iPhone App Downloads Plummet by 2 Million in March, While Mobile Marketing Costs Hold Steady

Our latest Fiksu Indexes are out – revealing a sharp drop in iPhone app downloads during the month of March. This dramatic decline returned app store competition to levels similar to those before the iPhone 4S launch last October.

Here’s a snapshot of the latest data:

  • The Fiksu App Store Competitive Index (which measures the average aggregate daily download volume of the top 200 free U.S. iPhone apps) dropped by almost two million daily downloads to 4.45 million daily downloads, down from 6.35 million in February. 
  • The Fiksu Cost per Loyal User Index was the steadiest observed, dropping by less than 1 percent in March to $1.30, from $1.31 in February. 

The trajectory the Fiksu Indexes has followed from October 2011 through to March 2012 reflects the hyper-demand for apps following the much- anticipated launch of the new iPhone and into the advertising frenzy of holiday season. As we moved out of this period of increased download activity and marketing spend, and with no other significant events in March to spark discovery, last month’s download dip was to be expected.

However, an unexpected contributing factor to March's app download plunge could be a move away from the use of robotic install tactics by app marketers responding to Apple’s new policy.

Kim-Mai Cutler of TechCrunch writes, “[Apple’s] crackdown has had huge implications for the types of apps that make it to the top of the charts. If you watched the charts like I did for well over a year, it was pretty common to see really strange, esoteric (and frankly, not very well-made) apps pop on the charts every single week. At the same time, very social, more utility-like apps like Instagram or Facebook would hover in the teens or twenties — or between #50 and 100.”

Cutler continues, saying, “The decline of download bots has made room for apps like Viddy, Socialcam, Instagram and Draw Something to move higher on the charts. Plus, because of the way the Apple app store is designed, once an app breaks above #25 or #10, it gets a huge increase in downloads per day.”

Despite the significant decline in downloads, our Indexes reflected a steady spending pattern among mobile marketers with costs maintaining a reasonable level. This presented marketers with valuable opportunities for cost-effectively converting organic users into loyal users.

Thanks to all who covered this month’s Index data, including Kathleen De Vere of Inside Mobile Apps,  Kevin Fitchard of GigaOm, Dean Takahashi of VentureBeat and Steve Smith of MediaPost.

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