Heads Up: Issue With iTunes Connect

We noticed a lot of commotion on Twitter this morning about iTunes Connect logging some developers into other developers’ accounts.

It looks like there’s an actual issue with iTunes Connect that Apple is aware of because iTunes Connect has been taken down and is still down as of right now. It’s too soon to know whether any sensitive information was made available.

We take security quite seriously and have stopped syncing with iTunes Connect to ensure we don’t contaminate any accounts unnecessarily. After investigating our records, it looks like our reports were not affected. We only import data that Apple makes available in their sales and financial reports, and at this point it looks like those imported today are not contaminated.

If you do see something odd in your account, however, please let us know.

FYI – iTunes Connect is currently down, so syncing or linking accounts is not possible. We’re keeping an eye on the situation and will post an update once it is back up.

Update: As of 3:30PM EST iTunes Connect is back online.

App Stores Growth Accelerates in 2014

2014 was quite an eventful year in our industry. Apple finally gave in to the big screen but also teased us with the small screen of the upcoming Apple Watch, and even surprised developers with Swift. Google wasn’t quiet either, revealing their vision for the future of UI with Material design and tackling wearables head-on. To celebrate such a great year, we’ll be taking a look at app store growth in 2014.

In this report we’ll be exploring the growth of each of these stores in 2014, but let’s start by establishing a baseline of how big each of the stores are, in number of apps, and how they got to where they are today.

Total apps by app store

Google surpassed Apple for number of new apps for the first time in 2014

Looking at the chart above we can see all three stores really expanded their app catalog. It’s the kind of healthy growth you’d expect from an industry that’s still relatively new. The most obvious takeaway here, however, is that Google finally closed the gap and actually jumped ahead of Apple, ending the year with more than 1.43 million apps compared to 1.21 million. Amazon, although a distant third, grew its catalog by nearly 90% to 293k apps.

Total developers by app store

Google’s developer community continues to grow faster than Apple’s for the 3rd year in a row

Looking at the number of app developers who publish apps for the different stores, we see a familiar picture. Google Play’s developer community grew tremendously in 2014, exceeding Apple for the 3rd year in a row. In fact, Google Play is distributing apps from nearly 400k different developers. This is a much higher number than what we observed in last summer’s report on app developers, meaning the Play store saw rapid growth in the last two quarters of the year.

More apps than ever!

App store growth by number of apps

Google Play more than doubled in number of apps in 2014

App development is certainly on the rise and the platform doesn’t seem to matter. In 2014, all three app stores grew by at least 50% (by the way, when we say growth we mean the percent change from the end of the previous year). What’s interesting is that although Apple continues to grow strongly, it’s really Google Play that’s growing. In 2014, the number of apps distributed through Google Play has doubled. Amazon is also enjoying impressive growth, albeit from a much smaller base.

We initially only set out to look at aggregate growth, but with so much data at hand, we just couldn’t stop. So TL;DR Let’s have a look at the top 5 categories with most growth during 2014:

Fastest growing Apple app store categories (by number of apps)

More than 128k new Business apps were released in the iOS App Store in 2014

We expected to see Business and Games rank very high as both are fairly mainstream, but Food & Drink, with the second largest growth, was certainly a surprise. Keep in mind, for the comparison to be apples to apples, these charts look at growth and not total size.

Fastest growing Google app store categories (by number of apps)

On Google Play, Games are in abundance with the category more than doubling in size. Interestingly enough, although tiny in comparison, the Photography category saw abnormal growth in 2014. Selfie Stick anyone?

Developers. Developers. Developers.

This is surely amazing growth, but are those new apps being published by new developers, or is the catalyst for this massive increase in apps a result of incumbents expanding? You’re about to find out.

App store growth by developers

More developers released apps for Google in 2014 than Apple and Amazon combined!

More developers joined Google in 2014 than Apple and Amazon combined! With developers flocking to Google Play, the store has reached a new milestone: 388k developers — more developers than Apple (with 282k developers) and Amazon (with 48k developers).

