CNN for iOS Gets Hit With “Fake” Reviews Pushing Fox Up the Ranks

Politics are making waves on the App Store yet again. This time the target is CNN’s iOS app. For most of last week, the app has seen an increase of 8,200% in negative reviews.

To put this in perspective, before the “attack” the app was getting an average of 35 new reviews every day. During the attack, that number ballooned to as much as 5,000 new reviews in one day — more than 95% of which negative.

Politics on the App Store - CNN App Flooded with Fake Reviews

Most reviews are from the US, with some contribution from Canada and the UK.

As you can see in the chart above the attack has mostly subsided, and on the 10th CNN put out an update which reset its low rating. However, as a result, the app’s rank has taken a small hit, dropping the app from its stable 3rd rank in the News category down to 6th in the US.

It’s worth noting that during this attack on CNN, Fox News got a small increase in positive reviews. While too small to consider, it did help push Fox up the ranks, where they now sit in CNN’s old chair, 3rd in the News category.

We took a closer look at what the reviewers were saying, and the results could have been guessed by anyone who reads the news. “Fake news”, “biased”, and “Trump” top the list. Reviewers were also pretty liberal with their language, sprinkling helpful words such as “garbage”, “propaganda”, “trash”, and “terrible”.

It’s hard to tell whether these reviews are the work of some automated bots or a real lynch mob of unhappy users, but one thing’s obvious – this was a focused political attack through the App Store.

SEGA Sets Its Flagship Title Free (With Ads) and Users Love It

Just before the weekend hit, SEGA added the original Sonic (Sonic The Hedgehog) to the new SEGA Forever Collection, dropping its price from $2.99 USD to free with ads.

Based on the app’s ranks, the move was a big success with Sonic racing to the top of the App Store within hours of the update.

As of right now, Sonic is the #2 free app in the U.S., and #1 the Games category, as well as Games → Action, the title’s official category.

With this new pricing model, SEGA is reducing the friction caused by an upfront payment, but still manages to monetize with ads. For ads, SEGA seems to be relying on a handful of 3rd party ad networks, including AdColony, AppLovin, Chartboost, Facebook, Fyber, Mopub, Tapjoy, Vungle, and others.

In addition to ads, the game also has an in-app purchase to remove all non-SEGA ads. A great move that shows they care about the gamers who would rather pay. The in-app purchase goes for $1.99, a lower price than what the title went for originally, but we believe the free model + ads + the IAP will net more revenue over time.

It’s worth noting that while SEGA dropped the price of both the iOS and Android version of the title, it’s the iOS version that’s seeing a huge uptick in downloads so far while the Android version is slowly climbing up the charts.

With this move, SEGA is showing up its rival Nintendo, which released its flagship title Mario Run as a free to download but $9.99 to play last year. The move by Nintendo resulted in thousands of user complaints, and even a drop in Nintendo’s stock price.

App Store Cleanup Continues – 50,000 Apps at Risk

Apple is getting serious about cleaning up the App Store. The first wave came in the fall of last year and resulted in thousands of “abandoned” apps being removed from the App Store. Apple is at it again, this time targeting apps that mention their price in their name.

We analyzed more than 2.2M free and paid iOS apps, looking for apps that use their price in their name. 

The Gist

  • More than 50,000 apps and games mention “free” in their name.
  • About 2% of those aren’t even free.
  • Games are the largest group both in absolute number of apps (a tad over 33,000) and as a percentage of total apps in the category (7.5%).
  • Spotify, Disney, Zynga, and EA Games are among the popular developers that use “free” in the name of at least one of their apps.

We started our analysis by looking for apps that mention their price in their name. Although Apple didn’t single out a specific term, running a few queries showed “free” has the most hits and is most likely the term Apple dislikes the most. This analysis focuses on it.

Offending Apps by Category

Let’s jump in. Here’s a category breakdown of the apps we identified. 

Games, as you probably could have guessed, are the largest offending category by far. More than 30,000 games use the term “free” in their name. While most use it once (kind of ok?), we came across quite a few that use “free” twice and even three times. 

Although it’s the largest category, it’s not the only category. Education and Entertainment follow games, with Utilities and Photography right behind them.

