Last month we looked at the breakdown between free and paid apps at the end of the first half of 2015. This time we wanted to dig further into the data and see how the numbers have changed since 2014.
First off, It’s clear that free apps are doing great. They make up a higher proportion of all apps and of the new apps that come out every month. But, when we analyzed this number of new free and paid apps a bit deeper, we were in for a surprise.
Between March and June 2014, there was a dramatic decline in monthly new paid apps but only a slight decline in monthly new free apps. The graph below shows the number of new free and paid apps across all genres that were added to the iOS appstore each month. On average, about 38,000 new free apps and 8,000 new paid apps were added per month. But, the number of new free apps decreased at a rate of about 900 apps per month while the number of new paid apps decreased at a rate of about 2,900 apps per month, making the rate of the new paid app decline more than 3x the rate of the new free app decline.
For the same period in 2015, there seems to have been a complete reversal: the decline in new paid apps slowed, whereas the decline in new free apps became more aggressive. The graph below shows that about 52,000 free apps and 7,000 paid apps were added on a monthly basis. But as opposed to 2014, the number of new free apps decreased at a rate of about 3,300 apps per month and the number of monthly new paid apps decreased at a rate of about 1,000 apps per month, making the rate of the new paid app decline less than 1/3 the rate of the new free app decline.
Though this analysis only takes into account what happened in a four-month period during the first half of 2014 and 2015, we can see that the aggressive decline in new paid iOS apps of last year leveled earlier this year while the decline in new free apps is now significantly stronger than it was in 2014. Does this mean that the trend of abandoning the paid app model in favor of free and freemium apps is slowing down? It sure looks like it, but to be certain we will need to continue investigating throughout 2015! Stay tuned for more!
This week, the team at The Loadown has been investigating more about the ins and outs of iOS iPhone apps. We are constantly searching for data to teach us about the behavior of the appstore, and the differences and similarities between paid and free (including freemium) apps. Previously, we’ve talked about the split between paid and free apps across genres, but we wanted to get more specific.
This week’s burning question: Which apps get rated more and/or better: free or paid?
Overall, free apps had approximately 2.5 times more ratings across all genres (average of 146 ratings/app) compared to paid apps (average of 57 ratings/app). This makes sense given that at the price point of $0 their are significantly more users of free apps compared to paid apps, which would lead to significantly more ratings for the popular free apps. Enough ratings to increase the average rating per free app.
Games, Social Networking and Weather were the genres that received the highest average number of ratings per paid or free app. For example, a typical paid game had 241 ratings while its free counterpart had 408 ratings. Compare this to Education, the genre claiming the lowest average number of ratings, with its 12 ratings per paid app and 31 ratings per free app. Across the App Store, only the Business and News Genres had more average ratings per paid app vs free app.
So it’s clear: free apps typically get more ratings than paid apps.
However…Are free apps more likely to get rated than paid apps? To answer this question, instead of average number of ratings per app, we looked at the number of apps with a particular rating per genre (example: ) relative to the total number of paid and free apps (see graph below). We grouped apps in 3 categories based on how they were rated: low (1 and 2 stars), medium (3 stars), and high (4 and 5 stars).
From our data we can see that while 18% of all free apps actually get rated, 25% of all paid apps get rated. Another way to say this is that paid apps have a 40% higher likelihood of getting rated compared to free apps. Users that pay for an app are clearly more inclined to rate their purchase compared to those not paying for an app. There were two notable exceptions: Games and Books. For Games, this makes sense, since some of the most popular and best rated apps are free games. Books, on the other hand, is one of the smaller genres, but the only one where paid apps outnumber free apps. This particularity might account for better ratings for free apps.
The question that remains, therefore, is whether paid apps get higher ratings than free apps.
By looking at the number of apps with a high (4 and 5 stars) rating per genre relative to the total number of paid and free apps (see above graph) we find that about 10% of all paid apps are highly rated compared to approximately 9% of free apps. Paid apps are therefore more likely to be rated with 4 or 5 start than free apps. Of the 22 active genres, Business, Food & Drink and Music more highly favor paid apps in this area, while Games, Photo & Video and Books more highly favor free apps.
Conclusion…Given the $0 price tag of a free app, it is normal that free apps have more ratings on average than paid apps. But, the deeper trend that we discovered through this analysis was that, while free apps were rated more on average, paid apps were more likely to be rated and were more likely to be rated better. So for all you developers and marketers trying to figure out what business model to adopt for your app, take a second look at charging for it. If the value is there (with your app) and you are not ready to put some resources in creating a successful in-app purchase funnel, which requires providing tons of free value up-front and fine-tuning conversions ad-nauseum, then a paid app may be best for you.
Stay tuned for more wisdom from The Loadown as we answer more burning questions about mobile apps!
