Smartphones

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

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

This is a guest post from Larry Dignan of TechRepublic’s sister site ZDNet. You can follow Larry on his ZDNet blog Between the Lines, or subscribe to the RSS feed.

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.

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 draw drop.

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.

12 comments
Video V-Tour Marketing
Video V-Tour Marketing

App count is an interesting stat (but) knowing the # of downloads per app would also be of great interest?

gkujansuu128248mi
gkujansuu128248mi

The number of apps is one way of looking at this market, but what about the actual usefulness of apps. How many apps are downloaded and never to be used again?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Can you clarify what "Linux" refers to in the first chart? Android, WebOS and at least two (Maemo, Moblin) under the "Other" category all use a Linux base. What distribution would that separate kernel reference be related to?

.Martin.
.Martin.

apple has it's stake of the 'smartphone' market share. without it, the iPhone would just have it apple fanboy/fangirl market

adakar_sg
adakar_sg

When half the apps are pull my finger.. does it really count? I feel the app number is some e-penis number that doesnt translate to anything except how many people are able to make fart-apps to the platform

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

.. like the difference between number of vulnerabilities found being less important than the rate at which they are patched. Who cares if the Iphone has a billion apps if only fifty thousand get any noticeable downloads.

CharlesG1970
CharlesG1970

Being new to Android, I am looking for interesting apps. I searched for Battery apps, and got over 100 choices, they all tell you the % of batt power remaing. It is not practical to count, but what makes the difference is the number of unique apps. There is probably a magic number around 1,000 unique apps. After all who really cares if there are 3 or 30 battery apps, all you really need is one or two good apps for each function.

.Martin.
.Martin.

every mobile marketplace had a fart-centre, full of fart apps.

adakar_sg
adakar_sg

more or less Read that one firm have filed a law suit because they made "iFart" while the other firm made "Pull my finger" using the phrase i fart or something similar.. Farting apps is a serious business.. I weep for humanity

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Shouldn't we be considering the sound reproduction quality of the smart-phone's speaker? What good is a smartphone with a fart app if it doesn't reproduce the sound as the app designer intended? It's not how many fart apps are available for the OS, it's how the available ones sound on the related hardware. Geez; c'mon, people. It's all about the hardware.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

.. and how long before they win the great restaurant wars?

.Martin.
.Martin.

cause everything is happening in 2010 :p

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