Not All “Free” Apps Are Actually Free

You’d expect apps that mention the term “free” in their name to actually be free. But they’re not always. In our analysis we found that roughly 2% of apps are actually paid, and about 40% that use in-app purchases.

The Impact

Continuing on this thread, let’s look at the number of offending apps as a percentage of all apps in their category to gauge the impact this cleanup has.

7.5% of all games are currently in violation of this new rule. The Photography and Entertainment categories could be thinned by about 3%, with Music, Education, and Reference standing to lose more than 2% of apps. Lifestyle, the category with the most apps, stands to lose the least — just under 1%. 

Why Is Apple Doing This?

On the App Store, apps rarely show without their price, so adding the price in the name isn’t really helping the customer. Instead, developers are primarily using this technique as an optimization for search results. It’s obvious why Apple wouldn’t be thrilled about that.

In addition to ASO, it’s also making the App Store look bad. While many developers use the terms gracefully, in our analysis we came across a few that weren’t. Those developers were stuffing their — otherwise simple and customer-friendly — names with two or three instances of the word free making them much harder to read and much less customer friendly.

Who’s Doing It?

You’re probably thinking this technique is something less popular developers are using to gain an edge. We thought so too, but in our analysis we found apps from several well ranking developers that do this, including: Spotify, Disney, EA Games, Zynga, Big Fish Games.

Not a Sweep. Yet.

Unlike the last clean-up, Apple isn’t actively removing apps from the store but rather rejecting new apps and app updates through the review process. 

This means that the App Store still has thousands of apps that are in violation of this new rule. It’s not clear whether that will change, and if so how quickly. What is clear is that Apple is serious about cleaning up the App Store, so if you’re a developer you should keep to the rules.


About the data

These insights came directly out of Explorer, a platform we’ve built to identify trends and get to know apps, developers, and SDKs. Try it out for yourself →

Lyft Dethrones Uber for First Time

It’s official, transportation tycoon Uber has been surpassed by its competitor Lyft. In response to this weekend’s events, Lyft has shot up into the Top 5 free apps in the US for the first time ever, currently ranked at #4, while Uber, which currently sits at #13 looks up from below. Not only did Uber lose the lead in overall rankings and incite a flux of numerous new poor reviews (read more below), but Lyft has also taken the #1 spot in the Travel category for the US, with Uber now at #2.

Lyft overtakes Uber in the App Store

The news can heavily affect the outcome of businesses and their apps, something that Uber is no stranger to having previously risen in ranks during another taxi strike in the UK in 2014. While it worked in their favor then, this time Uber isn’t having the same luck. While it’s a notable event for Lyft against Uber, time will tell if this is merely a fad brought on by political unrest and protest or if indeed Uber will start to see a drop in business due to any insensitivity they may have caused over the weekend.

It’s Not Me, It’s You

To add salt to the wound, Uber is also seeing a spike in negative reviews. Not a total surprise but who’s writing these? It could be customers leaving poor reviews before deleting the app or it could be new users downloading the app to simply share their views in light of the situation.

Uber gets trashed in app store reviews

One thing is for sure, as expected, the reviews being written have a common voice. “Trump” was the third most used word among the negative reviews, with “CEO” and “Ban” being in the top 10 most used words. Included in many of the new reviews are mentions of “ACLU”, “JFK”, “Immigrant” and “Strike”. Some even go as far as including negative phrases such as “Facist” in their reviews. All in all, more than 95% of all reviews for Uber, meaning 1 or 2 stars reviews, have been negative over the last few days.

App Stores Start to Mature – 2016 Year in Review

2016 has been a busy year both in and out of app stores — new devices, improvements to the buying experience, support for the subscriptions model, and a new App Store for iMessage apps kept developers busy. In fact, app developers have shipped the most new apps in a single year so far, including two of the biggest releases: Pokémon Go and Super Mario Run.

To recap the year by numbers, we’ve analyzed over 5 million apps and will be focusing on two general topics:

  1. App and developer growth trends
  2. The technologies (SDKs) apps are using

Keep reading to find out which categories grew the most, how most games monetize, and more.