Let’s break this down by categories:

Fastest growing Apple app store categories (by number of developers)

We can see the relationship here between app growth and new developers, with most new Apple developers publishing business apps. What’s interesting is how games started off slow and sped up around March, catching up with the steadily growing lifestyle category. It’s no surprise that Apple developers, much like their Google counterparts, are focusing on mainstream apps.

Fastest growing Google app store categories (by number of developers)

Most new Google developers focus on games, Google Play’s fastest growing category

The amazing growth in games we mentioned earlier correlates directly to developers. The category saw the highest number of new developers, more than the business and entertainment categories that are tied for second place.

There you have it, a whole year of amazing growth by the numbers.

2014 was certainly the year for Google Play growth. Kudos to the teams who run the store and help developers! With the most apps and largest developer community, Google Play is starting the new year with a kick. Market fragmentation and varying device capabilities don’t seem to detract developers from making Android apps. But, with the upcoming Apple Watch, Swift, and a larger screen, Apple is giving developers a lot to be excited about.

Apple App Store Price Adjustments

Earlier today Apple announced it will be making changes to app prices in Europe. While we won’t have the specifics until the changes are made, we know that prices will increase in Europe, Canada, and Norway, decrease in Iceland, and change in Russia.

appFigures uses the reports from Apple and not hard coded prices or percentages. This means the reported revenue will automatically adjust to those changes as they happen. There’s nothing you need to do on your end.

As always, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to get in touch.

From Apple:

iTunes Connect’s Annual Break Starts 12/22

It’s that time again folks, 2014 is coming to an end, bringing a fresh new holiday season upon us. As per tradition, Apple will be shutting down iTunes Connect between December 22nd and the 29th. During the shutdown iTunes Connect will not be accessible, so you won’t be able to submit new apps or update existing ones.

One thing Apple says we will be able to do this year, that we didn’t in previous ones, is change prices mid-break.

Will the App Store freeze this year?

Going off of what we’ve seen in the last few years we believe ranks won’t freeze this year at all. While the added volume of downloads during the holiday season may slow down how often top charts change, we believe they will continue to update.

Will downloads and revenue reports continue to update?

Yes. Sales and downloads data for iOS and Mac apps will continue to update throughout the break, which means the site, API, and email reports will continue to work as expected.

Since iTunes Connect will be offline, however, you won’t be able to link any new iTunes Connect accounts during the break.

Happy Holidays!

Angry Birds Turns Five: What We Can Learn From the Franchise’s Success

In 2009, a small Finnish company by the name of Rovio took a flash game that had been a crowd favorite online and turned it into a casual game for the, at the time, very new iPhone.

Fun gameplay, simple controls, realistic physics, and playful graphics combined with little competition on the App Store, tons of luck, and a string of solid business decisions turned Angry Birds into a household name that kids and adults recognize instantly.

Tomorrow, the Angry Birds franchise will be turning five, and to honor its long standing success, we took a look at the twists and turns the franchise took over the years as an educational adventure in App Store survival and triumph.

In this post we’ll be going back to the beginning and cover three key turns that kept Angry Birds’ initial success going and turned it into a franchise: growing a portfolio of themed games; changing gameplay; and partnering. We’ll conclude the post with a few actionable takeaways every developer can benefit from, because there’s pretty much a lesson in everything.


How did it all start?

The original Angry Birds was not an instant success in the U.S.

Before creating Angry Birds, Rovio had produced 51 titles, selling them to companies like EA and Namco. By 2009, however, the company was struggling to remain afloat. To fix this situation, they took matters into their own hands and decided to produce a game all for themselves. With the iPhone being the hot new device, the company opted for a calculated approach, aiming to produce a game that was so simple it wouldn’t need a tutorial and have simple controls that are easy to get started with but take a while to really master to get users engaged faster and for a longer period.

