Smartphones: A look at the app count, market share disconnect

Smartphones: A look at the app count, market share disconnect

Summary: When it comes to global smartphone market share the numbers of apps a platform has doesn't necessarily translate to global domination.

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When it comes to global smartphone market share the numbers of apps a platform has doesn't necessarily translate to global domination.

Gartner on Tuesday revealed the top smartphone operating systems for 2009. In a statement, Gartner noted:

In 2009, smartphone sales reached 172.4 million units, a 23.8 percent increase from 2008. In 2009, smartphone-focused vendors like Apple and Research In Motion (RIM) successfully captured market share from other larger device producers.

Here's a look at the stats on a global basis:

Now a few themes instantly jump out.

Apple's iPhone and Google's Android are the fastest growing platforms. Apple grew its market share by 6.2 percent in 2009 from 2008 to bump Windows Mobile out of third place. Android's market share surged 3.5 percent in 2009 from almost nil the year earlier.

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The natural conclusion is that Apple and Android are benefiting from the applications that are swarming to their platforms. Perhaps, but then there's the data from Distimo, via ReadWriteWeb. Distimo presented its app marketplace census at the Mobile World Congress.

Here's the money slide, which covers the U.S. mobile app market:

It's clear you could argue that Apple's App Store has translated to market share gains. It remains to be seen what develops with Android.

However, the dearth of apps on Windows Mobile hasn't led to a market share collapse. Sure, Microsoft is sucking wind, but it still has 8.7 percent of the global market. And the two global share leaders, Nokia and Research in Motion, have respectable app figures, but nothing that makes your jaw drop. Update: Microsoft says it has 1,245 apps available.

Also see: Smartphone Evolution 2.0: Who's the biggest loser?

And with Symbian plotting more competitive versions of its operating system Nokia can at least retain if not grow share.

Simply put, there's an app-market share disconnect in the land of smartphones. Perhaps this disconnect won't last through the next few years, but for now it appears to exist.

So what's going on? Overall, the app count-market share disconnect may be due to point that I mentioned last week about RIM, which reckons it has about 5,000 apps available on its App World store. The raw app count is a meaningless figure.

As long as a phone has the apps I want I'm good.

The big questions:

  • What's the optimal number of mobile applications?
  • What's the point of diminishing returns?
  • Do custom ers really care about gaudy app counts and is it just more junk to wade through?

There are no ready answers for those questions, but I'd bet that the 50,000th app on the iPhone platform was a lot more important than the 140,000th. To wit: Earlier this month Wonder Bread touted its iPhone app. I just don't need a Wonder Bread mobile app to tell me how to make a sandwich. I mean really: How much does the Sandwich Wonder-izer really improve your life?

If you're seriously downloading the Wonder-izer perhaps it's time to go on an app diet.

Topics: Hardware, Apple, Apps, Mobility, Smartphones

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39 comments
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  • Please do another article but this time, for PCs

    Let's see if there is a disconnect between
    marketshare and the number of apps available in
    the official Microsoft store, the official
    Apple store, and the official Linux store.

    Maybe, just maybe, artificially restricting the
    number of apps to the ones you can find in a
    single store is just silly. If you honestly
    believe that there are less than 700 apps
    available for Windows Mobile, you should take
    Handango to court for selling tens of thousands
    of Windows Mobile apps that simply don't exist.
    Oh, but Handango doesn't count...

    Cue the double standards...
    NonZealot
    • Better to stick to the growing market.

      PC's are a mature market with not lots changing.

      WOW!!! Windows Mobile actually lost not only market share
      but total units as well. You have to have a really bad OS to
      loose unit shares in a growing market.
      Bruizer
    • If you are going to bring up handadgo

      for WM you might also want to bring the figures for BB as well - and the other online stores for both platforms. But why stop there? One can get apps for the iPhone form other sources as long as it's jailbroken so it would be silly not to include those sources as well... though admittedly the number of WM and BB aps would be greater than the number of iPhone apps - which should be the case for mobile OS app stores/ sources that have been around for many years vs one that has been around for not even 2 years yet.

      Cue the double standards.
      athynz
  • delete

    delete
    Bruizer
  • What about programs vs apps, Larry?

    I do not know if you have ever used a WinMobile phone, but I have installed and ran a good amount of programs on mine before the iPhone was developed.

    Do they not count as "apps"?
    GuidingLight
    • Yep.

      Sad state affairs in the whole WinMo development world. Little new
      happening there.
      Bruizer
      • Nothing new? Were you living under a rock last week?

        Seems there was a bunch of new info on Windows Phone 7 just last week.

        I'd say that's plenty of new development. Granted, it won't be out until close to the end of this year. But still, there's LOTS of new development going on.
        Wolfie2K3
        • Where do I buy a WP7S?

          Oh wait. I can't. And there is a good chance I won't be able to at all this
          year.

          Is the SDK out yet? Oh wait, Nope.

          So yep, not lots happening in the Windows Mobile market. The 0%
          market share Windows Phone 7 Series is still not available and won't be
          for many many months.
          Bruizer
  • RE: Smartphones: A look at the app count, market share disconnect

    It says Windows Mobile has only 693 apps.

    My website www.CeBeans.com has 6,955 and will have 7,001 apps on March 18 2010.