App Growth: Steady Does It

Total Number of Active Apps

As of December 2016

Total number of apps in the iOS App Store and Google Play at the end of 2016

Over the years, we’ve seen the number of app releases grow substantially year-over-year as smart phones became standard across the world. In 2016, new and existing developers published a total of 1.1 million new iOS and 1.3 million new Android apps. 2.4 million apps in total isn’t only an incredible number of apps, but also the most apps ever added in a single year.

However, as incredible as this total is, it’s only marginally higher than 2015. Comparing year-over-year growth, it’s obvious things are starting to slow down.

Number of apps released by year to the iOS App Store, Google Play, and Amazon Appstore

Taking into account the number of new releases for the last few years, you can see that the totals are starting to be constant. Over a million apps were added to the App Store for each of the past two years and to Google Play for the past three years.

One tricky aspect of growth is that the bigger you get the harder it is to sustain double digit growth rates. This year both stores opened with a pretty big catalog of apps. Just as an example, for the App Store to have the same growth as last year developer would need to produce more than 1.5 million apps–roughly 500 thousand more than they actually released.

Don’t take this the wrong way, even at a moderate growth rate, app stores will continue to thrive. We see this slowdown in growth as a sign of maturity and stability. What maturity means is that these stores have become entrenched into the lives of billions of people around the globe. Which is great news if you’re in the business of making apps.

Note: We’ve included The Amazon Appstore in some areas of our report, however, with less than 30,000 new apps released in 2016 the Amazon Appstore is no competitor to Apple or Google and will not be the focus of this report.

The Fastest Growing Categories

More than 300 new iOS and Android apps were released every hour in 2016, making Apple’s app reviewers pretty busy. Let’s take a closer look at what kind of apps these were.

Fastest growing App Store categories in 2016

On the App Store, the Shopping and Magazines & Newspapers categories have seen the most growth, followed by Social Networking, Games, and Food & Drink.

iOS Games Nearly Double

Although Games was not the fastest growing in 2016, it did have pretty impressive numbers on the App Store. The category nearly doubled in 2016, adding more than 200k new titles to close the year with almost a half of a million games. Bravo Game developers!

Fastest growing Google Play categories in 2016

On Google Play, Music & Audio and Photography have dominated, each almost doubling. Shopping, Entertainment, And Books & Reference follow, all growing more than 50% each.

Lots of Shopping Apps

Increased popularity of mobile commerce (aka. mCommerce) in 2016 resulted in a barrage of new apps, growing the shopping category three fold on the App Store and by nearly doubling it on Google Play. However, not all shopping apps were created equal. In late 2016 many “fake” shopping apps were detected across both app stores. The fake apps were made to look like the real brands’ app so customers would give them private information. Luckily, both stores caught this in time and removed them right away. because they’re no longer active, these apps aren’t included in our analysis.

Apple’s Big Sweep

In September, Apple announced new regulations that threatened hundreds of thousands of abandoned apps. This raised an obvious question: Is the App Store so big that Apple is okay thinning its catalog?

Probably. While reducing unnecessary competition, this could also be a strategic move by Apple to use quality to differentiate itself from its rival, Google, whose guidelines are much more lax by comparison.

The new regulations effectively force developers to constantly update their apps or face removal. As a policy, this has ramifications for developers but also for the growth of the store. Forcing developers to focus on updates rather than new releases could continue the plateau we’re already seeing. We’ll be keeping an eye on this in 2017.

Developer Growth: Things Are Slowing Down

Total Number of Active Developers

As of December 2016

Total number of iOS and Android developers at the end of 2016

Just as with number of new apps released, we analyzed new developers who entered the market by looking at the first app released by each developer. This includes apps that are no longer available on the store.

Not surprising, the number of new developers releasing apps has begun to moderate in the exact same manner as the number of newly released apps.

Number of new developers starting to release app by year on the iOS App Store and Google Play

In 2016, more than 412 thousand new developers released their first app. Roughly 60% of those new developers released apps for Google Play with the rest releasing their apps on the App Store. As of the end of 2016, Google continues to maintain its lead in this category as well.

Although growth has slowed down, numbers in the hundreds of thousands are still high enough to suggest there is enough excitement about the opportunities that making apps affords.

Categories of Apps Published By New Developers

Putting aside that new developers and apps has slowed, we pulled the top five fastest growing categories with the most number of new developers to see if there were any similarities to the categories found for new apps released this year.