When Angry Birds hit the US App Store in December of 2009, it was flop, albeit a very pretty one. The game didn’t chart well and had little traction, but giving up isn’t how you build a franchise. Rovio realized the big markets were hard to break into, so they focused their efforts on smaller markets such as Sweden, Denmark, and Greece, where they were able to climb the charts quickly.

In February of 2010, Apple first featured Angry Birds in the UK (after months of pressure from Rovio) and that’s when things started to take off.

Over the next five years, the team at Rovio went on to do some amazing work both on and off the app store. The rest of the post will focus on Rovio’s activities on mobile app stores using our app store analytics data going back as far as 2010.

Building a portfolio

Succeeding with one app is hard, but once Rovio built up momentum they realized that their users wanted more. They wanted constant updates. The problem was that in the App Store, every time a new update is released, the game would lose its ranks and ratings. So in 2010, Rovio released Angry Birds Seasons, a title that was designed to update and would attract attention for its ever-changing themes. Shortly after, Rio was introduced, followed by a variety of new titles. Much of the franchise’s success came from expanding to more titles, and as you’ll see later in the post, the addition of more titles created more opportunities and ultimately more engagement.

We’ve sifted through all of the titles released by Rovio in the last five years and will be focusing on the following six in addition to the original. We feel these six apps tell the story of the Angry Birds franchise in a very concise and focused manner, and will let us take you through the major turns Rovio made on its way to app store domination.

From left to right: Rio, Space, Star Wars, Go!, Epic, and Transformers.

Throughout this post we’ll be looking at these specific apps’ data, individually or in aggregate, and highlighting interesting bits.

Expanding to more platforms

Angry Birds for Android was first published through the Amazon Appstore, not Google Play

Angry Birds was designed for the iPhone and the iPhone’s audience, mostly because that was the hottest device at the time. Over the years, that’s changed. Android gained a fair share of the market and Rovio grew as well.

In March 2011, the original Angry Birds game was released for Android. We expected the game to be released on Google’s own app store, Google Play, but it wasn’t. Angry Birds for Android was initially released through the Amazon Appstore. Eight months later, Angry Birds was released on Google Play.

Experimenting with bundles

With the release of iOS8 earlier this year, Apple made it possible for developers to bundle their apps and sell them for a discounted price. On 9/18 Angry Birds: Ultimate Slingshot Bundle went live and went on to top both the Games and Top Overall charts fairly quickly.

Angry Birds: Ultimate Slingshot Bundle Ranks

Although it charted well and had great reviews, the bundle was pulled just under two months later. Since there’s no other explanation available, it’s likely that the reason for the bundle being pulled is that the new revenue it generated didn’t make up for the loss it created by cannibalizing the individual apps’ downloads at full price.

We can theorize that this means demand for Angry Birds is fairly inelastic, making a price drop result in reduced revenue, but that’s a topic worthy of a separate post in the future.

Changing up the gameplay

By 2012, the birds had started to lose their ranks. Two years is a long time to dominate the Games charts. Rovio anticipated that, and took an interesting approach, producing a game that used the birds everyone fell in love with but in a slightly different way. They sent them to space with a slightly different gameplay that got new and also existing users excited again. The game opened well and held a top 10 position for quite some time.

Changing gameplay is a technique Rovio adopted after the success of Angry Birds Space. The company then went on to make additional bold changes:

  1. Space (early 2012) – First deviation from the standard gameplay with the addition of low gravity and multiple Planets.
  2. Go! (late 2013) – Kart racing, Rovio’s first real shift away from bird flinging.
  3. Epic (early 2014) – Tower defense.
  4. Transformers (late 2014) Side-scrolling shooter.

Let’s see how users reacted to the new releases:

Of all reviews received by Angry Birds games over the years, only ~10% are critical

The chart above shows the count of star ratings for all of the apps we’ve been mentioning, combined, broken down by their sentiment. To simplify the chart we created three groups: Negative – 1 and 2 star reviews, Neutral – 3 stars, and Positive – 4 and 5 stars. Examining the chart we can see that with few exceptions, the overall sentiment is decidedly positive. We can also see that users were very engaged with every release and gave feedback right away.

