Apple can market that the iPhone platform has thousands upon thousands of applications to choose from but if users don't stay loyal to those applications, is it actually useful? According to Flurry, a mobile analytics group, Android users have a higher application retention rate than their iPhone user counterparts. Meaning, in the long term Android users will continue to use applications while iPhone users will move on to another application.

Why is this so? Flurry suggest three theories:

  • Android offers far fewer applications compared to iPhone. With applications coming out on iPhone at a faster rate, iPhone users move onto other apps more quickly. For Android users, they make more use of what’s available, with less temptation to move to the next application.
  • The Android base tends to be “older,” have less time and interest to try new applications. Once they find an application they like, they stick with it.
  • The Android base is more tolerant, tend to be more tech savvy and find ways to appreciate what they have, even if their applications aren’t perfect.

From the suggested theories, the first theory sounds the most correct without needing to take leaps into assumptions. Android users have less applications to choose from which leads to less competition among apps, less apps to filter, and so on. It should actually come to no surprise that Android users are more 'loyal' to their applications than iPhone users. What is impressive is the difference between the two user bases, Android holds a significant edge in app retention--nearly 42% higher.

Why is this important? Well if I was a developer looking to 'make it' in the mobile market, I would take these statistics very seriously. It raises the question, is it better to have your application downloaded more but used less frequently or downloaded less with higher usage? Time will tell what developers turn to.

What do you guys think?

[via mobilecrunch]


Reader comments

Android Users Use Their Apps Longer than iPhone Users


Also, there are tons of Game apps on the iPhone. Games tend to be used for a while and then removed as new games are discovered by the user. Even games with high replayability still have an inherently limited lifespan.

Two things to note here:

1) As someone who uses both, I will say that yes, I have blown through many apps on the iphone. But the numbers are skewed for this reason.

Example, I downloaded and tried 10 different Movie apps. After I located the one I liked best, I deleted the rest and I use that one religiously now.

So the numbers are skewed. I am very loyal to the one app I chose as the best, and use it every week, but the raw numbers show that 9 other apps were downloaded and not used. So I personally show only a 10% retention rate, even though I use my movie app (Now Playing) constantly.

More choices will cause this as users will try everything in deciding which one they like best. I did the same thing on Android as well. However, there were only about 4 movie apps available at the time to try. So I downloaded all 4, picked one to keep, and deleted the rest. So I show up as a 25% retention rate on Android, despite doing the exact same thing as I did on the iphone.

Lastly, the numbers are also skewed by Free trial apps. Many people downloaded the free version of the app to try it out first. If they liked it, they buy the full version and delete the free trial one, which makes it appear like that app is no longer used in a tracking report like this, despite the fact that the developer is actually happy they are no longer using the free version.

2) As to the question if it's better for a developer to have more apps with less retention or less sales with more retention, that depends on if your app generates revenue off the initial sale or off ads imbedded in the app.

Most free apps have built in ads, so they will want more people using the app vs people downloading it to try and then deleting it. But if you have a cheap paid app without advertising, it doesn't matter to you how often the app is used. Your revenue is made at the time of the sale, and that's it.

Since the field is less muddy for Android, if I were a developer with an app I thought could be a standard (i.e. a great video player), I'd probably put more emphasis into the Android platform to get a stranglehold on that market. Why put as much into iPhone development if there's a ton of great apps covering all needs already? Be the pioneer on Android.