Fastest growing categories by new developers - iOS App Store

There is. As you can see, these line up pretty well with the fastest growing categories from our apps section. The Shopping category dominates with double digit growth on both platforms, followed by Social, Entertainment, and Utilities.

Fastest growing categories by new developers - Google Play


The Most Installed SDKs

Many developers turn to 3rd party tools to help their apps run more smoothly. We looked through millions of apps and compared 20 different categories of SDKs – from Ads and Analytics to Payments and Notifications, to find the top categories and top SDK providers.

Most installed types of SDKs

Ads lead the way by a wide margin, which makes sense considering that’s a way of monetizing apps. Analytics and dev tools compete for second place, followed by Authentication and Backend as a Service SDKs.

Ranking The Top SDK Providers

Advertising

Nearly 65% of all apps in our analysis had at least one ad network installed. AdMob commands the category. Being integrated into the Android development experience gives it a clear advantage. Chartboost and Facebook follow behind, albeit with a big gap.

Top Mobile Ad SDKs - iOS and Android

Analytics

Knowing how users interact with an app is essential to developers. That’s why we were a bit surprised that only 30% of all apps had an analytics SDK installed.

Again, Google leads the way, followed by incumbent Flurry and Facebook right behind.

Top Mobile Analytics SDKs - iOS and Android

Developer Tools

Many apps and games are built using development engines that streamline the process and enable cross-platform publishing. In this category, Cordova leads the way, followed by Unity with Adobe Air a distant third.

Top App Development SDKs - iOS and Android

Authentication

Leveraging a user’s existing online presence makes for much smoother on-boarding and retention. And what better platform is there for online presence than Facebook? The data says there isn’t.

Top Mobile Authentication SDKs - iOS and Android

Note: unlike other categories, we focused on Facebook and Twitter here because they’re by far the most installed SDKs. There are a few others, but none that can compete at such scale.

Backend As A Service

Firebase and Parse are the most used BaaS SDKs. While there are a few competitors, they’re very small at this point (under 1% market share total).

Top Mobile BaaS SDKs - iOS and Android

A Deep Dive Into Games

Games account for more than 25% of all apps and more than half of those apps use at least one SDK.

5 of the Top 10 most used SDKs are ad networks. Considering a majority of games are free, this makes a lot of sense. A selection of tools, like Unity and Firebase, show that game developers don’t like to reinvent the wheel.

Most installed SDK in games

Two Companies Are Responsible For SDKs Installed In > 70% Of Apps

If you’re keeping count you’ve noticed that SDKs from Facebook and Google lead in almost every category. Advertising to backend services, SDKs from these giants are installed in more than 70% of all apps. So, roughly 2 of 3 apps on your smart device talk to Google or Facebook.

What’s Next?

The theme of maturity is consistent across both stores, leaving us with some compelling questions for the new year.

How will Apple’s cleanup affect its growth in 2017? Will Google follow suit? Will consumers find the subscriptions model appealing? Only time will tell. One thing’s for sure, the apps economy is thriving and stable.

About The Data

Data for this report was gathered using Explorer, our mobile app search and intelligence platform. Explorer covers 9+ million apps from all major app stores and provides app store info, SDK analysis, app ranks, ratings, and more.

Written with the help of Lucas Dowiak and Josh Vernazza.

What Went Wrong With Super Mario Run — Analysis of 120,000+ Reviews

Nintendo released its first mobile game last week, and with unprecedented levels of support from Apple, Super Mario Run was poised to become the most successful mobile game the App store has seen so far. However, eager players were less than thrilled once the game hit, sending Nintendo’s stock down 14% in the first few days.

We’ve been covering the release from day one and have noticed its not-too-stellar performance, so we analyzed all of the game’s 120,000 App Store reviews to get a better understanding of what went wrong. 

More Than Half Of All Players Aren’t Happy

To start our analysis, let’s take a look at how the game is rated so far. We collected all 120,000+ reviews available (as of 12/21), and grouped them by star rating. 

What Went Wrong With Super Mario Run — Analysis of 120,000+ Reviews by appFigures

Boy are people unhappy. Overall, 71% of all players gave the game a 1 or 2-star review. That’s harsh. As of right now, Super Mario Run’s average rating is just 2.1 stars. That’s really low for such a well crafted game.

