on-device meters.

The interesting news is that the top 10 Android apps account for 43 percent of the time spent on all mobile apps by Android users. And when you look at the top 50 apps, 61 percent of the time spent is on these apps. That means that if you’re an app maker on Android, you’re facing long odds at being used if you’re even in the bottom half of the top 100. And if you’re lost among the rest of the 249,550 apps, good luck getting any usage.

This backs up data that I recently reported from Mobilewalla, an app ratings analytics and discovery firm. Mobilewalla found that the top 30 apps in Android Market had between 11,000 and 20,000 ratings compared to about 6,000 ratings for the top 30 apps in the Apple App Store (s aapl). But when you looked at the next 210 apps beyond the top 30, Android’s average ratings per app plummeted to just a few hundred per app while Apple’s ratings counts remained between 2,000 and 6,000. That showed that app usage on Android was clustered at the top of the app charts but didn’t extend down to less popular apps.

The growing picture here is that Android has a real issue in making sure that more developers can thrive in the Android Market. If you’re a developer and you can’t afford to pay for marketing or you don’t have some amazing viral hit, it looks like it’s very hard to get your app used and that makes it hard to crack profitability on Android for all but the biggest apps. If you’re not being used that often, you can’t expect to garner that much in advertising or in-app purchases.

This is part of the reason why developers prefer Apple’s App Store, because it’s better place to make money. It’s still hard to get noticed among the 425,000 apps there but iOS users seem to explore more of the apps outside the top charts. That means developers get more in download revenue and more through other monetization tools. And that’s why Apple can boast about cutting a check of $2.5 billion to developers because it’s opening up broader opportunities for more developers.

Google has done a lot of work to improve the app experience in Android Market but it’s got to do a better job of aiding in discovery. And Android developers need to keep pushing the quality of apps in Android Market so people take note of not just the top apps. With developers increasingly getting their revenue from freemium apps, which now generates 2/3 of the revenue in the top 100 games on iOS, it’s even more important for developers to get their apps used and to have longer term engagement with users. That’s something Google still needs to keep working on with its developers to ensure that the success of Android Market is not only limited to a few top publishers.

Nielsen also found that the average Android users in the U.S. spends 56 minutes a day using the web and apps on their phone. Android users spend 67 percent of their time in apps compared to 33 percent using the web. That appears consistent with recent findings from analytics firm Flurry, which found that minutes spent on mobile apps eclipsed mobile web usage on smartphones for the first time in June. 

21 Responses to “Android users only spend time on top apps”

  1. Yaniv Keren

    It is a bit absord that Google – the company which one of her main strength and revolutionary ideas the Long tail – fails to achieve this goal in the mobile arena – maybe it’s because mobile is more sensitive  medium than web, and it takes more than just big container to offer applications. Maybe Apple and it’s Terror  policy is actuality necessary  when Dealing with mobile apps.

    • My Company(Television Station in the upper Midwest: Fargo, ND) has invested in Providing APP’s for Weather and NEWS… The Weather APP has been a real success. In a DMA market size of only 241,000+TV Homes & 555,000 Population—-We have over 75,000 APP downloads…Of Course we promote it available on our Website(people do not have to go to the MArketplace to find.)….Try it—VNL Weather APP —It is ALSO FREE! and pretty good APP for Weather, especially for those living in the Dakota (Red River Valley Region). Promotion of the product, the ease of finding it on a website, and It is FREE—all Seem to be working HUGE!….side note: Android users are the largets number (68,000+ of the 75,000+ total, just for some numbers Iphone–much less useage in this region).

    • Roni Haim

      Can someone explain what was meant by “locked by AT&T and Verizon”? that their users can download Android apps ONLY from AT&T and Verizon decks and not from Market ? Cannot this be changed by user changing settings ?

  2. JC Harris

    The problem… as I see it… is that AT&T and Verizon have a locked marketplace. My wife and I bought expensive android phones only to find that the apps we want to use for music and graphics–which -are- available in Europe, are not allowed by either AT&T or Verizon. I contacted vendors of apps for iPhone that I covet and when I asked when they were coming out with Android versions they said ‘never’, simply because getting them on AT&T/Verizon was just too onerous.

    • Hi Alexander, not necessarily. For instance, Firefox on Android mobile is not as good as Dolphin HD, Opera. In terms of user friendly Firefox not really intuitive, slow, lack of extentions compare to the PC environment. Dolphin HD owns it at the moment…

  3. Hi Ryan.

    I would just like to relate my personal experience as an Android user and how that experience affected my views on the Android Market. I’ve bought my Nexus 1 when it first launched last year (still got it). The Android Market was very basic then and didn’t offer much decision view making as it is now, new trend/grossing/top free/ top paid/ just in etc.. My personal observation, an app popularity is mainly based on star ratings and feedbacks. I believe Google utilizes the same referencing implementation it uses on its web search engine, that is the more popular (by traffic) a webpage gets to the top of the page of the screen it gets, same thing happening on the Android Marke. I’ve seen apps totally disappeared without notice because of it (kinna felt bad for the dev) It’s the dev’s best interest to maintain high quality app standard if it wants it to last. Some inconsistency I found is that devs tend to plagiarize from each other (when lacking of ideas), you may get dozens of apps coated and branded differently from the same category which is very annoying. However there are some who really get down to work and try to innovate this is also when they try monetize them. I must disagree that Android user use less the browser to web content, per click I would agree, but per click to access web content, not quite accurate. An app may have gmail/fb/ youtube/ twitter integration at all instance makes it hard for the user not to use them since the mobile environment is 100% web usable.

