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App market trends

February 01, 2013

Two Important App Market Trends to Watch in 2013
byMark WilcoxinBusiness

2012 was another big growth year for the app market. Apple continued to launch new products, sell them in ever greater volumes and distribute more revenue to developers. Meanwhile Google overhauled their market and developer revenues climbed sharply. Android developers also saw the Amazon Appstore expand and become a serious second revenue source. Developers who created quality apps and marketed them well were richly rewarded. However, for many developers the major challenge of getting their apps discovered by users only got worse. How is 2013 likely to compare and what are the most recent app market trends? Will app revenues continue to grow at similar rates and will those revenues keep concentrating in the hands of fewer publishers?

App market trends: Continued Growth

According to Distimo’s 2012 report, Apple’s daily App Store revenue grew 21% in the four months to the end of November. Google Play revenue grew 43% in the same period. During November the average daily revenue from the App Store was $15m while for Google Play it was $3.5m. So Google has more than double the growth rate, although from a much lower base.

The graph below extrapolates those four month growth rates exponentially through 2013. This illustrates the effects if those growth rates continued – this is not a prediction.

The Apple daily revenues and growth rate figures were taken during a double new product introduction spike, so the actual 2013 growth is likely to be significantly lower. According to App Annie, iOS revenue growth for the first 10 months of 2012 was only 12.9% total.

Similarly Android’s revenue growth in 2012 was from a very low base, it will be important to watch how it changes as the absolute revenue levels increase. The likelihood is that Android revenues will be significantly closer to iOS revenues by the end of 2013 but iOS revenues much closer to where they are now than the graph above suggests.

In the biggest spending app markets around the world, smartphone penetration is above 50%. A large proportion of smartphone purchases in those markets in 2013 will therefore be replacement devices running the same platform. With iOS a new device can download purchased content and restore in-app purchases at no extra cost. On Android it’s entirely up to the developer whether existing purchases can be used on a new device but by default, paid apps can be downloaded to new devices and in-app purchases will not be restored automatically without charge.

App revenue expectations

Will users continue to spend on apps at the same rate on replacement devices, or will the app revenues in the most developed markets start to fall? There’s likely to be some variation here across platforms and app categories but this may be the first year that the total market growth doesn’t obscure this important user behaviour trend.

App market trends: Revenue Distribution

Although the app stores are generating millions of dollars in revenues every day, those are not distributed at all evenly amongst developers. Canalys recently highlighted that 50% of revenues are earned by just 25 publishers in the US. Although we already pointed out that this is not as bad as it sounds, since those publishers have well over 1000 apps between them, at the very top, the concentration really is that extreme and getting worse.

According to the 2012 report from Distimo linked above, 7 apps were responsible for 10% of revenues on the iPhone in November, for the iPad it was only 6 apps and on Google Play just 4. At the very top on iOS we know that Supercell were grossing $500k per day from two games in early October. At the time Hay Day, the lower ranked of the two, was below position 20 in the top grossing chart, while it is now rarely outside the top 10. Clash of Clans has consistently been in the top 2 since that report. We can guess their revenue is even higher now and that the number 1 grossing spot is worth somewhere around $300-450k per day (about 2-3% of total iOS revenues) before Apple’s 30% cut.

In January 2012 the top 11 apps for the iPhone were responsible for 10% of revenues while on the iPad it was 8 apps. It’s tempting to speculate that the greater increase in revenue concentration on the iPhone is due to the changes to the App Store in iOS 6. However there is very little overlap between the top 10 grossing apps and the top 10 paid or free downloads. Whatever the reasons for this increased concentration of revenue at the top, this is an important trend to watch in 2013.

If revenues aren’t more evenly distributed amongst a larger number of developers then investment in new app projects must eventually start to decline. Otherwise, developers will need to find more business models that aren’t dependent on direct monetisation of their apps through stores.

If you are interested in more recent trends, have a look into our App Developer Trends from Q1 2015.

RevenueRevenue Distribution

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