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Lessons for App Developers as Asia’s Mobile Apps Download Volume Reaches 5 Million

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011
apps

The mobile technology in use today has come a long way from just making calls and receiving them. Apps, or applications, are driving mobile technology as sophisticated software helps us complete mind boggling tasks from the convenience of our mobiles. Cost-effective, safe and fast, apps are today unifying all the online technologies from ePayment, eBanking, eCommerce, eReading, watching movies or booking airline tickets.

Mobile App Download Volume Pegged at 5 Million in Asia

App developers today are able to provide specific apps for a whole host of tasks. There is an app to watch our e-wallets; one for reading the day’s weather forecast; or there is an app to get onto Facebook and another app specifically for Twitter. Analysts like Ovum have numbers to prove that by the end of 2011, the Asia-Pacific region will achieve 5 billion app downloads, almost four times the mobile app download volume of 1.6 billion last year. If these trends persist, it is most likely that by 2016, the number of downloads could well pass 14 billion. There is expectation that paid app download trends will reach US$871 million by the end of the year and around $2.2 billion by 2016 globally. The Asian market segment are drivers of the non-paid app market and developers will have to target this consumer segment. Prolific, tactile, and robust apps for mobiles are what users download, as much for running their business or keeping in touch with the office as for leveraging it for their personal use. The line of division between both is very thin and app developers should seek to address this dual category-use by consumers.

Developers now also need to focus on niche region-based markets, considering the rising disparity in content consumption. Every region has certain cultural, social and work-specific habits and there is to be a strong requirement for such mobile apps in the future. A single app for a particular task may not be as successful to an app store as would multiple apps for the same task but embedded with localized flavors.

Apps are the New Key-drivers for Content Consumption

Apps are currently the most significant ‘influencers’ of mobile phone users adopting Smartphones and Featurephones. Apps provide users not only with a unique user experience but lots of choice too. Besides, they are cost-effective and ensure users have a virtual assistant in their palm. Apps are becoming a necessity today, whether it is booking airline/railway tickets, finding a location using a GPS app, or reading an e-book; in each case, the quality and the technology of the app will define the user experience.

Mobile usage user-experience with a well developed app propels greater download volumes, and this is what is driving the unprecedented growth in the number of app users, especially in the markets of Asia and the Asia-Pacific region.

The mobile app consumption rate in this part of the world is primarily being driven with two clearly defined app markets – the first being China, followed by the fast-growing South Korean market. Earlier app usage, in contrast, was rather Europe-centric, with Germany and France leading the number of downloads of apps for mobiles.

Why are Apps driving the industry?

Application software is specialized computer software that performs or executes a specific task. Technically, apps have been around for several years, but it was only after the uncanny success of Apple Inc.’s App Store, with its unique monetization model, that the world woke up entirely to the opportunities and the technology.

The quantum jump in the usage of mobiles is due to two important reasons. First is the superior performance of the combination of new-age mobile hardware and operating systems. The second reason is the thousands of specialized software applications coming available, bringing value-addition to the traditional services of mobiles. They have emerged as the key-driver in the evolution of mobile technology today.

Now, every mobile system manufacturer has built in the capability to offer apps unique to the ecosystem they provide on their phones. The number of apps available as well as the number of app stores offering these new age wares has changed dramatically in the previous financial quarters. Peer reviews influence user’s choice of apps for their mobile devices. The entire model of accessing, installing, and using these apps, along with customizing features are increasing their download and adoption rates.

Trends in App download

In the past few months, there has been an apparent trend in the type of app downloads happening. Low-priced apps are driving the download trends across all platforms. Secondly, Android app downloads are on the increase. This is far different from trends a few months ago, where Apple’s iTunes apps store continued to dominate with a maximum number of downloads globally.

Expectations are running high around the Android, with the number of predicted downloads at 1.8 billion. Predictions for Apple iOS are around 1.5 million. Up until now, the trend has been about 244 million for Android this year, followed by 424 million for iOS during the same period.

Another interesting aspect with mobile app download numbers is that Android will achieve an astounding 6.07 billion downloads as opposed to 3.4 billion in 2016. These will be largely due to the increase in the number of individual players -Skype, Samsung, Google, etc. These mobile makers are now creating their own niche apps suited for their mobile ecosystem, thereby creating deeper inroads into this massive mobile app consumer market.

The mobile app market would then be poised for market consolidation, especially for position number three. It has been a foregone conclusion that Apple’s iTunes will remain as the market leader, with close to 70 percent of the app market. Google’s Android runs a close second with 16 percent. Likely contenders for third spot include Windows Phone, going one up on BlackBerry with an increase in the number of downloads and revenues up to 2015.

Why do Some Apps Work only on Particular Brands?

Typically, there are two types of software running our mobiles, desktops and tablets. Branded proprietary software such as that available on Microsoft’s latest models Windows 7 Phone and Apple Inc.’s iPhone 5 have their own specialized software to run the hardware skeletons of their various mobile phones. In fact, Apple Inc. have their own ‘A series processors’, such as the A5 processor for their iDevices. Microsoft, on the other hand, uses traditional processors and chips made by Intel and Nvidia to build their brand of mobile phones.

The second type of software that mobile phones use is the freely available opensource software, which is generically called Android software.

Both software types (the operating systems) work differently and hence require operating system-based apps. This has spurred the increase in the number of app stores being set up and the software being made available.

Analysts predict that this is where the competition within the mobile app industry will continue to happen, thus spawning further download trends. At one end of the spectrum are the Android Apps, numbering about a few thousand, and at the extreme other end is the branded Apple App Store, running up close to a million apps.

Why is there a Recent Boom in Mobile App Download Volumes in Asia?

Most mobile manufacturers and developers today are focusing on the increasing app download volumes of Asia. Distimo is an Apple app analytic firm and its latest analysis substantiates the claim that the boom-time in mobile app industry is largely due to Asia’s two largest markets – China and South Korea.

Distimo actually noted some distinct features in the relevant social consumption patterns. In South Korea, local rules do not allow inclusion of games apps in the App Store. Despite this, South Korea has a better download volume, when considered in terms of the per capita consumption. Almost every other country’s download volume is driven by games apps.

Asian Consumers are Price-conscious of the Apps

Distimo’s market study has also revealed that Asian mobile app users are very conscious of the prices of the apps they want to download. In fact, almost one-third of Asians are less likely to purchase apps.

Therefore, the volumes of downloads are in the categories of games and entertainment. However, only low-cost apps and free downloads are the most popular downloads.

Therefore, developers need to adopt a different platform for effective app marketing. At one level, most apps need to be localized. The most popular apps in the western markets are not exactly in the top 10 apps in local Asian app stores. Therefore, the flavor and content on these apps need to be more adaptable for Asian consumers.

The Future of Apps

Presently the most popular method of app delivery is the off deck method. This is the model adopted by Apple for its App Store. However, in models like Nokia, an on-deck method is in use to load apps. In this method, apps come with the model and the monetization processes of this method is quite different. Hence, it can be said that the right price and technology will drive the future of mobile apps consumption.

Asia at the Forefront of Digital Consumption

A region-wise analysis of consumption patterns reveals that Asia and the Asia-Pacific region is prolific in the use of digital devices, especially the adoption of Android-based Smartphones. Asian consumers are the largest consumers of digital content thanks to the effective use of apps. There is a prolific use to perform almost all every-day activities on the super-sophisticated phones widely available today.

Hence, apps will play a very critical role in the continuing use of mobiles in this region. As long as apps remain good value-for-money, low-priced and deliver on good content, their usage is projected to cross the 3.4 billion mark in Asia and its neighbors alone.

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