Is this unhappiness widespread, or isolated geographically? To answer this question we looked at all reviews by country and analyzed the top 10 countries with most reviews. In the chart below you’ll see the ratio of negative (1 and 2-star reviews in red) to positive (4 and 5-star reviews in green) and neutral reviews (3-star reviews in gray).

Russia, France, and Italy Are Very Unhappy

What Went Wrong With Super Mario Run — Analysis of 120,000+ Reviews by appFigures

If you thought 71% was high, check out Russia. 85% of reviews from Russia are negative compared to just 10% positive. France, Italy, Japan, and Germany have an above average negative rating as well. The bottom of the top 10 list comes in below average, but not by much, suggesting this isn’t isolated but rather a problem that spans different cultures and languages.

So, what’s upsetting so many players around the world?

It’s All About The Money!

A text analysis of all reviews in English shows the most common topics mentioned include different variations of “price is too high” and “not enough free levels”. The most common words those reviews included were: pay, free, money, price, and purchase.

What we found interesting is that many of the negative reviews were emotionally charged, using words such as sad and disappointed. This just goes to show the expectation Nintendo set when announcing the game in September.

So players don’t want to pay $9.99 for the game. That’s certainly a higher price point than most other games, however we don’t think that’s the only issue. Super Mario Run is free-to-download (demo), and not a free-to-play (freemium), which is a much more common monetization strategy in the App Store.

Demos, unlike freemium titles, limit how much you get access to very strictly, enticing you with a bit and putting up a paywall for the rest. Freemium titles on the other hand, give you access to most of the game for free but offer you upgrades along the way. Successful free-to-play game, like Candy Crush, use consumable in-app purchases so that players need to buy more to continue. They don’t have to, but they can, and that’s a very important difference.

If you’d ask 10 different people whether they like free-to-play titles, 8 would probably say no but would still play those games and won’t leave them extremely negative reviews. That’s why 4 of the 5 Top Grossing apps in the U.S.right now are freemium games.

For a quick comparison, let’s look at similar games from a similar company:

What Went Wrong With Super Mario Run — Analysis of 120,000+ Reviews by appfigures

SEGA’s Sonic Dash, arguably similar in terms of brand recognition and casual nature, has an average rating of 4.5 stars with nearly 3 times the number of reviews. Sure, it’s been around since 2013 and has a head start, but with more than 75% of reviews being positive it’s hard to argue. To make the comparison even more objective we added Subway Surfers, another comparable game with a similar number of reviews. This title also has an average rating of 4.5 stars.

Demos Are A Harder Sell

Why did Nintendo choose the more traditional demo approach and not freemium is hard to tell. Keeping things simple is what the company said publicly, but it’s also possible they relied on the brand a bit too much. In a different world, where Super Mario Run launched as a free game with consumable in-app purchases, things might have been significantly different. Hindsight is always 20/20.

Remember, A Rocky Start Doesn’t Mean Failure

This report paints a pretty unpleasant picture for Super Mario Run, and while that’s true right now, it’s possible (and likely) that between new users, strategic changes, and updates to the game, in time, Super Mario Run will gain momentum and retain players for longer periods of time. Enough to get them to tap that buy button. 

We’ll be keeping an eye on that and report if we see it change, so keep an eye on the blog, follow us on Twitter, or subscribe to our mailing list.

Happy holidays.

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Super Mario Run Is App Store’s #1 App in 138 Countries

Super Mario Run Is App Store’s #1 App In 138 Countries by appFigures

Just about 48 hours ago Nintendo’s first mobile game, and one of my personal all-time favorites, hit the App Store and quickly showed that the iconic plumber is pretty much everyone’s favorite.

The title has been released in 150 countries and is ranked in all of them, in many leading the pack as the №1 free app. Below are the latest ranks for Super Mario Run from all around the world.

FYI — Check our LIVE post benchmarking Super Mario Run’s release.

#1 Free App In 138 Countries

Undoubtedly the season’s most anticipated release is off to a start like no other. Super Mario Run took the №1 spot in 138 of 150 countries. It is in the Top 5 in 144, and in the Top 10 in 148. The renegades — Guinea-bissau and Palau. View all countries/categories.