Not every release is a hit

While most app launches resulted in mostly positive reviews, Angry Birds Go! was criticized by users, receiving the worst launch by the ratings. Let’s take a look at this title’s reviews as they paint a very clear picture:

Angry Birds Go! Reviews

More than 40% of reviews for Angry Birds Go! received in the first few months were negative

You can see the first few days received almost as many negative reviews as it did positive ones. A combination of crashes and lack of support for older devices (iPods) caused a ruckus, but the real problem with Go! was that it wasn’t unique. Where Angry Birds created a category of flinging games, Go! simply competed with every other racing game out on the app store.

Rovio also made another interesting move with Go!. A month before the official release, they released an app dedicated to a countdown to Go!’s release, and half of reviewers pretty much hated it. Let’s look at Countdown to Angry Birds Go!’s ratings:

Countdown to Angry Birds Go!  Ratings

Although Countdown was only available for a short month, it’s very obvious that there was some sort of disconnect. We attribute the negative ratings to a combination of the app adding very little value and also to users thinking that downloading Countdown meant they were downloading Go!,though that was not the case.

Regaining traction by partnering

First there was Rio

Angry Birds Rio Ranks

By 2011 the Angry Birds franchise was already in full swing, dominating all major markets and being mentioned on and offline nonstop. It was so well known that to promote 20th Century Fox’s new movie Rio, the studio partnered with Rovio to clone the successful title and theme it around the new movie. In January of 2011, Angry Birds Rio went live and climbed the games charts very quickly, a rare occurrence for paid games at that time. Rio eventually turned free once it lost its ranks in 2012. The price drop gave Rio a short-term surge, only to see a sharp decline out of the top 50.

Then came Star Wars

Angry Birds Star Wars Ranks

Having built Angry Birds Space, the franchise was now ready for its next partnership. A different game mechanism meant the franchise could clone Space without hurting the original title or Rio. Released in July of 2012, Angry Birds Star Wars also climbed the Games charts quickly, and like the original partnership, the title claimed a spot in the top 50 for more than a year, a commendable period of time.

And then Transformers

Angry Birds Transformers

We can see a clear pattern here, new gameplay → new partnership. The third installment, and the last partnership so far, is Angry Birds Transformers, a side-scrolling game released in the summer of 2013. Maybe it’s the common gameplay or that unlike with Angry Birds Star Wars, here Rovio introduced both new gameplay and a sponsored theme at the same time, but as you can see from its ranks, Angry Birds Transformers just wasn’t well received, opening in the top 10 but dropping below top 50 within the first few days.

With all three partnerships we can see a similar trend: every time a new app was released, the original Angry Birds gained a rank boost.


We believe developers and marketers can learn a great deal from Rovio’s success. Here are four takeaways we think will help most developers, regardless of the type of app or game they’re building:

  1. Releasing in smaller markets tends to be easier and can create a strong foundation for moving into larger markets.
  2. Users like consistency, so when you make a big change, making it very clear will go a long way to reducing frustration and negative app store reviews/ratings.
  3. Growing your portfolio around a single selling point enables experimenting with new concepts without hurting your main app. It may not work right out of the gate, but don’t let that stop you!
  4. Partnerships are a great way to get consistent exposure. While major film studios aren’t easy to come by, look for a smaller company or service provider that has a product or a service that can benefit from your app and partner with them.

Are App Bundles Living Up to the Hype?

App Bundles have been one of the most anticipated and important new features for the App Store with the release of iOS 8. Considered to be a vital new way to drive revenue, many have been speculating about the tangible effects they would bring for individual developers since they were announced, including us in our Road to iOS 8 post by Joe Cieplinski.

As of 10/21, there are 4,448 app bundles on the App Store.

