Do Free Apps Really Account For 89% Of All Downloads?

A few days ago a report was released noting that free applications account for over 89% of all downloads in the various app stores. At Distimo we frequently give our take on similar numbers and although 89% seems a very high figure we are having doubts that it might be even higher. So let’s have a look at the facts in our data.

The first country to look at is the United States as the majority of the downloads are generated there. In the Apple App Store for iPhone in the United States we found that the volume among the top 300 most popular free applications was in July 2012 roughly 15 times that among the top 300 most popular paid applications. One could argue that the top 300 is not a good reflection of the whole store, but if we look at the 10,000 most downloaded applications for both free and paid in the U.S. we find an even higher ratio of 19x.

Although the data from the Apple App Store for iPhone gives a lot of insight, it is increasingly not the main driver of downloads anymore. In many countries Google Play surpassed the Apple App Store for iPhone. Moreover, Amazon Appstore and the Apple App Store for iPad are among the more important app stores, certainly in terms of monetization. If we look at the figures from those stores we find that the ratio in the Google Play is even higher, the top 300 most popular free applications is downloaded on average 82 times more often than the top 300 most popular paid applications. For the Apple App Store for iPad and Amazon Appstore in the United States, the ratios are lower (11x / 12x) but still below the 10x you would expect if the 89%  figure is true.

As said the United States is the single largest market, but certainly not the only market. Increasingly countries like China, Japan and Korea are becoming main drivers of the world-wide download volume. Therefore to validate how the ratios look like over the world in the worldmap below the ratios in the Apple App Store for iPhone are given per country. As becomes clear the United States has one of the lowest ratios, while countries like China and Saudia Arabia have ratios of over 100. So, although we didn’t take into account all appstores, we think it is fair to say we covered the appstores that generate the vast majority of all app downloads in the world and found a significant higher proportion of downloads being free.

At Distimo we think more than 89% of all downloads are free and we expect the proportion of free downloads to even increase in the coming years due to the success of in-app purchases. With all these apps moving to selling in-app purchases the question of in store revenue (including revenue from in-apps) per app becomes more important than free vs. paid downloads. This will be covered soon on our blog, so stay tuned.

Gert Jan Spriensma