What Do Top Paid Apps Say About the Smartphone Platform?

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With WES 2010 just around the corner, you can bet RIM are going to make some announcements about App World and the number of applications currently in their portfolio. Mainstream media are constantly quoting app numbers, and comparing the major smartphone platforms purely based on these numbers, without any real understanding of the value that the smartphone user is getting from these apps.

Personally, I think smartphone app value comes from its ability to solve a problem. Can I do something faster or more efficiently with the app? Great, then that app provides real value. Am I saving money with this app? Excellent, sign me up. Everything else, be it games, themes or entertainment, is important to a good app economy, but I’d like to make the argument that it’s not where the real value is in smatphones.

Lets take a look at the top paid apps in Android, BlackBerry and iPhone, to get an idea of the tangible value that these smartphones are providing their uers. By taking the top paid apps, we get an idea for where the users are spending their money, and what they’re getting out of it. I’ve only listed the top 10, but I’ve linked to where the rest of the apps can be found, and I’m trying to be as general as possible.

Android

Game – Abduction! World Attack
Utility – Power Manager
Game – Baseball Superstars 2009
Theme – Open Home – Full
Game – Jewellust
Utility – MyBackup Pro
Game – Tangram Pro
Theme – aHome
Theme – dxTop: Home Alternative
Game – Aevum Obscurum

Out of the top 10 paid apps, 20% are utilities, 50% are games and 30% are themes. This ratio of productivity to entertainment apps seems prevalent throughout the Android market and represents a nice mix of applications. You can’t deny that Android have done a great job making their platform easy to develop for and this has resulted in a nice adoption by developers. Android could do a little better when it comes to themes, and their top utilities don’t seem to provide as much value as what we’re seeing in App World.

BlackBerry

Utility – BeBuzz – LED Colors and Audible Reminders
Game – Druglord Wars 2
Game – Hangman
Utility – MemoryBooster
Theme – miPhone 3G
Utility – MLB.com at Bat (news reader)
Game – Tetris
Utility – Mobile Checkbook
Utility – Calorie Tracker by LIVESTRONG
Game – Bejeweled

In App World, the top 10 apps are broken down to 50% utilities, 40% games and 10% themes. Going through the top paid apps, BlackBerry offer significantly more value than the other platforms. This mix of applications is generally consistent throughout the top paid apps in App World, and demonstrates that users want real value and developers are providing it. There are a few BlackBerry apps that are classified as utilities, but don’t necessarily provide much value to the user. For example, memory boosting apps are dubious in their ability to provide value to the user, but they’re very popular for BlackBerry. We try and educate the users as best as possible here on BlackBerryCool, but not everyone reads the blogs.

iPhone

Game – Crash Bandicoot
(Game?) – Koi Pond
Game – Enigmo
Game – Bejeweled 2
Game – iBeer
Game – Moto Chaser
Utility – Pocket Guitar
Game – Flick Fishing
Game – TETRIS
Game – Texas Hold’em

The App Store is unique in that 100% of the above titles are games. In fact, if you look at the whole list of top paid apps, there isn’t a single utility. I find it very relevant that a smartphone that boasts having the most number of applications in their store, doesn’t have a single top paid app that aims to give the user any tangible value. While I respect the iPhone’s ability to create visually rich and entertaining games, it isn’t where the real potential for smartphones lies. It seems iPhone are moving more towards being a portable gaming device, and less towards a computer in your pocket.

There are many reasons why the top paid apps might not include utilities focused on saving time or money. It might not necessarily mean that they don’t exist, but rather the demographic using the device is more inclined to spend their money on entertainment versus productivity. Also, marketing dollars spent on a platform may be geared towards entertainment more than productivity, which could skew the numbers as well. In the end, I’m going to go to the smartphone that has developers making apps that save me time and money. A brief look at the above smartphones tells me BlackBerry leads in this respect, with Android in close second. Apple have yet to convince me that they can create real value for their users, and take advantage of what modern smartphones are capable of providing.

In the end, the numbers are meaningless. It doesn’t matter how many applications are in your portal. What matters most is where the value-added application developers are going.

  • smartphonereport

    Um, could it be that the iPhone platform is so well balanced that it doesn't need apps that alter it's system?

    I mean compare it to your BlackBerry list: It doesn't have the memory leaks of a BB, so Memory Booster isn't needed and it's notification system is so well done, you don't need to have a special notification program like BeBuzz.

    Comparing it to the Android apps, Backup is great, but doesn't the iPhone back up through ITunes? Again, through the wonders of limiting the device, you don't need power management functions since it's already streamlined into the OS.

