Is Christmas losing its sparkle? Flurry points to drop off in yuletide download growth

Firminger goes festive at Casual Connect

Is Christmas losing its sparkle? Flurry points to drop off in yuletide download growth

There are two ways of looking at the drop in app growth over Christmas pointed to by Flurry's MD for Europe Richard Firminger during his talk at Casual Connect Europe in Amsterdam.

It could be taken as worringing news, with the festive spike developers have become used to accommodating now looking like it's lost its momentum.

The positive spin, however, is that it suggests Christmas isn't necessarily the-be-all-and-end-all. The mad rush to get apps out or updated in time for the big day looks set to lose some of its urgency in the years ahead.

"We are seeing a slowdown [at Christmas]," offered Firminger, pointing to in-house stats that claimed Christmas downloads had grown by 90 percent in 2012. One year later, that growth had dropped to just 11 percent.

"It would be fair to say that in the early adopter markets like the USA and Europe – where there's already one or more devices per household - there's no reach cause for lots of downloads because there's no real surge in devices," Firminger continued, adding substance to the trend.

"It all means Christmas is not quite as intense as it used to be."

Industry by numbers

Flurry is, of course, certain that its numbers carry significant weight. The company monitors 4.8 billion app sessions a day, and its software can be found in 1.3 billion active devices around the globe.

"If you're thinking that pretty much sounds like all of the devices out there, you're right," Firminger stated.

"We're the world most penetrated piece of software in devices. Almost every one of you here will have Flurry software in your phones or tablets. So, you can see that if you get a device and start downloading apps, it's really difficult to avoid us actually."

Just as Flurry continues to grow, so does the app business as a whole.

"We're seeing twice as many new app starts on a quarterly basis than we did two quarters ago," he added. "You guys around the world are just getting busier and busier and busier at creating apps. There's more choice than ever before – it's a phenomenal new content explosion."

Worldwide market

It's a truly global business, too. Firminger pointed to the increasingly international nature of the app business, with a developer scene that's no longer dominated by the US.

"The international markets are really killing It," he added. "That's why I love being in Europe – you guys are particularly strong at doing this.

"When it comes to the whole app economy that Flurry sees – which is about half of all apps out there - we saw mobile use growing at 115 percent in 2013. These devices have just become a part of everything we do every day.

"We feared that games might have reached maturity, but we're still seeing just under 70 percent CAGR (compound annual growth rate) every year. Consumers seem to be showing no slowdown in the amount of social games they want to play – Candy Crush etc have proved that really, we're all gamers, and that growth is set to continue."

When it comes to the type of apps and games those consumers want to download, Firminger added that free apps are – perhaps predictably – continuing to dominate.

"In the previous three years, we'd seen somewhere between 80 to 85 percent of apps being free. Now that's suddenly shifted to 90 percent," stated Firminger.

"What we can take from that is, consumers want free content more than they want to avoid ads. We're all under the theory that consumers hate advertising – that's probably true. But like the TV market and the radio market – and newspapers too, which full of ads cover to cover – none of them would be here without advertising.

"Consumers are clearly making a trade off between the direct cost of the app and the cost of watching ads, and they're choosing to go with the latter overwhelming. We don't see that trend subsiding, either."


So, what other major trends has Flurry deciphered from its masses of data? According to Firminger, Amazon is winning the "gifting war" over Christmas.

"I should say I used to work at Amazon, but Amazon is good at selling stuff. Price, convenience and choice are the three tenets of the Amazon business," he continued.

"With the Kindle, the target audience is wealthier middle class – they can afford these devices – and I think the form factor is a pretty nice bit of kit. Over Christmas, Amazon won the gifting war, with the biggest uplift over the holidays."

Firminger's other major assertion was that, despite notable barriers to entry for western developers, China remains a massive opportunity.

"In part due to the size of its population, China will remain the largest market for active mobile usage in the world forever," he confirmed. But, Firminger continued, whereas just 13 percent of the apps downloaded in the UK are made in Britain, in China, Chinese-based apps account for 64 percent of all downloads.

"You can see that they're complete out of sync with the rest of the world," Firminger concluded. "Nearly seven out of 10 apps are built by the Chinese – that's a big, big opportunity, though I'm not saying it's in any way easy."

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.