Apple iPhone developers have a short period of time to engage their audiences—a very short time, according to a new study that found typical users of iPhone apps stop using the applications pretty quickly. The research, which was compiled by Pinch Media, notes that only about 1 percent of total downloads result in long-term audiences, and the majority of App Store downloads are in use by less than 5 percent of users after one month.
Pinch Media based its findings on its analysis of 30 million app downloads from the App Store. Paid applications seemed to have slightly higher retention rates than free ones, but usage still drops off precipitously. Of the various categories, sports is superior at short-term retention. Entertainment—in particular, games—seems to keep users over a longer period.
The report also addressed the question of whether to charge for an app or give it away for free, subsidized by advertising. Overall, the study found that less than 5 percent of high-performing apps are exceptionally "sticky," with high enough retention rates to be suited for advertising. Most apps simply do not have the number of views to be profitable through ads. However, developers cannot make that assessment until their apps are released. After a few weeks, the app's "stickiness" can be evaluated.
"Only release an ad-supported version when you have data strongly indicating success," advises the report's author, Greg Yardley, co-founder and CEO of Pinch.