Christmas sends mobile marketing costs to a record, Fiksu says

Apple’s blowout $46.3 billion quarter turned out to be pretty expensive for iOS developers too.

Fiksu, a company that helps developers find the most cost-effective ways to acquire users, says marketing costs rose to a record in December as companies spent aggressively to lock-up the top of the charts.

The cost to acquire a loyal user (or one that opens an app three times) rose to $1.81, up 26.5 percent from the previous month. The top 200 free iPhone apps also saw an average of 6.04 million downloads a day in the U.S., up 7 percent from the previous month’s 5.65 million record.

A spending binge in the middle of the month was critical because Apple freezes app store submissions and updates during Christmas week. Fiksu’s says spending and traffic doubled in the final week of December as studios competed to have their apps in front of consumer eyes on Christmas Day.

Indeed, Flurry said a quarter of a billion apps were downloaded on Christmas Day alone last year as many consumer unwrapped iPhones as presents and then searched for apps to try out.

These numbers also underscore a few trends we’ve seen seeing. Again, the iPhone 4S launch plus the holiday quarter is helping narrow the gap between Android pick-up and the iOS platform, giving developers yet another reason beyond easy monetization to stay with Apple’s platform. Secondly, holiday marketing is maturing. We saw Electronic Arts, Gameloft, Big Fish Games and more duke it out through holiday sales while more freemium-oriented developers also discounted their virtual currency.