iTunes App Store: The First Five Months

Taking a cue from Raven’s recent post announcing the 10,000 iPhone app milestone, I decided to update some charts from earlier posts on the U.S. iTunes app store. First, the weekly growth in the number of apps was slower in November: the number of apps grew less than 10% on a weekly basis for all of November. During the last week of November, there were close to 9,800 unique apps, 22% of which were free.

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The average price of a Top 100 paid app continued to decline, falling to a little over $2.60 in the last week of November:

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Since high-priced top-sellers actually inflate the MEAN price, I created an alternate chart using the median (the decline in the MEDIAN price is even sharper). The corresponding price distribution continued its downward shift as it becomes harder for high-priced apps to crack the Top 100 paid apps list.

Having more than doubled over the last two months, Gaming remains the largest category accounting for a quarter of all apps. The fastest growing categories were Education and Lifestyle. Medical is the newest app category and as of the end of November there were over 80 medical apps, the 10 most popular of which were free. Among Game apps, Racing, Music, and Sports were the fastest growing Game sub categories.

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There has been a slight increase in the proportion of Games priced at 99 cents or lower:

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Finally, I computed the share of free apps by category and found that some of the smaller categories have a higher share of free apps. Social Networking apps tend to be apps designed to help users access social web sites from their iPhone, while News apps do the same for news/media sites. In both the Social Networking and News categories, the Free outnumber the Paid apps.

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I didn’t revisit my previous analysis of the top-selling apps, but I suspect not much has changed since my post at the beginning of November. Among the items I do hope to cover in the future is an analysis of app publishers.

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  • http://qtp.blogspot.com Sachin

    I have almost all the free apps on my iphone in India

  • http://www.edragonu.ro Dragos Roua

    Quite interesting! Why do you think they keep the prices going down? Competition? Crisis? Lack of quality?

    Thank you.

  • Leha

    It’s interesting that while education has the least proportion of free apps, it is still the fastest growing.

  • http://www.socialsquared.com Jess Sloss

    Thanks for the info. I wouldn’t have thought that paid was more popular than free. Very valuable info

  • Beau Vrolyk

    As a addicted iPhone Ap user, I must say that I download a massive number of free Aps and then throw away the ones that don’t work well. This is going to screw up the analysis you’ve done, if there are many folks like me. I’m guessing I download 10 to 15 free Aps a day. Today’s count was 8 so far.

  • jarrett

    The most impressive information here is what is actually not mentioned. This is the first five months. Just wait until this thing have tripled by July 2009. Can you imagine how many iPhones and iPod Touches will be sold between now and then?? Apple will sell about 15 million iPhones/iPod Touches combined this holiday season. So literally with the installed base of users, plus the holidays and then 7 months of sales we could easily be looking at 30 to 40 million App Store users. and think about this, if you have iTunes you have access to the App Store, so you see some very cool Apps, and then you pull out your credit card to purchase you iPhone/iPod Touch. 70 million iTunes account already, But iTunes itself has been downloaded over 600 million times.

  • http://www.jonmetzler.com/blog jjm

    Great work. This is very informative. Two questions that come out of this are the impact the iPhone/iPod Touch is or will have on the handheld gaming market, and also on the PND market. Smartphones, the iPhone included, would seem to have much more utility than a standalone PND.

    • http://radar.oreilly.com/ben/ Ben Lorica

      @jjm: In an earlier post, I touched on the iPhone as a gaming platform. Sony and Nintendo are surely paying attention, especially with the impressive sales numbers being generated by some of the more popular games.

      I agree that PND’s will lose sales to Smartphones. We discussed this looming trend in a recent report.

  • Nicolas

    Would you share your data source? Where did you get the data? Thanks

    • http://radar.oreilly.com/ben/ Ben Lorica

      @Nicolas We get our data directly from iTunes.

  • http://mattmchugh.com Matt McHugh

    Excellent article. Really gives a good perspective on the phenomenon.

    I’m absolutely fascinated with the iTunes App store. I check every day for what goodies might appear. I’ve bought some apps, and downloaded many freebies. I’ve got games, file utilities, social networks, scientific references, pointless e-toys, and a score of ebooks. (In fact, I was so enamored of the potential of the iPhone as a book reader that I partnered up with a developer to release a free one: “Scrooge & Cratchit” – A Sequel to ‘A Christmas Carol’ … check it out sometime: http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=298414825&mt=8 )

    Shameless plugs aside, I think iTunes Apps represent the future of handheld computing the same way the iPod itself seized control of the music industry six years ago. When I first got my iPod Touch, I was horrified at how little it did. Basically, it was a slick music/video player that kinda did e-mail. Now, less than a year later, I’m continuously rediscovering it’s potential.

    There’s still a ways to go, but I can envision a day where I’ll go on a week-long business trip without a laptop and not miss it in the least. My Newtown, my Zoomer, my Palm… I loved them all in their day. My App-stocked iPod blows them all away.

    – mattmchugh.com

  • Arti

    This is really informative. Would you by any chance have any data on the third applications available on other smartphone platforms such as Symbian and Windows Mobile? Also would you have/know of any source for data on the sales of specific devices (such as the iPhone, HTC Touch, Blackberry etc.) by the different operators like AT&T and Verizon?

  • http://www.jonmetzler.com/blog jjm

    Thanks for the response. You did indeed touch on the iPhone’s impact on gaming in an earlier post, which I very much enjoyed.

    Perhaps last year was the PND high water mark – I do recall going to a Target in a not particularly affluent area last holiday season and hearing staff on the loudspeaker talking about the “GPS department”. The term GPS itself has gone the way of Kleenex or Xerox.

  • Joe

    On your first graph, free is orange and paid is blue, but on your last graph, free is blue and paid is orange. It’s very interesting information, but maybe aligning the colors would make it easier to read.