#1 Grossing App In 46 Countries

Downloads are nice, but revenue is nicer. Especially if you’re Nintendo right now. Super Mario Run quickly seized control of the App Store’s Top Grossing chart in 110 countries, taking the №1 spot in 46. The game is currently in the Top 5 in 82 countries, and Top 10 in 91. View all countries/categories.

Sticker Pack Climbs Too

A few months ago Nintendo released a free Super Mario Run sticker pack to the iMessage App Store. The sticker pack has been doing very well, but since the game’s launch on Thursday it’s doing even better.

Super Mario Run Is App Store’s #1 App In 138 Countries by appFigures

Did Super Mario Run Live Up to the Hype?

Last update: Dec. 23rd 8:00pm EST

Is Super Mario Run Living Up To the Hype?

It feels like 1985 again. As Nintendo hopes to satisfy nostalgic generations (and pull in a whole new set of players) by releasing their first mobile game, Super Mario Run, gamers have been eagerly awaiting the release of what’s sure to be the game of the season.

Filled with classic Mario features and an unprecedented amount of hype, we’re expecting a massive consumer response. Over the next week we’ll be following Super Mario Run’s debut and benchmarking its engagement against some of the most successful game releases of 2016: Clash Royale and Pokémon Go.

How’s Mario Doing So Far?

The chart above plots the number of new reviews for each app by hour. As the app just went live there’s none yet, but with ~20 million people signed up to be notified of its release (as of October), that’ll change very quickly. We predict the first few hours to break the record set by Pokémon Go in August, and maybe even crash the App Store.

12/16 1:30pm – Nearly 24 hours have passed since the game was rolled out and it looks like Apple is heavily delaying releasing reviews written by users. Most likely because of very aggressive caching. We were able to grab the first 6 minutes worth of reviews and while that’s not at all a meaningful way to predict, that number is 500% larger than Pokemon Go’s number for the same time period. And these aren’t estimates but rather actual numbers.

12/17 10:30am – After nearly 48 hours Apple seems to finally be letting some reviews through into the App Store, and we got our hands on them. Check out the charts. So far the game is getting a decent number of reviews in the US, but not that much more than Pokemon Go. Considering the controversial price and the need to be online to play we expected much more chatter. It’s too early to tell if the numbers reflect quick churn or not, but that’s something we’ll be watching closely.

12/17 9:30pm – We’re starting to get a more complete picture of the first 24 hours and so far Super Mario Run is on the same track as Pokémon Go. We expected much higher results, but since Pokémon Go was a completely free game during launch and had the AR twist it’s probably gotten more engagement and thus reviews.

12/19 10:30am – As new data is coming in it seems that Mario is holding on to a lead when compared to both Pokémon Go and Clash Royale. However, that lead isn’t as large as we thought.

12/20 11:00am – Reviews for Mario Run are starting to slow down. In fact, with a total of 27,721 reviews in the U.S., it’s now running behind Pokémon Go which had a bit over 30,000 at this point in the launch.

12/21 5:30pm – Reviews have continued to slow down, indicating engagement is dropping off rapidly. Many users have been complaining about the game’s cost, and that seems to have plagued the launch of this otherwise fun game. Stay tuned for our conclusion on Friday!

12/23 12:00pm – We’ve reached the end of our live coverage, and there isn’t much to say that hasn’t been said before. With so much buzz leading up to the launch, expectations were at an all-time high, but were met with harsh criticism over pricing. Was this a misstep by Nintendo, or is all we’re hearing noise? It’s hard to tell without knowing Nintendo’s goals for this launch. We can’t wait for Super Mario Run to launch on Android, where Nintendo will have a chance to rethink their strategy.

What To Expect

To get an idea of what’s to come, we’ve charted the total number of new reviews Pokémon Go and Clash Royale got in their first week, and will be adding Super Mario Run’s data as it becomes available.

Is Super Mario Run Living Up To the Hype?

Our Conclusion

It’s been a whole week since we started tracking Super Mario Run’s launch. The expectations were exceptionally high given the amount of press the game has been getting from Apple over the last few months. Very quickly however, players started complaining about the price. Those complaints continued, and then the press caught on, sending Nintendo’s stock down ~14%.