    Your not counting the beans!!!
    inventor@...
  • RE: Smartphones: A look at the app count, market share disconnect

    I recently upgraded my 6 year old Windows phone to a new Windows phone. I need the compatibility. I have no issues of application-deficit. All that I need is available.
    The number of applications that are available for a phone are only relevant to what an individual needs or wants to use. Nothing more. As our wonderful children are exploring the worlds of applications available, the downturn in useless apps is just around the corner. The kiddies who are driving the current market of app-downloads will become responsible adults who will no longer have time to "play" and will eventually realize the "need versus want" portion of their lives. The apps in their phones will follow suit. This does not negate a growing market of apps, just a down-sizing in the amount of useless ones. Though they will never truly go away because there will always be that "someone" who just can't seem to make a sandwich without guidance.
    No single "Phone O/S" can ever truly be King of the hill so long as there are people who recognize their needs versus available money and act accordingly. And that is a "Wonder-Bread" fact of life. Just food for thought.
    Mr. Tinker
    • Yeah... But...

      The thing is - while today's crop of children grow up and get a clue, there's always a fresh crop of kiddies who will be replacing them. And wanting to play. They will be downloading the craplets the young adults abandon. As long as we humans keep on breeding, there'll always be a market consisting of young skulls full of mush to replace the older ones..
      Wolfie2K3
  • How many tip calculators do I need?

    At last count, I believe there were over 2000 different TIP CALCULATORS available for the iPhone and over 50 for the Android!! Most were free, but some charged money too! For a calculator!?!?!

    There are WAY too many duplicate programs for the iPhone and I think Apple actually LIKES that!!

    Think about it, if they can get 2000 actual applications and then duplicate each one of them just 100 times they will have 200,000 applications!! Okay, so some of us aren't fooled by this...

    Bigger question you SHOULD ask:

    How many of these "apps" are actually PROGRAMS (ie: not games!) I bet that cuts Apples numbers in half right there and Android by about 1/4th...

    Personally, I still believe the Android OS will win out in the end, but it will take a little while before the Apple heads figure out they are really just getting ripped off.
    djalan
    • The funny part is . . .

      How hard is it to calculate a tip, that you need a separate app for it (the iphone and ipod touch both come with a calculator . . .)?
      JLHenry
    • Ah yes, the old tired

      "too many tip calculator apps" line - and soon someone will bring up the other tired line about all the fart apps...

      Let me ask you this: How many other mobile OS platforms have apps that have been proven to save lives? Funny, the article I read on CNN mentioned the iPhone and it's apps... nothing at all about WM, BB, Palm, Android, Symbian, etc. Go figure.
      athynz
      • I remember the jokes on the "flashlight" apps.

        At least one person is still laughing now.
        Bruizer
    • Lots of apps = happier key consumers

      Those consumers that consume a lot of apps, the ones that operators/app platforms love, are always looking for more and newer. They maybe satisfied with their app today, but tomorrow go looking so see if something cooler has come out to replace it.

      So while no one needs 2000 Tip calculators, the sheer volume implies that there is a greater likelihood of something innovative coming out of the garbage. Competition will continue to push apps in every category to one up each other, which at the end of the day benefits both the consumer and the platform.
      ARiggz
    • Personally, I believe the phone with the best user experience will win...

      [i]"Personally, I still believe the Android OS
      will win out in the end, but it will take a
      little while before the Apple heads figure out
      they are really just getting ripped off."[/i]

      And yet, people still like the iPhone user
      experience better...

      So is paying for what you want, like, and enjoy
      being "ripped off"??? If so I better stop
      buying the quilted northern bath tissue I like,
      and the comfortable quality clothing I like,
      and the food I like, and stop paying for the TV
      channels I like... CR@P!!! I AM BEING RIPPED
      OFF!!!! OH GOD!!! Thank you djalan for pointing
      out my ignorance!!! I didn't know I was being
      "ripped off" and "taken advantage of" for
      spending my money on the things I like and
      enjoy.... You saved me brotha... I owe you my
      life...
      i8thecat
  • RE: Smartphones: A look at the app count, market share disconnect

    This is the oddest comparison I think I've seen for ages. There are about a gazillion applications for WM and Symbian platform devices, few of which are in the "app stores". There are over 3000 free apps for the Symbian platform at www.symbian-freeware.com alone. Plus tons of Java based apps. And many of these are real apps , not HTML cosmetics wrapped around an existing website that purport to be apps as found at some walled garden store I could name. By this analysis (sic) Palm should be in 2nd place with with the Treo 680 (for which there are about 30k apps). And I don't need a desktop/laptop to download my apps.
    MrBeck
  • Look at that App Count! NOT!

    Ok - so I won't be belabor the point. It's true, Windows
    Mobile has a ton more apps available than the 600+ shown
    here. Palm has more apps available in the semi-sanctioned
    Homebrew area.

    So I think the real disconnect is the research for the
    article. It's not just the apps.
    Olderdan
  • RE: Smartphones: A look at the app count, market share disconnect

    The metric that matters is app revenue. Very few Android
    users buy apps. I suspect the revenue for RIM's store
    exceeds the revenue on Android.
    PlayScreen