The Loadown was featured in a piece by Alex Konrad that appeared on forbes.com yesterday: ‘How Amazon-Style Pricing And Portfolio Tactics Can Hack The Crowded App Market.’ The article included insights on the role of pricing optimization and portfolio diversification in app discovery.
Here are some highlights:
– … for those who aren’t a Top 10 viral hit or willing to spend millions on marketing like Game Of War’s pricey Kate Upton campaign, regular price adjustments can help surface an app back from the purgatory of the App Store’s (figurative) back shelves.
– The most room to maneuver and benefit comes with apps that are priced more than $0.99 and thus have more potential to discount or boost prices incrementally. But even switching apps from periods of free sales to paid stretches can improve performance, the Loadown team says.
– In a 39-week study of about 7,6000 apps from 4,000 sellers, sellers expanding into a new category instead of launching their first app saw a 15% bump on top-grossing charts for each additional category they entered. (study by Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business)
For more information about our dynamic app pricing optimization service, to start a free pilot for your apps and get significant increases in both downloads and revenue, contact us at email@example.com.
In our quest to better understand App Store dynamics, especially when it pertains to paid apps vs free apps, we decided to analyze how much app turnover there was in Apple’s iPhone and iPad Top 400 lists (now Top 200 lists). We looked at how many apps entered (and thus exited) the Top 400 Free, Paid and Grossing lists (by category) throughout the month of May 2014. These entries/exits are important because, as they increase, they provide an indication of which business model (i.e. paid or free) or genre/category offers the best opportunity for discovery.
The two graphs below show, for May 2014, the number of iPhone and iPad apps that entered the Top 400 Free, Paid and Grossing ranks but that had not been ranked the previous day. For both iPhone and iPad apps, generally more than three quarters of Top 400 Paid and Top 400 Grossing apps remained ranked from one day to the next. For iPhone apps, the daily turnover in the Top 400 Paid list and in the Top 400 Grossing list (for both paid and free apps) was more than double that of the Top 400 Free list. For iPad apps it was nearly double, with free apps having an average of 51 new entrants a day in the Top 400 Free compared to an average of 35 new entrants a day for iPhone apps, a 46% difference.
Does this mean that a Paid app has a better chance of getting ranked and potentially getting discovered? About 1 out of every 8 apps is a paid app and therefore it is clearly easier for a paid app to get ranked. But the fact that there is more active turnover in the Top 400 for paid apps (and for paid or free Top Grossing apps) makes the competition for Top Paid and Grossing ranks far more open than for Top Free ranks.
We still believe that #PaidAppsRule
Our focus on app pricing optimization and the power of price changes (see post) has led us to make an interesting discovery related to the mechanism for making price changes on iTunes: the time between a price change request and it taking effect can vary dramatically.
Using our platform to initiate price changes on iTunes, we have seen them take anywhere between 15 minutes and more than 16 hours to go around the globe and be reflected in every storefront. Price changes literally go around the world starting in Australasian and Asian storefronts, then going to the European and African storefronts, before finishing in the Americas.
In the graph below we look at the time it takes for a price change on one of our apps to take effect in the New Zealand storefront (one of the first), the France storefront and the US storefront (one of the last). In the first price change at around 14:00 (or 2PM) on the 23rd of April the app had the Tier 1 price ( corresponding to $1.99) reflected in all three storefronts within 30 minutes. This was also true for the last price change at around 6:00 on the 25th of April. But on the 23rd (and again on the 24th), the app became free at around 10:00 in New Zealand, at around 23:00 (11PM) or 13 hours later in France and at around 3:00 on the 24th in the US. It therefore took 17 hours for that price change to be reflected in all storefronts on iTunes.
So if you are making a price change on your app and expect your new price to be reflected in all iTunes storefronts immediately (within 15-30 minutes), that will not always be true. This also means that if a competitor changes their price and you are in France or the United States, for example, watching the New Zealand or Australia storefront will be the best way for you to know in advance what new price is coming to your storefront.
As we continue testing and tracking price changes on more and more apps, we will be able to provide greater insight as to when (what part of the day or what day of the week) a price change has the most chance of spreading quickly (<1hr) or very slowly (>10hrs).
In this post, we analyze 2 closely followed companies and note various information that can be gleaned from The Loadown’s data on each of them. This shows ways analysts can effectively use this information in helping support a position around a particular company and the predictive nature of the information.
Candy Crush Saga
With the recent King.com IPO, many analysts have had their eyes on the company’s apps, trying to monitor their performance. The Loadown tracks all King.com apps daily (across all countries), and below is only data on the iPhone app in the US.
In the above chart, we are looking at the daily download estimates for the period (from January 1, 2014 – present) respectively.
