The U.S. may be king of the apps now, but it’s slowly losing its crown.
Mobile analytics company Flurry’s latest dataset suggests that the US’s grip on the global app market is slipping. Flurry draws its insights from a few numbers:
- In 2011, 45 percent of the roughly 350,000 apps Flurry scanned were made in the U.S. Today, that number has dropped to 36 percent.
- Fortunately, people spend more time in U.S.-made apps, which is probably more significant than the absolute app number. Still, even the weighted percentage of active apps — which considers user numbers and engagement — shows the U.S.’s waning influence, which has dropped from 75 to 70 percent.
- And then there’s China, where app users only spend 16 percent of their in-app time in U.S.-made apps. Predictably, the rest is dominated by China-made apps, which control 64 percent of in-app time.
Much of this, it seems, is a localization question. If U.S. developers aren’t creating apps so that they can be easily translated both linguistically and culturally elsewhere, then their share of the global app market is going to wane.
The challenge, then, is clear: Developers have to design their apps with foreign markets in mind or risk being forever shut out as China continues to grow.
And it’s not just China that the U.S. needs to worry about: Consider mega-popular apps like Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, and Fruit Ninja, which were made in Finland, Russia, and Australia, respectively. That these apps are all games is probably no coincidence considering that, compared to most apps, games are pretty easy to translate and localize. (Seriously: What isn’t universal about flinging irate avians at globular green pigs?)
As Flurry points out, smaller countries actually have a head-start on the U.S. in this global thinking — mostly out of necessity:
Consider the situation facing a developer in a small country where the local language is not one of the world’s dominant languages. Unless they create an app with global appeal (e.g., a flashlight app), or that can be adapted to local markets relatively easily (e.g., translation of a weather app), they are likely to end up with very few users.
In short, Flurry’s message to app developers is simple: Think global or go home.