Armed with a month’s worth of data, we’re starting to get a better picture of how app developers are utilizing app bundles. As of today, a total of 4,448 app bundles were created and made available for sale on the App Store which means about 130 new app bundles are released every day. It looks like developers are quick to use this new feature and seem to be experimenting. Roughly 20% of the bundles that were launched since September 17th have been removed from the App Store, which isn’t very surprising considering this is completely new. Given how new app bundles are, we’re expecting to see developers experimenting even more in the coming months as they try to figure out the best way to utilize them.

In this post we’ll be taking a look at app bundles that have seen success in the App Store. By success we mean app bundles that were either featured or ranked in the top charts in the last month.

Top Bundles

There are 1,461 app bundles that were featured or found themselves in the top ranks of a category. After an initial surge on launch day (Sept 17th), the growth of bundles that were featured or appearing in the top ranks has been pretty consistent at roughly 64 new bundles per day.

App bundle growth - appFigures

So far, 860 developers have seen at least one of their bundles climb the app store rankings.

Developers have seen varying degrees of success when rolling their apps into bundles. So far, 860 developers have seen at least one of their bundles climb the app store rankings. Of these 860 developers, 581 have seen only one bundle take-off, 141 have seen two of their bundles take-off, and 138 have seen three or more of their bundles find success in the app store rankings, meaning that success was definitely not evenly distributed.

Ranked app bundles - appFigures

Developers with the most ranked or featured app bundles include Barcelona Multimedia (9), Duck Duck Moose Inc. (9), Matchkin (8), Pea Pod Labs LLC (8), Pocket Prep LLC (8), and Smarty Ears (8).

What’s inside the bundle?

The bigger question for developers is to determine how many apps to include in a bundle? Even though Apple allows up to ten apps in a single bundle, most developers have chosen to keep the size of their bundles on the smaller side.

Number of apps in bundles - appFigures

80% of bundles contain five or fewer apps

Just under 50% of the top bundles are composed of two or three apps, and 80% of bundles contain five or fewer apps. For consumers, however, the number of apps they purchase in a bundle is less important than the amount of money they ultimately save. Looking at savings in the aggregate, consumers can expect an average discount of $5.64 with a range of savings between a minimum of $0.95 and a maximum of $98.95.

Consumers can expect to save $5.64 on average

The vast majority of bundles yield a savings below $10.00. In fact, if lined up in ascending order, the middle 50% of savings fall between $1.97 and $5.98. When grouping savings by the size of the bundle, the general trend is that larger bundles lead to increased savings.

Average consumer savings with app bundles - appFigures

We’ll be keeping an eye on trends for bundled products and will continue providing you monetization strategies in the future so that you’re able to make even better decisions as more bundles hit the App Store.


  • There are currently 4,448 app bundles on the App Store
  • 860 developers have seen at least one of their bundles climb the app store rankings
  • 80% of bundles contain five or fewer apps
  • Top bundles contain apps predominately from the Games, Education, and Health & Fitness categories
  • The top bundles have a median of 4 apps
  • The average savings per bundle is $5.64
  • The largest savings for a featured or top ranked bundle is $98.95

Did you know you can track bundle sales, reviews, ranks, and even see when you’re featured with appFigures?

Brand New: Track Incoming Payments for All Your Apps in One Place

Ask developers why they make apps and you’re sure to receive a full spectrum of responses ranging from entirely rational to truly inspired. But no matter which way you slice it there’s one reason that’s certain to be ubiquitous: getting paid.

But how can developers know exactly how much money they’re supposed to get paid?

As anyone who’s tried to answer that question before can tell you, reliably calculating incoming payments from different app stores is no simple task. There are different financial calendars to consider, varying exchange rates to account for, multiple payment policies to keep track of, and the list goes on.

The details are certainly enough to make anyone’s head spin, and a lot of developers are feeling the pain. Several months ago, after many user requests, we set out to solve this problem, and today we’re thrilled to announce our solution: the Payments report.

