Even Android’s Top Developers See a Scant Number of Paid Downloads in US

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By Kim-Mai Cutler

It’s no secret that the Android Marketplace’s payments flow and Google’s lack of credit card data make the platform challenging for developers to monetize on relative to Apple’s iOS. Even Android’s very top developers — including ones that ship in excess of 2.5 million apps per month in the U.S. — are seeing few paid downloads, according to data provided to us by research firm Xyologic.

Electronic Arts’ holiday sale pushed two of its apps, The Need for Speed Shift and The Sims 3, to the top of the paid charts after the company cut prices to $0.99. Those two top slots produced 110,600 apps in estimated U.S. sales, or about $77,000 in sales after the store’s 30 percent cut.

Companies that pursue the free-to-play model and use free apps to promote paid versions also had trouble convincing users to pay. Of all app downloads, 98.4 percent of them were free on Android compared to 91.8 percent on the iPhone in December. Traditionally, free apps have been around roughly 80 percent of all downloads on the iPhone. But as the free-to-play model has taken off in the last three months, this share has risen.

Magma Mobile, a fourth-ranked developer which produced an estimated 4.9 million U.S. downloads from Dec. 8 to Jan. 8, saw 800 downloads of its paid apps during that time, according to the firm. Outfit7, which recently surpassed 60 million all-time global downloads for all platforms, saw 39,100 U.S. downloads of its paid apps. That was in spite of seeing roughly 2.8 million U.S. downloads on Android.

Android has yet to catch up to Apple’s fluid and simple iTunes payment flow. While the platform recently signed up T-Mobile and AT&T to support carrier billing for apps, the platform still lacks the two other major carriers and developers are still awaiting an in-app purchase solution. On top of that users aren’t prompted to add their credit cards until they try to purchase a paid app. On iOS, you have to produce a credit card number from day one.

Payments are a weakness competitors like Amazon and partners like Verizon are capitalizing on through the creation of their Android app stores. Angry Birds developer Rovio Mobile even announced its own payment solution for Android last month called Bad Piggy Bank — created out of its frustration with purchasing on the platform.

Other top developers have told us they’re primarily relying on advertising instead and are hoping that Android’s growth, with 300,000 device activations a day, will compensate for the platform’s shortfalls in payments. Google has also pledged to come out with an in-app purchase solution in the near future.

Data on downloads and sales for Android has been extraordinarily hard to come by. Xyologic created its estimates by tracking the app store directory, building statistical models and through discussions with top developers and third-party services. This data is only for the U.S. (although the firm collects data on more than two dozen other markets). The company’s chief executive Matthaus Krzykowski is moderating a panel on monetizing mobile and social gaming today at InsideSocialApps, our conference for developers.

Top Android Developers in the U.S. (December 2010)

Developer Total Downloads Free Downloads Paid Downloads Total Number of Published Apps Number of Free Apps Number of Paid Apps
1. Rovio Mobile Ltd. 6,431,000 6,431,000 0 3 3 0
2. Pandora 5,680,000 5,680,000 0 1 1 0
3. Facebook 5,170,000 5,170,000 0 1 1 0
4. Magma Mobile 4,859,000 4,858,000 800 29 26 3
5. Com2uS 3,724,000 3,711,000 12,700 9 4 5
6. Videotones 3,166,000 3,166,000 0 335 335 0
7. Outfit7 Ltd. 2,873,000 2,834,000 39,100 9 3 6
8. Adobe Systems 2,136,000 2,136,000 0 8 8 0
9. Yahoo! Inc. 2,043,000 2,043,000 0 15 15 0
10. Clear Channel Radio Digital 1,840,000 1,840,000 0 3 3 0
11. Handcent 1,671,000 1,671,000 0 8 8 0
12. movie music 1,413,000 1,413,000 0 8 8 0
13. MP3 Music Download Team 1,194,000 1,194,000 0 1 1 0
14. Storm8 1,106,000 1,106,000 0 12 12 0
15. Backflip Studios Inc. 1,051,000 1,051,000 0 2 2 0

Top Android Paid Apps in the U.S. (December 2010)

Name Downloads Price Developer Previous Rank Category
1. NEED FOR SPEED™ Shift 68,000 $0.99 EA Mobile New* Arcade
2. The Sims™ 3 42,600 $0.99 EA Mobile New* Casual
3. PowerAMP Full Version Unlocker 33,000 $4.99 MaxMP 2 Music and Audio
4. Beautiful Widgets 32,600 $2.03 LevelUp Studio 1 Personalization
5. Game Dev Story 30,500 $2.55 Kairosoft Co.Ltd New* Casual
6. ADWLauncher EX 29,600 $3.14 AnderWeb New* Productivity
7. Talking Tom Cat 28,700 $1.08 Outfit7 Ltd. 5 Entertainment
8. SwiftKey Keyboard 24,200 $3.99 Lupis Labs Software 13 Productivity
9. Robo Defense 22,900 $2.99 DistinctDev Inc. 7 Arcade
10. The Moron Test 19,500 $0.99 KittehFace Software 8 Brain
11. Snowfall Full Live Wallpaper 19,100 $0.99 Halfbrick 9 Personalization
12. Fruit Ninja 17,900 $0.99 Trendy Entertainment 6 Arcade
13. Dungeon Defenders: First Wave 17,700 $2.99 Outfit7 Ltd. New* Arcade
14. Pocket God 17,600 $0.99 ngmoco LLC 59 Arcade
15. Doodle Jump 17,500 $0.99 GameHouse 33 Arcade

*New means new to the Top 150 apps in that month