The Plight of the Android App Wallflowers
Android device users spend more time on their apps than on the mobile Web, and the top 10 apps account for 43 percent of that time, according to Nielsen.
When the top 50 Android apps are considered, they account for 61 percent of the time Android device users spend on apps.
That means the rest of the nearly 250,000 Android apps available have to compete for the remaining 39 percent of users' time spent on apps.
Does this mean creators of the less popular apps aren't making any money at all? Is there no long tail in the Android ecosystem? And how does this compare to Apple's iOS app ecosystem?
Earnings on the Android Market
"The top 50 apps on Android are making enormous amounts of money, but even the smallest apps at the end of the long tail can make about US$1 every 7 to 10 days with banner advertising," Estuardo Robles, vice president at Appsgeyser, told LinuxInsider.
However, apps don't depend strictly on ads for revenue -- they also offer in-app sales.
"Time spent in an app usually equates to more ad dollars, and maybe the top 10 properties are generating more ad dollars than the long tail -- but the long tail generates a significant amount of money from in-app purchases," Simon Khalaf, CEO of Flurry Analytics, pointed out.
Mobile gaming revenues will exceed $16 billion in 2016 as in-app payments grow, ABI Research found.
Despite this, Android app devs will make less money on the whole from in-app purchases than devs creating apps for Apple's iOS mobile operating system.
Android's billing system is clunky, and Android apps generate one-fifth to one-sixth of the revenue an iOS app does, Flurry Analytics found.
Making Money With Android
Instead of trying to get banner ads, Android devs should employ the freemium model, Flurry's Khalaf told LinuxInsider.
"If a developer makes a free version of his Android app with limited features, and offers a paid premium or pro version with more features and options for in-app purchases and so on, we find that he'll make as much money as he'll make with an iOS app," Appgeyser's Robles said.
However, dollar for dollar, iOS apps make more money for devs than Android apps do.
That's partly because Google's in-app billing system is clunky compared to that of Apple's iTunes App Store.
Further, developers' customers often prefer iOS apps, and that takes away developer time from working on Android apps.
"Every customer that approaches me asks for an iOS app first and an Android version later," Mercury Development's Greenman said.
Getting Consumers to Pick Your App
Developers have to focus on quality, design and marketing.
"You need to ensure quality," Appsgeyser's Robles said. "Otherwise, you will get negative ratings, which will really affect your app."
Design is equally important.
"Put good graphics work into your app icon and description," advised Robles. "The principal way people discover your app is through their eyes."
"The research findings make it clear that it's all about discovery, Don Kellogg, director of telecom research and insights at Nielsen, told LinuxInsider. "How can you make it easy for people to find your app? How can you ignite positive word of mouth? How can app stores and other aggregators improve the consumer experience to make it easier for consumers to discover a broader range of quality apps?"
Then, devs have to promote the app and boost its initial downloads.
"We've discovered that promoting your app within other apps is the most effective way to convert downloads," Robles said.
"It's very difficult to get noticed in this market," Melanie Moffett, marketing manager at Amadeus Consulting, told LinuxInsider.
"You need to have a cohesive marketing plan along with your app, or you probably won't see a return on your investment."