The new Payments report shows you exactly how much money you’ve received and can expect to receive, by month. It automatically includes data for all the app stores and ad networks you use. payments-report

Why you need it

  • Accuracy first: Every app store has its own set of intricacies (different payment calendars, exchange rates, regions, etc.), so we built a system to diligently normalize the complexity of all the stores we track into a single data source you can always count on.
  • Totals at a glance: Start off with a single number that sums up all your revenue (including app sales, in-app purchases, and ad revenue), and dig in for more information.
  • Detailed breakdowns: Easily view payments grouped by individual stores and by individual products. If you ever tried to figure out the payment total for a specific iOS or Mac app, you know the reports Apple provides make it quite difficult. Our new Payments report does all the magic behind the scenes to give you accurate totals per app for every store.
  • Fill in the blanks: Most stores release their financial reports at the end of each month, but no one wants to wait that long. When you choose a month that hasn’t ended yet the Payments report will automatically figure out if there’s another, less accurate data set it can use until the real data becomes available. Such numbers are clearly denoted as “Estimated”.

How is this report different from the other revenue reports?

Our other revenue reports are built around showing the most up-to-date information. While this information updates frequently, it isn’t 100% representative of what your bank statement may read at the end of the month (due to varying exchange rates and app store limitations). In contrast the new Payments report is all about total accuracy. It is based on the less frequently updated (monthly) financial data that’s provided by the individual app stores.

Where can I get it?

This report is available in the reports section of the site, alongside all of our existing reports. If you haven’t already click here to check it out.

Looks pretty simple, right? That’s the culmination of countless iterations by our engineering and design teams, as well as invaluable feedback from several pioneering members. We took great care to make sure we always present the most accurate data, and that it’s wrapped in a delightful interface. We already have some nice additions planned for this report, but first we can’t wait to hear your feedback!

The Reviews Are In: iPhone Users Love Custom Keyboards!

We’ve been talking a lot about the new changes in iOS 8 and what they mean for developers and end users. In this post we continue the trend and look at custom keyboards. Now that custom keyboards are available for iPhone and iPad users, some are already swearing by them and companies dedicated to creating those keyboards are flourishing.

So far we’ve seen keyboards of all kinds pop up. From the famous Swype, to ones that change the background color to reduce battery usage, keyboards have been ranking very well. Instead of looking at performance, we wanted to get a feel for how users are receiving them, so we decided to dive into app store reviews. Since we’re going to be analyzing text, we collected reviews for all top ranking keyboard apps from english speaking countries (the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and Australia).

First, we aggregated all of those reviews and pulled the most popular keywords (those that are repeated the most times). We cleaned out short terms and stop words and put it all into a word cloud.

Word-cloud of top iOS8 custom keyboard reviews from appFigures

Word clouds aren’t as mainstream as they used to be, but for understanding reviews at a glance they are ideal. Looking at this cloud, we can easily see that users are really loving their custom keyboards. Words like “love”, “like”, and “great” are repeated very often.

Looking closer we start to see suggestions and feedback as well with words like “fix”, “needs”, and “feature”. Lets take a look at each specific app and see how those keywords look. Sorted by their ranks, here are the top keyboard apps and the words that are most used in their reviews:

  • Swype – Keyboard
    Ranked 1st (US Paid)

    Review Keywords: work, swype, great, iphone, works, please, get, love, fix, like

    View on iTunes

  • TouchPal Keyboard – Emoji & Gesture
    Ranked 2nd (US Free)

    Review Keywords: work, awesome, good, love, great, typing, like, themes, access, get

    View on iTunes

  • CooolKey – Keyboard for Color Lovers
    Ranked 2nd (US paid)

    Review Keywords: work, autocorrect, love, get, needs, like, set, please, even, great

    View on iTunes

  • Color Keyboards for iOS 8!
    Ranked 7th (US Paid)

    Review Keywords: work, iphone, waste, money, plus, works, even, auto, buy, correct

    View on iTunes

  • SwiftKey Keyboard
    Ranked 9th (US Free)