  4. The other possibility is that Android users are simply different from iOS users. The tight Google integration is a huge selling point, but once you have that you’re likely to add a few things like Facebook, Twitter, etc. And then? If you bought a smartphone for access to messaging, email and things like GPS and nav, you’re pretty much there with ~10-40 apps.

    Let’s face it, the figures of hundreds of thousands of apps have long since ceased to have any real meaning. I’d bet that once the app count passed 10k or so there were very few apps that offered something truly new.

  5. David Briggs

    The app store concept is one which seems to encourage both aspects of a ‘long-tail’. It’s inevitable that there’ll be reinforcement at the winners’ end and most people will only use the top 10-50 apps. Those apps will make money, they’ll be well developed and tested, people will be happy. But what I’m concerned about is how will people will find out about all of those things that they would find useful in the ‘tail’. It sounds cheesy but Apple’s “there’s an app for that” is exactly what’s missing from the Android brand.

    As an Android app developer and user (but certainly no died in the wool Android advocate) I don’t really buy the ‘quality’ argument as to why purchases and discovery are poorer than on iOS. I’m yet to experience an app that I’ve downloaded (free or paid) that is unreliable or incomplete except for those which are obviously engineering tests and which state very clearly “this is a BETA version designed to test XYZ, use at your own risk” etc. I’m sure they exist but they’re not what a typical user is exposed to. (I do see the irony there)

    However, as a developer I often feel really frustrated with this side of the market. Firstly, there is no way to offer ANYONE a free copy of the app, a real copy. I can actually send people the app but because it didn’t come via the market they can’t update it, plus they have to enable ‘3rd party installs’ which for our specific market might be quite foreign to them; do they want to open up their phone to some group who they only know via email? But more than that, we can’t offer any kind of promotion. There’s no way to offer targeted discounts or sales and it’s very frustrating. We’d love to be collaborating with our favourite magazines, websites and podcasts in the community we target but all we could do is pay for advertising and hope it’s successful. It would be so much more useful if we could offer coupons etc and know where people were arriving from. I can’t speak for everyone involved but at this stage I’d give the app away for free just to get a user base that wanted to use the app, offer suggestions and were passionate. However, we don’t want to make the app free for everyone as the extra load on the support team won’t necessarily come from our intended target market. We want a certain type of customer to receive it for free, we can already identify those people, we just can’t do it!

    Then there’s the market app itself. The current version on any non-honeycomb phone is plain rubbish.(99.9% of the market as of today – that’s according to Google’s developer dashboard) How a user could feel confident that they were going to get a high quality polished app in such a poorly designed, ugly and quite frankly, buggy, environment is beyond me. Faced with the same market I would probably just chose the app that had the most downloads too. If Google can’t even make something right what chance does David Inc. have?

    Finally, Google’s commitment to the market they’ve established seems really poor. I’ve never seen advertisements here in Sweden telling me about the gems in the Android market. Nor even telling me about the well designed top 50! Whilst it’s not their responsibility to sell the phones it is their responsibility to look after the Android brand. And today I’m not sure they’re doing that well.

  6. Lydia Howard

    Isn’t it much more difficult to get your app published in the iTunes App Store than Android Market? Ryan touched on this toward the end of the article, but I think a significant factor is the quality of the app.

  7. Why is the such a surprise? It’s the age old “80/20” rule….Plus, who actually “browses” apps? You want something, you go search for it or you see an ad for one and you go download it, to TJ’s point. I want to see the shift from App usage to Mobile web over the past 2 Q’s. Now that would be industry changing news!

  8. scottslc

    What an unfair article. For this to be valid and unbiased, you need to offer the same view from the apple side of app usage. I would assume the same percentage goes for them also. Apple has more apps, but I suspect apple users spend most of their time on the same top 50, just like android. Fanboy.

    • Ryan Kim

      Yeah, we’ll be waiting to see what Nielsen has to say about IOS apps. But the data from Mobilewalla I cite suggests that iOS users spread their usage out among more apps. Nielsen might find otherwise and we’ll report whatever they come up with.

  9. @ John Keane

    While what you say is true however it is obviously in the app maker’s interest for their app to be visible in the android app store. Boradly speaking, people are more likely to download an app from the app store than direct from a website due to the trust that is inherent from an app being on the appstore.

  10. Robin Lim

    Maybe there are just too many apps? Apple US$ 2.5 billion pay out sounds big, but if you divide it by about 300,000 apps (I understand 20-30% of the apps in Apples App store are free) that is well below 10K per app, and I think that figure is for the total life of the App Store. Given that some apps earn a lot more than US$10K, some apps there are not really earning all that much.

  11. John Keane

    That is a very interesting article but the writer left out one very important difference. You don’t have to use the Android app store to have your application download to an Android device. You can market your product and brand back to your website and users can download the app directly from there. In this case you might not get the thousand plus reviews but you are also not competing against 250,000 app to get discovered.

    • Ryan Kim

      I agree, that’s a difference with Android Market, the fact that there are alternatives to distribution. But if you look at the Nielsen data, which looks at what end users are actually doing on their devices, it doesn’t seem like these channels are getting people to use a lot of apps that aren’t already popular. Perhaps over time, we’ll see that.

  12. I’ve started removing the vast majority of apps from my phone. I’m tired of updating them and I’ve come to realize that I don’t even use 90% of them. If I really need something, it takes just a second to download it.

  13. This is so true.. the reason is probably because there are too much apps yet there are not enough flexibilities on the Android Market.

    For example, I always look into apps that are having a one-day-deal when I was using my iPhone. This way, we were more exposed into different apps compared to Android’s