According to the latest statistics, more than half of the apps in the Android Market are free ones, with 53% of the total inventory available gratis.
Interesting stat, but it may be meaningless to most people — until they take a closer look. I suppose that in some ways, it might mean that Android users have a kind of bonanza on their hands. But the question is — is that really the best thing for the platform? This has been at the heart of multiple posts across the webs: the correlation of mobile applications and the success of a given mobile platform.
Consulting firm Forecasting and Analyzing Digital Entertainment, LLC (FADE) estimates that close to 99% of the apps that are grabbed from the Android Market are freebies. And, says FADE, when the average Android user did spend money on apps, at least in the first two months of this year, it was usually only 6 cents for games and 50 cents on other kinds.
Are Android users just cheapskates? Writer Frank McPherson, from Mobile Content Today, doesn’t think so. He points out some issues with the Android Market that might be hindering things, like an inefficient search and discovery process.
It’s hard to touch on the business of apps without bringing up the Big Kahuna, Apple’s much-publicized App Store. Roughly 25% of iPhone offerings are free, and the typical iPhone user spent about $1 on games and $5 on other apps during January and February 2010. Yes, devs may have to jump through crazy hoops to make it into iTunes, but it seems there’s no shortage of people willing to try. No doubt, everyone’s in it for the promise of the big payday — like Lima Sky. The developers of Doodle Jump recently hit the news for reaching 3 million downloads and generating in excess of more than 2 million dollars in revenue.
There’s been a lot of talk about how applications are the driving force behind mass smartphone adoption. The reason for that is simple: People like being able to do new and exciting things with their shiny toys. But if the devs can’t make money, will they still flock to a particular platform? (So far, the latest numbers peg Android apps around 30,000.) While there’s a lot of good that can be said about working with an open-source platform, there’s also the complication of fragmentation across different screen sizes and devices. That’s the reason Smule’s Jeff Smith — who developed the wildly successful Ocarina and I Am T-Pain for the iPhone, says he won’t develop for Android.
Android users: What’s your take on this? Do you mostly stick to freebies? If so, what would it take to get you to spend? (Would an improved discovery process in the Market help?) For any devs in the audience, are you deterred by fragmentation? Or do you guys think all this app talk is just hot air, an overhyped facet that’s only one of several factors in a smartphone’s success? Weigh in.