How many times are downloaded applications actually being used?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: February 1, 2011

The race for the bigger, better app store is in full swing. The market for mobile apps is expected to explode over the span of the next few years and all the major players want a piece of that big-budget pie. Application stores like Apple's App Store and Google's Android Market tout numbers of applications in the hundreds of thousands. Even Microsoft's underdog Marketplace has experienced substantial growth throughout the few months that its been around, now ranking in at over 5,000 applications.

What really matters though, is the number of downloads and how many times each app is used. App Store has been subject to over 10 billion downloads and AndroLib claims Market has exceeded 3.2 billion downloads. These numbers are undoubtedly impressive and awe-inspiring, but how many times are these billions of downloaded apps actually being used? A study by software company Localytics states that 26 percent of applications downloaded are only opened once.

So what does this mean for application stores and developers? It depends on whether the application being downloaded is paid or free. With paid applications, the sole number of downloads is more important. A person cashes out a few bucks to take the new application for a spin. Whether they open it once or one hundred times per day is irrelevant. With free applications, it's a different story. They are typically ad-supported, meaning that developers will get residual income off of the application every time it is used; this has the ability to generate more revenue over time.

For developers, deciding between making the application free or paid can be a difficult decision. Sarah Kessler of Mashable states, “the data also points out the inaccuracy of using the number of people who download an app as the sole measure of its success.” Once a person pays for an application, that developer has made their money. If they stop using the application, it isn't a big deal. If the developer decides to take the ad-supported route, people will not only have to download the app, they will have to use it regularly for the developer to make their check.

At 26 percent, it isn't likely that we will see developers start making a move away from ad-supported apps. People like free and as long as developers can continue to make their money, we probably won't see any kind of change. This number is relatively low when you think of how many applications people download. But if the number ever rises to 40, 50, or even 60 percent and devs can't bring home the bacon, we may end up paying for more apps.

Does this mean that the applications stores and mobile apps will be short lived? Hardly. There are many development teams making a killing off of mobile apps. But what it could change is the predicted revenue from mobile applications in 2013. The predictions were that this year alone, App Store would sell $2 billion in applications, and that by 2013 the revenue for all mobile applications for every platform would reach a staggering $27 billion. That said, none of the reports stated what this predicted revenue was based off of. It could be off of single sales alone or it could include ad revenue. If the numbers were projected using solely the number of downloads, their numbers could be quite a bit off. Either way, a multi-billion dollar industry isn't a bad one to be in, and it's far bigger than any of us imagined.

To be honest, I would have expected the number of apps just opened once to be much higher. Every now and then, I will go on downloading binges and download anywhere from 10-20 applications at a time. Of the hundreds of applications I've downloaded, I only use a handful of them regularly. How many applications do you download and actually use? Do you binge like me and never use any of them?