Though the app’s user continue to rise, daily downloads have decreased fairly dramatically to level off recently (since the beginning of 2014) at approximately 2.5 times less than end of 2013 ranges.
These findings tie in with the recent quarterly earnings announcement from King.com (May 7, 2014), where the following was reported and concluded:
- Candy Crush Saga accounting for 67% of total first quarter 2014 gross bookings, down from 78% in the fourth quarter of 2013 (Source: King.com earnings release)
- Investors were […] worried about the company’s growth. Revenue in Q4 was down from its Q3 revenue. This quarter, as we noted, revenue is up sequentially, but it’s still not as high as it was in Q3. (Source: Business Insider)
- Up premarket after posting a Q1 EPS beat and moderate Q/Q bookings growth, King Digital (KING -8.7%) has sharply reversed course. Concerns about softening Candy Crush Saga bookings and a Q/Q drop in monthly unique payers appear to be the triggers. (Source: Seeking Alpha)
Though it should be emphasized that daily downloads are only one piece of an overall company strategy and analysis, The Loadown’s download estimates show clear evidence early into the last quarter the pattern for reduced user growth on the iOS platform. (This may in part be attributed to a reduction in the company’s large paid acquisition strategy that it used around the IPO timeframe).
This daily downloads data can have important predictive value and could be an early alert to start monitoring other strategies and indicators of the company, as new users are not being added as the same level as before.
What can that imply further for user growth, usage patterns, and company performance in general going forward into the quarter and beyond?
Twitter, another recent IPO and closely followed company, also has interesting app download behavior. The Loadown follows the Twitter app (and all other 3rd party Twitter apps). Below is data on the iPhone app in the US.
In the above chart, we again look at the daily download estimates for the period (from January 1, 2014 – present) respectively.
The daily download shows a very steady pattern of user acquisition. Outside of a small spike in downloads around the time of the last earnings report (which may have been attributed to publicity around the event), the trend line for the period is pretty much flat. Therefore, the pattern shows that the user base acquisition (through the Twitter app) is not increasing beyond previous levels.
Analysts and the press has been very consistent and laser focused on Twitter’s ability to expand its user base, which was supposed to be the basis for its growth:
- Twitter Inc. (NYSE:TWTR) likely failed to accelerate user growth in the first quarter despite major investments aimed at making the social network more attractive to new users in the U.S. and abroad, according to analysts looking ahead to Tuesday’s first-quarter earnings report. (Source: International Business Times)
- Shares in Twitter dropped 9 per cent in after market trading when the messaging platform failed to reverse a trend of slow user growth, shaking investor confidence that it could ever grow to the size of Facebook. (Source: Financial Times)
- Twitter (TWTR) may have captivated millions of insiders in the twin realms of technology and media, but its most persistent challenge can be easily characterized in less than 140 characters: “Grow the user base faster and enlist more engaged, mainstream users i.e. #BeMorelikeFacebook.” (Source: Bloomberg Businessweek)
The Loadown’s download data for Twitter shows a predictive trend that ultimately became an important issue during the current earnings quarter for the company. By monitoring app download estimates daily through The Loadown data, it becomes clear that no significant uptick was seen, when one was expected for the company. Analysts could relatively early on in the quarter begin to focus on this emerging pattern to support the prediction that Twitter user expansion could fall below expectations.
It is also interesting to note that additional analysis could be done by studying the 3rd party Twitter apps’ download patterns for this period, further providing predictive clarity around company performance.
We have a new white paper, “Using Version Updates and Price Changes to Improve Mobile App Discovery”, available on theloadown.com. According to US market data we collected in 2013, iOS app publishers and developers making version updates and price changes improve their positioning on iTunes’ Top Paid, Top Free and Top Grossing lists.
This is because when a paid or free app is updated to a new version, the developer can change the name, icon, description, screenshots and keywords of the app as well as force users to notice the new update. For price changes, sales get featured on an Apple RSS feed that is distributed to thousands of sites and twitter feeds focused on promoting apps that have gone on sale or have recently become free.
The Loadown’s data (see graph) indicates that free apps making version changes increased the number of days they were ranked by an average of 45% in Apple’s Top Free list and 73% in Top Grossing (19 more days), compared to apps that never updated their versions. In terms of rank, these free apps improved by about 17% in Top Paid and 21% in Top Grossing (45 rank positions).
Similarly, compared to apps that never changed their prices and never updated their versions, paid apps that did had an average increase of 36% in the number of days they were ranked in Top Paid and 96% in Top Grossing (22 more days) along with a 23% improvement in their Top Paid rank and 21% in Top Grossing (50 rank positions).
This data provides supporting evidence that active involvement by apps in their positioning on Apple’s App Store through version updates and price changes significantly improves their discoverability, downloads and sales.