Are Android Users Cheapskates?

If you are launching an app in Apple’s App Store, you might as well charge for it, since the Mac crowd seems to love to throw its money around. But if you want to have success with an Android app, free is the way to go.
Those are two intriguing conclusions arrived at by Anindya Datta, founder and chairman of Mobilewalla, which aims to become the default search and discovery company for mobile applications. Datta said based on two years of collecting data on mobile apps, he’s uncovered a somewhat puzzling disparity between the way pricing impacts the success of apps on Apple devices versus Android devices.
It turns out that pricing of Apple apps does not seem to impact their success, implying that app developers would be better off charging for their products. Conversely, high priced apps consistently rank lower in the Android market, found Datta, who conclude that free, ad-supported apps are the way to go on those devices.
Mobilewalla claims to have a unique, comprehensive view into the app market. The company, which introduced a mobile search site in March and plans to introduce a similar mobile search tool, culls its data from what is publicly available in the Apple and Android stores to sites like YouTube and Facebook, where many apps are marketed. “We have as much information as anybody else out there,” said Datta.
Datta provided some raw number to illustrate his findings. Mobilewalla has identified nearly 132,000 free apps in Apple’s App Store, versus close to 244,000 paid apps. Meanwhile, in the Android market Mobilewalla’s data found the opposite pattern: 158,000 or so free apps versus close to 78,000 paid apps.
Plus, the highest priced apps in Apple’s store are $999, versus just $200 for Android.
So why such a difference in price sensitivity? Datta has two theories. For one, ranking in various top ten lists is crucial for app discovery, and ultimately adoption by consumers. For some reason “the core ranking system in Android is biased towards free,” said Datta. Whereas with Apple, pricing doesn’t seem to impact ranking.
Second, “Apple devices are not overwhelmingly distributed in the developing world, where Android’s penetration is 10 times higher,” said Datta. Thus, in places like rural India, consumers simply have less disposable income, and are unlikely to pay for as many apps.

So does this present a major opportunity for advertisers to underwrite Android apps? “Absolutely,” said Datta.

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