Overall, Nintendo’s choice of monetization strategy was somewhat of a risk. Going with a free-to-download demo as opposed to the more common free-to-play freemium model. Based on the last week of data and news it seems this was a mistake, but with the holiday season upon us I’d rather wait a few more weeks until making that claim.

About The Data

Data in this post includes reviews from the App Store for all three apps. Our collection engine retrieves every review that’s available, on an hourly basis.

Why reviews?

We like to use reviews to benchmark app launches because they provide a strong indication of a combo metric that includes both downloads and engagement.

Track every review for all of your apps with appFigures. Start your free trial

The Top 8 Mobile SDKs — An Analysis of 500,000+ Android Games

Earlier this year we started analyzing iOS and Android apps, digging into the SDKs they have installed. Since rolling this out into Explorer we’ve analyzed millions of apps and have seen several interesting trends.

For our first report about SDKs we’ll be looking games. We’ve analyzed all Android games and found the SDKs they use most, but before we get technical let’s start with a top view of the entire games category on Google Play.

The top 8 mobile SDKs used in all Android games

There are roughly 500k free and paid games available for download on Google Play. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Games is the single largest category on Google Play. In fact, it accounts for 19% of all apps available for download through the store.

How Are Games Monetizing?

92% of all games are free to download on Google Play. Of those free games, 67% have at least one ad network installed. In-app purchases, the second-best choice for monetizing are used by 23% of free games.

In some cases combining strategies is the best way to monetize. Our analysis found 75k free games that use both ads and in-app purchases. That adds up to roughly 16% of all free games.

One interesting piece of data we came across was the number of paid games that have in-app purchases, which is 4,724 or roughly 11% of all paid games. Some of these games are well known IPs such as Minecraft and Plants vs. Zombies™, however not all are as well known. In fact, the majority of those apps have a very low number of ratings.

Ads, Ads, and more Ads

The top 8 mobile SDKs used in all Android games

Now that we have a better high level overview of the category, let’s look at the type of SDKs that are most used by games.

Knowing more than half of free games monetize with ads, it comes as no surprise that 4 out of the top 8 SDKs happen to be from ad networks. The other half is distributed evenly, and while we expected more analytics SDKs to show up, the convenience of using existing development tools makes more sense given how big the category is.

The Top 8 SDKs

The top 8 mobile SDKs used in all Android games

Finally, let’s take a look at the top SDKs.

Unity

  • Category: Game engines
  • Games: 131,733

Our analysis found more 131k games that use the Unity game engine. That means more than a quarter of all Android games are built on top of Unity’s game engine. That’s pretty impressive, and also great news for a platform that also has its own ad network, which we will see below.

Chartboost

  • Category: Ads
  • Games: 65,911

Chartboost leads the pack for ad network across Android games based on our analysis. Unlike most other ad networks, Chartboost is heavily focused on games and gamers and that seems to work in their favor as they have a double digit market share.

Login with Facebook

  • Category: Social
  • Games: 54,266

Logging in with Facebook provides developers with frictionless way to offer personalization using a single login that works across many apps. Although Facebook isn’t the first to offer such a service, among games it is by far the most common option.

Unity Ads

  • Category: Ads
  • Games: 46,888

With a reach as wide as Unity’s platform it’s no surprise that Unity’s own ad network is an essential monetization building block for many developers. While a 9.3% market share doesn’t give Unity the lead among ad networks, it is far ahead of any competitor when compared to other video ad networks.

Flurry Analytics

  • Category: Analytics
  • Games: 36,553

For a very long time Flurry was the 800-pound gorilla in mobile analytics. Prior to being acquired by Yahoo the platform was getting stale and new competitors started entering the market. However, it looks like that hasn’t changed much for Flurry, which is the only analytics SDK in our top 8.

Bolts

  • Category: Utilities
  • Games: 34,516

Why reinvent the wheel when you don’t have to? Bolts is a collection of libraries that help handling common tasks in your app. Open sourced by Facebook, we’ve seen the bolts SDK in a good number of games and even more so in apps across both Android and iOS.

AdColony

  • Category: Ads
  • Games: 24,923

Ranking second on the list of video ads, albeit with about half of the number of games that are using Unity, we found AdColony in nearly 25k games with a 5% of market share.

