How many applications does the average iPhone owner install?

Apple’s 2008 Q4 financial details were released last week, and were all over the web of course. So I won’t go into it myself, apart from highlighting that in just 15 months, the iPhone has grown to provide 39% of Apple’s income, and that – by revenue – Apple is now the the number three phone manufacturer, globally. Wow.

I just have a simpler equation to consider:

iPhones (original and 3G) sold: 13 million

Applications sold through the App Store: 200 million

200/13 = On average, each user has downloaded and installed 15 apps 7 apps.

(Edit: see my comment for an explanation of the revised figure)

I’m well aware that such a simplistic figure ignores an awful lot of factors (it would be more interesting to know the mode), and includes certain people who download a lot of apps. But, it’s a starting point. And from this point, one things springs to mind:

For a per-user metric, I think this average number of installed apps is quite high, and probably higher than any other mobile platform.

I’ve tried to find some metrics to compare with other mobile phone platforms (I couldn’t find any), but anyway, the baselines won’t be the same. The iPhone, Symbian, Windows Mobile, Blackberry etc. have differing levels of in-built functionality. Also, the number of pre-installed additional applications per device, per carrier-specific firmware, etc. would further skew the comparison.

Yet I still think I have a good idea of the average number of apps installed by users on other platforms:


Now wait a minute, I don’t mean you, so don’t take it as an insult. By the fact that you’re reading this blog, you’re likely to be a little more tech-savvy than your average mobile user, and much more likely to have installed some apps on whichever phones you own. Yet most people I know with smartphones do not realise the capability of the device that they use on a daily basis. Even if they do, they don’t have a clue where to download apps from (Hanwhatgo?). If they happen to find the on-device download function, then data charges may put them off, though this is becoming less of a concern with bundled data.

Nokia sold 15m smartphones in Q2 2008 alone, but I doubt many of them will have had apps installed on them by end-users. There just isn’t the knowledge or ease of use for consumers, nor the marketing to say “Yes, you can”. Almost every user with an iPhone is likely to have tried to download something from the App Store at least once. If they don’t already know about apps, then the App Store is right there on the device saying “Touch me, try me!”. You just can’t say that that about other devices.

(The notable exception is Android’s Market, which has somewhat aped the App Store experience, and is showing promise).

It’s quite clear that Apple has cracked the problem of cracked apps, and both the total and average level of downloaded apps shows the immense success of the App Store so far.

  • Steve Litchfield

    I take your point, but the ‘Zero’ for other platforms is being a little strong. Nokia’s on-board ‘Download!’ system is usually played with, even by newbies. Although there’s not a huge amount in there, even beginners install something, even if only a game or weather utility. Zero? For Nokia/S60, I’d say the average is probably 2 or 3. Even allowing for geeks like myself installing 50 apps on every device I own!!

    For Windows Mobile phones, the average is much higher, perhaps 5 or 6 – anyone who knowingly buys something with WinMob is going to have a few apps in mind from the start.

  • chrsfrwll

    An interesting subject and certainly part reason why I switched from N95 to iPhone. The range and diversity of available apps, together with the simplicity of purchase (there are times I think too simple, as my iTunes bill racks up :) ) makes for an altogether more pleasing user experience. On the N95 I was forever trawling the 3rd party online shops as well as periodically reviewing Nokia’s catalogues (had to be periodically, as the experience was so dreadful). Apple’s simple touch to view, followed by its easy purchase mechanisms, ensures the captive audience is captivated by the experience. As well as a pricing tier that seems so cheap compared with other platforms. How many apps have been purchased simply because the price is less than a pint of beer (or free). I know I’ve done loads of such impulse buying.

    However, I’m not sure I follow your concluding paragraph, where you suddenly talk about cracked apps for the first time. Is this something that you were going to talk about elsewhere?

  • Matt Radford


    The average is arrived at by taking total downloads vs phones sold, a quite simple metric. On that basis, I would imagine that the download numbers for, say, S60 apps will be much smaller than for iPhone apps but the the number of S60 phones sold is far, far higher. So I stand by my original figure of zero as the likely mean.

    However, I do need to alter my original figure of 15 apps (which I’ve updated above). I forgot that the 200m App Store downloads also include iPod Touch apps. Apple sold 11m iPods in the last quarter, but they don’t publicly disaggregate iPod sales into Touch/non-Touch.

    Warning – rough guesses ahead:

    Assume 45m iPod sales a year, of which 20% are iPod Touches. That’s 9m per year. So add on 13m iPod Touches sold. 26m devices / 200m downloads = 7.69 apps per person.

    That’s half of what I originally thought, but still an awful lot more than zero.


    I mentioned cracked apps as it’s clear that the App Store has done something that other platforms have not done, and that is stemmed the haemorraging of developers’ sales. Cracked S60 apps are available for download everywhere, and severely affect legal sales. Some cracked App Store apps are available, but the hoops that you have to jump through to get them working make it not worth the time of the average user.