An App, App Appy Year

With more than 700,000 apps now stuffing each of the Apple and Google Play stores this year, there are no signs yet that they are struggling under their own weight. Perennial issues of discovery and user longevity issues aside, this economy continues to thrive in generating revenue (at least for some) and expanding globally.

According to app analytics firm Ditimo’s year-end round-up, daily revenue at the Google Play app market grew 43% in the 20 largest global markets, while the larger App Store at Apple also grew its daily take 21%. As we have noted before, the sheer scale of the Android platform’s penetration advantage, along with the much-improved Google Play market experience, helped that OS see remarkable gains in app sales in the last half of 2012. The iOS app platform continues to dominate Android handily.

International growth was different for each of the platforms. The iPhone apps saw their greatest expansion in Japan (+138%), China (118%) and Russia (+96%), while Android app revenue grew most in Korea (+94%), Japan (60%) and France (46%). The iPad was the biggest source of iOS growth, especially in Russia (+143%), Japan (+112%) and Denmark (+111%). Russia, in fact, is downright iPad crazy, with 46% of iOS app downloads going to the tablet. In the U.S., barely a quarter (24%) of iOS downloads are for the iPad.

Distimo notes that the broadening scale of app stores worldwide also led to much faster blockbuster hits. In 2012 it took Draw Something only 9 days to exceed 1 million users. Asian app hit Line Pop passed that milestone in only three days later in the year and grabbed over $1 million in revenue in the first 12 days.

Games remain the overwhelming king of app hill, accounting for a third of all downloads and most of the revenue activity in App-Land. The freemium model expanded in 2012, with in-app purchases now accounting for 69% of all app revenue, up from 53% last year.

Wealth in the app economy is also clustered around some key players. By November of this year, only six apps were responsible for 10% of revenue from the iPad and seven for iPhone. On Google Play, four apps accounted for 10% of revenues. Electronic Arts, Zynga and Gameloft were the leading publishers across the platforms. Apple itself (#4) was the only productivity-oriented publisher among the top ten, largely because its six or seven apps are the default tools for many users of their platforms and their higher price.

The top ten apps in the App Store for 2012 were Instagram, Temple Run, Find My Phone, Facebook, iBooks, Draw Something Free, iTunes U, YouTube, Podcasts and Twitter.

In Google Play the top ten downloads were Street View, Facebook, Voice Search, Maps, Gmail, YouTube, Adobe Flash Player, Skype, Whatsapp Messenger and KakaoTalk.

But in this last Mobile Insider before Christmas, here are a few of the apps this Santa will be handing out to his family’s smartphones and tablets this year.

Magazine Newsstand on Google Play: there are precious few apps that make a strong case for the Android tablet, even if the Nexus 7 is a very impressive hardware value. But Google’s support of the magazine newsstand is very welcome. Interestingly, this newsstand separates from both Apple and Nook magazine stores in that it skews decidedly male. Yes, guys are curling up with their magazines, too.

You Don’t Know Jack: the classic PC and Web trivia games show migrates to the iOS platform, and it feels as if this was the interface YDKJ was waiting for. Superb lean-back/lean-in mechanics. And I love the free game-a-day model as a marketing device.

A Christmas Carol Drawn and Told: From developer Alan Snow for Android and iOS, this full audio reading of the Dickens tale comes with wonderful Michael Cole illustrations. For those with ambitions of reading the story every Christmas Eve, here is a great way to lean back with the family and let the technology do it for you.

Battle of the Bulge: Okay, not exactly in the Christmas spirit. But this brilliant arrival of class board wargame play to the iPad is what a lot of old geeks like me have been waiting to see. If any of you recognize the company names Avalon Hill or SPI (and you know who you are), then run, don’t walk for this update of the experience.

This Is Not An App: This offbeat tool from author Keri Smith is a series of loose exercises in tapping your creativity and self-awareness. Some exercises challenge you to practice stream of consciousness, declare important things, or document this fleeting moment. You will either enjoy the flow of the exercises or feel like walking away from this overeager Yoga instructor.

Appy holidays.

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