AppLovin

  • Category: Ads
  • Games: 24,702

The race for third is tight, and according to our analysis it’s held by AppLovin’s video ads SDK. With just about 25k apps, AppLovin has a 5% market share as well.


There you have it, eight SDKs game developers rely on to streamline and monetize the development process. Do you use any of these in your games? Did you find better ones? Share your experience by commenting or tweeting @appfigures.

About the data

The data for this report was gathered using Explorer, our mobile app search and intelligence platform. Explorer covers 9+ million apps from all major app stores and provides app store info, SDK analysis, app ranks and ratings, and more.

Dissecting the Most Profitable iMessage Apps

Lately Apple has been on a roll with opening up new App Stores. It started with the Apple Watch in April of 2015, then the Apple TV App Store a few month later. Most recently, our attention has been focused on the iMessage App Store.

Unlike the Apple Watch and Apple TV, iMessage apps don’t require a new device. Instead, iMessage apps can be used on the device users already have and use often. To developers this means real revenue potential, but also a new set of competitors.

In this post we’ll dig into the Top 200 Grossing apps list to get a better understanding for what makes money on the iMessage App Store.

Stickers are what?

We polled our Twitter followers when the iMessage App Store had just opened, to see how they felt about it and whether they’re already capitalizing on this new distribution channel. It might just be our followers, but it looks like most developers weren’t really jumping up with excitement at the thought of iMessage apps — Sticker packs in particular.

Top Grossing: Stickers vs. Apps

iMessage App Store. November 2016

Well, boy were they wrong. Looking at our data, the 57% of responders who thought stickers were silly really misread the mark. Today, 78% of the most profitable apps are sticker packs. That’s 156 apps out of the 200 we examined.

Top Grossing Apps by Category

iMessage App Store. November 2016

Sticker packs are leading the charge in the new iMessage App Store. Right now it feels like they are the iMessage App Store, and for good reason — Stickers fit perfectly into the context of messaging. 
 
That however doesn’t mean developers aren’t trying, some even successfully. 44 of the most profitable iMessage apps are not sticker packs. There are 19 Entertainment apps, 7 Sports apps, 6 Social networking apps, and 3 games.

That’s right. Only 3 games! 😱

That last bit came as somewhat of a surprise. In every other app store report we’ve done games reigned supreme. What does this mean? Right now, not much. With time we’ll see if developers can adjust to the new social-but-not-real-time nature of messaging games, or if games simply aren’t a good fit for the medium.

What Do They Cost?

Top Grossing Apps by Price

iMessage App Store. November 2016

When it comes to making money, users seem to be fine with paid apps. 👍 Unlike the iOS App Store, on the iMessage App Store only 7% of top grossing apps are free(mium). That’s just 13 apps!!!

The remaining 93% of apps (187, to be precise) cost between $0.99 and $4.99, with the majority (61%) having a price of $0.99 and 36% having a price of $1.99. The remaining 4 apps split between the other price tiers. 

Monetizing upfront is great for developers because it’s simple and easy to implement, but it’s also a sign of a store that isn’t mature. If the iMessage App Store matures similarly to the iOS App Store—which is likely considering it’s the same audience and device—we’ll see a strong shift towards freemium. For now, developers should make the most out of it.

Who’s Making iMessage Apps?

No. of Top Grossing Apps per Developer

iMessage App Store. November 2016

148 developers are responsible for the top 200 grossing apps, and 84% of those developers have exactly one app in the top grossing list. Of the remaining 16%, most (~14%) have between 2 and 5 and the rest have between 6 and 10 top grossing apps. Disney is the only outlier here, with 14 top grossing iMessage apps.

The top 5 developers by number of apps are:

  • Disney: 14 apps
  • Swyft Media Inc.: 8 apps
  • MLB.com: 7 apps 
  • Bare Tree Media Inc: 5 apps
  • First Draft Interactive Limited: 4 apps

In conclusion

  • The iMessage App Store brings a unique advantage to apps that can support this new channel because it operates on a device hundreds of millions of users have and use on a daily basis. 
  • Most of the top grossing apps (by far) are paid stickers packs.
  • The average price of a top grossing sticker pack is $0.99
  • Developers of top grossing apps have just one app responsible for their success. Disney is an extreme outlier with 14 apps in the Top 200.