    Overall, the list pretty much boils down the fact that most people use their iPhones to run the basics (Voice/Text/Browsing) and play games. This is obviously making Apple and the paid developers some money. BlackBerry has been around so long that there are millions of free games to play already and Android is too new to try to compare it.

    That said, what would be truly interesting would be to compare the number of free apps to paid apps downloaded – then we would see what platform is really generating money for the developers and what utilities are being used that the OS's lack.

  • papped

    Or it could be that Apple doesn't allow any apps that “duplicate existing functionality”, which is extremely, subjectively used by them to ban any apps that offer new functionality to something that exists…

  • Len

    I have a Blackberry and my girlfriend has an Iphone so I've had plenty of experience with both.

    I think it's more that Apple doesn't allow for apps which alter their system. The Iphone lacks a lot of utilities but Apple doesn't fully allow developers to address this issue. If Apple allowed apps that could do this, I'm positive there would be a lot of demand for it amongst Iphone users. At the moment, the amount of customization you can do native on the Iphone is next to null when compared to what's offered native on Blackberry OS.

    As for the notification system, I have used both and Blackberry's notification system is miles ahead of the Iphone in terms of allowing the user to customize how they would like to be notified for nearly every imaginable situation, whereas the Iphone is pretty limited in this respect.

    The point of the article I don't think was meant to show which platform generates the most money from apps. I believe it was meant to show what is the nature of users on each platform. So an Iphone would be more of a media/gaming device, whereas a BlackBerry more of a productivity device.

    It shows you the strengths of each platform. An iphone in my opinion would be horrible for productivity just like a Blackberry is horrible for gaming. To each their own.

  • http://seriousmobile.wordpress.com Donny

    Oddly enough, Papped, on the iPhone 3GS there are WAY TOO MANY apps that duplicate and augment existing functionality: Things, MemoPad, etc. Its too convoluted a system for anyone that takes their direction in life more seriously than just games or audio production on the fly – not too seriously. I personally am just getting into Audio production and learning Java. I cannot WAIT for BlackBerry to fully support their SDK in Eclipse & also on Mac OS X for which Eclipse is equally available natively.

    RIM seriously needs to tap into the creative base of users that are on Mac OS X's platform for computers (not iPhone as that OS X is stripped and specific to touch user interface only).

    Right now and always prior … Apple has advertised the iPhone simply as that … a PHONE not a smartphone; mostly because without jailbreaking its not up to tasks (pun intended as Tasks on iPhone blows chunks)! iPhone is a glorified feature phone at best. you NEED those massive amounts of applications to try thru murky waters just to get that one app to augment just 1 feature; let alone pay for it and yet another desktop app that allows for sync'ing. Sorry but for now that platform is a FOOLS game and easy cash grab for developers.

    PS: I have nothing against developers that work hard to offer sound quality apps to end users or to business/corporations – but those GREEDY developers that complain about changes in advertising for their apps, by Apple, when they've already made a killing living off those sales – original FaceBook iPhone app developer, ahem – then its not really worth it. I pay for quality apps that enhance my life, tasks, and goals – another end to a mean – not for show & tell

  • http://seriousmobile.wordpress.com Donny

    Oddly enough, Papped, on the iPhone 3GS there are WAY TOO MANY apps that duplicate and augment existing functionality: Things, MemoPad, etc. Its too convoluted a system for anyone that takes their direction in life more seriously than just games or audio production on the fly – not too seriously. I personally am just getting into Audio production and learning Java. I cannot WAIT for BlackBerry to fully support their SDK in Eclipse & also on Mac OS X for which Eclipse is equally available natively.

    RIM seriously needs to tap into the creative base of users that are on Mac OS X's platform for computers (not iPhone as that OS X is stripped and specific to touch user interface only).

    Right now and always prior … Apple has advertised the iPhone simply as that … a PHONE not a smartphone; mostly because without jailbreaking its not up to tasks (pun intended as Tasks on iPhone blows chunks)! iPhone is a glorified feature phone at best. you NEED those massive amounts of applications to try thru murky waters just to get that one app to augment just 1 feature; let alone pay for it and yet another desktop app that allows for sync'ing. Sorry but for now that platform is a FOOLS game and easy cash grab for developers.

    PS: I have nothing against developers that work hard to offer sound quality apps to end users or to business/corporations – but those GREEDY developers that complain about changes in advertising for their apps, by Apple, when they've already made a killing living off those sales – original FaceBook iPhone app developer, ahem – then its not really worth it. I pay for quality apps that enhance my life, tasks, and goals – another end to a mean – not for show & tell