    Review Keywords: love, great, work, awesome, best, like, works, type, good, access

    View on iTunes

  • GIF Keyboard
    Ranked 11th (US Free)

    Review Keywords: love, gifs, great, awesome, fun, work, gif, like, works, stars

    View on iTunes

  • Kiwi – Beautiful, Colorful, Custom Keyboard
    Ranked 21th (US Free)

    Review Keywords: work, open, get, working, set, like, cool, works, even, love

    View on iTunes

It seems that users love this new addition and are happy to provide feedback and even suggestions in their reviews. That’s free QA for developers. Hopefully those developers are using our intelligent app store reviews engine to keep an eye on these terms and fix those bugs.

Using App Bundles? We’ve Got You Covered!

appFigures supports app bundles

iOS 8 was released this week and with it lots of new features for end-users and developers alike. One important feature for developers is app bundles. Joe Cieplinski covered App Bundles in our Road to iOS8 series a few weeks ago and today we’re happy to say that last night we rolled out complete support for app bundles throughout the platform.

We now track sales and downloads, ranks, reviews, and ratings for all of your app bundles. We’ll also let you know when any of your app bundles are featured anywhere in the world.

App bundles are a great way for developers to monetize their apps and we’re planning to introduce even more tools to understand app bundles in the future.

To get you started tracking quickly we put together a short list of most asked questions about app bundles:

How will app bundles show up in my reports?

App bundles will show as a new item in your product list with a special icon. Don’t worry, we’re also working to get the real icon in there. Your app bundles will also show as separate products in your email reports.

Update: We now have real bundle icons, and they’re beautiful! ( )

How are bundle completions tracked?

Apple completes bundles by refunding the purchase of the app and then charging for the full bundle. To the end-user this shows as a single transaction but developers get more details.

We currently show those completions as a standard return for the app but under the hood we track it as a completion and do plan to show it as a separate data set in the near future.

Will bundle downloads increase the total app downloads?

No. App bundles are tracked as separate products on our end.

Do I have to pay extra to track bundles?

Yes. An app bundle costs the same price as an additional app.

If you have a question we didn’t answer feel free to get in touch on live chat or by email.

Are Free Speech and App Store Ratings Related?

Here at appFigures, we are constantly exchanging theories about what drives individuals to download an app, post a rating, or write a review. One recent idea intrigued us all: Are ratings from some countries inherently more positive (or critical) than other countries?

After a bit of discussion, we decided to use app ratings to construct a sentiment index that captures each country’s overall rating disposition in relation to its peers. For those interested in the technical details, you can jump to the section on methodology at the bottom of the post. After we scrub and filter our data, we plot the index on a global map, color coordinating each country’s rating sentiment. Shades of purple indicate countries with relatively pessimistic ratings while shades of green convey relative optimism. The deeper the shade the deeper the sentiment with grey being neutral.

App store ratings sentiment map - appFigures

Most striking is the degree of clustering in the data. Western Europe and the Nordic countries stand out as tough critics when it comes to ratings. Advancing across Europe to the west, though, leads to increasingly favorable ratings. Central Europe is more neutral while countries in eastern Europe are upbeat. Outside of Europe, South East and Central Asia are uniformly positive with countries in Central America and the Andean region of South America sharing the same degree of ratings optimism.

One of the more intriguing patterns is that the advanced industrialized democracies tend to be more critical in their ratings than the rest of the world. Although the United States is the obvious exception, we can see that Japan, Canada, and Australia combine with Western and Northern Europe in forming a group of countries that tend to be more critical. Is it wealth? Is it culture? Is it technological savvy? We decided to take it a step further.

App Ratings and Free Speech

Determined to find some plausible explanation, we compare our analysis with other publicly available global indices. Some of these include GDP per capita, the UN’s Human Development Index (HDI), the World Economic Forum’s Networked Readiness Index (NRI), the World Press Freedom Index (WPFI) from Reporters Without Borders, and the Gini coefficient of income inequality. Of these indices, the World Press Freedom Index is clearly favored above the others in terms of explanatory power (followed by the Networked Readiness Index). Check out the best-fit line comparing our sentiment index with the log of the World Press Freedom Index below.

