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
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.