Apps want to be free

We all love free apps, but they often come with a different price... ads. While these ads are the bane of some people's existence, a recent study shows that most mobile users are fine with it. Flurry Analytics reports that there is a trend toward more free apps. 80 percent of apps were free in 2011; that number has jumped to 90 percent today.

Some might argue that this supports the idea that “content wants to be free”. We don’t see it quite that way. Instead, we simply see this as the outcome of consumer choice: people want free content more than they want to avoid ads or to have the absolute highest quality content possible. This is a collective choice that could have played out differently and could still in particular contexts (e.g., enterprise apps or highly specialized apps such as those tracking medical or financial information).

Flurry shows that the percentage of free apps is increasing. 

Flurry has taken the majority of its data from the Apple App Store because it has been in operation longer than Google's Play Store. 

The average price of apps between app stores was also examined. Not surprisingly, iPad apps tend to be the most expensive. On average, iPad apps are $0.50; compare this to average iPhone app at $0.19, and average Google Play app at $0.06. There is a considerable gap here.

Conventional wisdom (backed by a variety of non-Flurry surveys) is that Android users tend to be less affluent and less willing to pay for things than iOS users. Does the app pricing data support that theory? Resoundingly.

As of April 2013, the average price paid for Android apps (including those where the price was free) was significantly less than for iPhone and iPad apps as shown below. This suggests that Android owners want app content to be free even more than iOS device users, implying that Android users are more tolerant of in-app advertising to subsidize the cost of developing apps.   

Average app price on Google Play, iPhone, and iPad

Flurry is careful to point out that this trend toward free apps is no coincidence. It's driven by data. Looking at the App Store, Flurry was able to identify apps that have gone through pricing experiments - using A/B testing, or looking at apps that have raised and lowered their price over time. The chart below decribes this. "Green" apps were always free, but the "Blue" apps started out as paid and eventually became free. 

As shown, there was an upward trend in the proportion of price-tested apps that went from paid to free. This implies that many of the developers who ran pricing experiments concluded that charging even $.99 significantly reduced demand for their apps.

Apps pricing experiments.

Flurry thinks the conversation should change from "paid apps vs. add supported apps," to "how do we make ad supported apps more interesting and appealing to consumers. 

The report is really quite fascinating. Check out Flurry's full report and Venture Beat's coverage below. 

Importance of wearable computing apps

According to Sarah Rotman Epps, the app battles that have taken place on the smartphone and the tablet front are moving to another frontier.

Ever since Apple launched its App Store in 2008, platforms have waged war on each other to attract the most app developers. In smartphones, iPhone and Android have pulled far ahead while competing platforms like Windows Phone and BlackBerry have lagged behind. On tablets, iPad beats any other competitor by hundreds of thousands of apps. But now, the app wars are battling on a new front: Wearables.

Nike Fuel Band: CC Image courtesy of William Hook on Flickr.

Nike Fuel Band: CC Image courtesy of William Hook on Flickr.

Wearables are generally defined as devices that pair (or connect to) one's current smartphone (typically via bluetooth) to augment the user's experience. These devices are used for gathering health information (in the case of Nike's Fuel Band), taking photographs and videos (Google Glass), or pushing notifications (Pebble Watch). 

In quarter one 2013, 4,673 US adults were surveyed in a Forrester Research survey. 6% said they wore some sort of wearable technology, and 5% said they used a wearable device to monitor their activity. 6% is equal to approximately 11 million people. Yet, Epps thinks the market could be considerably bigger.

In the same survey, consumers indicated interest in a wide range of uses for wearables beyond health and fitness. For example, 44% said they’d be interested in a device that could unlock their car and house so they wouldn’t have to carry keys. 30% said they’d like a device to make media recommendations based on their mood. And 29% said they’d be interested in using a device to track their child’s activity. All of these scenarios and more are possible with today's technology.

While there are many form factors for wearbles, Epps feels that the heads up display has the greatest potential. 

There’s a lot you can do with a wristband, as Jawbone and Nike are demonstrating, but there’s even more you can do with a heads-up display. Google Glass is the most disruptive and compelling competitor in the app wars today, attracting developers from top-tier media brands (CNN, The New York Times), social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Path, Tumblr), as well as independent developers like Lance Nanek.

Ultimately consumers will be the winners in the long run, as more apps will result in greater utility and longevity in the wearables we buy.  

(Sarah Rotman Epps is a Senior Analyst at Forrester Research based in San Francisco.)

Android, the future home of open source

GNU logo

Matt Asay, of Read Write, predicts Android will be the preferred home for open source developers in the future. According to data from Black Duck software, "new Android-related mobile open-source projects outstripped open source iOS projects by a factor of four in 2012, growing by more than 96% each year since 2007. New iOS project growth, on the other hand, was just 32% from 2011 to 2012."

Developers have historically favoured Apple's iOS due to its superior developer tools and monetization. This shift toward Android should be concerning to Apple, as it might suggest open-source developers are beginning to view Android as a better platform for launching new innovative apps.

Check out Matt Asay's article below.

​The need for a new file system-like app for iOS.

Rene Ritchie (of iMore) talks about the need for an improved file browsing system on iOS

Every year, for the last three years, I've asked Apple to consider what amounts to a and FilePicker control in iOS. It would be analogous to the and ImagePicker control, but allow us to easily find, and easily open, all the documents we use on all our iPhones and iPads, every day. Now, on the eve of iOS 7, the need for better file handling -- not filesystem! -- remains, and if anything has become even more urgent.

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