App Store sentiment and the World Press Freedom Index - appFigures

Generally speaking, countries that are less tolerant of public opinion (higher WPFI) produce app ratings that are more favorable than countries with a robust Fourth Estate. Although there is still a good deal of sentiment variation left unexplained, a relationship between country rating sentiment and freedom of the press is clearly present. There could be a variety of reasons for this relationship: Self-censorship or a firm government grip on public dissent could result in less critical ratings, even if the target is a harmless mobile app.


  • The five most optimistic countries are:
    1. Qatar (0.27)
    2. Venezuela (0.26)
    3. the Dominican Republic (0.25)
    4. Bulgaria (0.23)
    5. the Ukraine (0.23).
  • The five most critical countries are:
    1. Finland (-0.19)
    2. France (-0.17)
    3. Germany (-0.15)
    4. Sweden (-0.13)
    5. the Netherlands (-0.13)
  • The U.S. is relatively neutral with a deviation value of 0.05.
  • The difference between the most optimistic and the most critical country is 0.47 stars.
  • For 88% of the apps included in this analysis, country designation and ratings distributions are statistically dependent. This provides support for our chosen methodology.



Indices are usually complex beasts so we wanted to shed some light on how we constructed our sentiment index. We plan to continue updating this index and so methodology is very important.

One of the challenges in comparing country level ratings is settling on an appropriate metric to use. Simply averaging app ratings by country and comparing country averages was not sufficient in our initial experiments. Since there is no guarantee that each country will review the same underlying group of apps, this approach would produce apples-to-oranges comparisons. A more suitable approach is to compare and summarize how different countries review the same app, relative to each other.

To build up a global perspective, the index examines country ratings for apps worldwide. For each app, we compare how the average review for each country deviates from the overall average for that app. Averaging across a country’s individual app deviations allows us to assign a country-specific value representing its rating ‘sentiment’. Formally, for a given country i, its rating sentiment Si is given as:

where xij is how country i rates app j, j is the average country rating for app j, Ji is the set of apps country i rates, and |Ji| denotes the cardinality of that set. For a less abstract definition, take a look at the graphic to the right. Focus on the average rating from the USA for each of the three generic apps. For each app, we can record the difference between the US rating and that app’s overall average rating. For App 1, this deviation is +0.80, indicating the US rates App 1 more favorably than average. Taking the mean of each US deviation yields +0.20. In this small example, the value 0.20 represents the aggregate US sentiment when reviewing apps. In the report above, this method is extended to include a much larger number of countries and products. To ensure a valid ratings sample for both products and countries, we make three important restrictions on our data:

  • We only consider country/product pairs that have a least 30 user-level ratings.
  • Only products that are rated by 7 or more countries are considered.
  • Countries must rate more than 30 products to be included in our analysis.

With these filters, our analysis is based on a universe of more than 220 million ratings from over 100 countries.


A natural question to ask is whether the differences between country’s rating sentiments are (statistically) significant. To address this concern, we perform two different tests. A chi-squared test is administered to each product to check whether the ratings distribution for that app (one star, two stars,…) is independent of country classification. At the standard 0.05 significance level, 88 percent of apps reject independence between country designation and ratings. Additionally, two-sample t-tests are applied to the deviation values for each unique pair of country combinations. At the 0.05 significance level, 80 percent of country combinations have statistically different sentiment values.


For those interested in the R2 value of our best-fit line, a great article from Minitab can be found here. Although a value of 0.274 may seem low, in the context of the social sciences, it is pretty solid. As an example, take a recently published report in Psychological Science that appeared in a Forbes top-ten list (#5). The R2 values from regressions in this study range from 0.30 to 0.33, all of which include a minimum of three explanatory variables.

Download Sentiment Index (Excel)