Busted Loop Says Most Paid Apps are Stuck in a Sales Dead Zone


app-store-paid-vs-freeThe guys at Busted Loop blog did an analysis of what they claim is a “comprehensive, raw ranking data for the entire U.S. App Store, spanning all categories.” Their conclusion: “...most paid apps fail. These ‘dead’ apps may have had some sales shortly after they were released, but once the honeymoon is over, that's it. No more sales.”

This is not exactly a revelation for most developers as well as for companies such as Pinch Media, AdMob and MobClix who have been tracking App Store sales and who have made similar assessments.

The App Store is quickly approaching its first-year anniversary (July 11). In that time, the App Store has approved more than 58,300 apps, submitted by some 14,000 publishers. Developers are introducing apps  at the rate of 1,300 per week, yet, only 1 percent of them are responsible for more than 30 percent of apps.

The picture is overtly grim, according to Busted Loop. What follows are some of Busted Loop’s direct observations and charts. For more details, follow the link above to its blog.

This first chart shows a comparison of free versus paid apps. It’s evident that paid apps dominate.


However, although most apps are paid, the most popular apps are free, Busted Loop says.


To compensate for this, you would expect paid apps to be concentrated at the bottom of the popularity curve but it doesn’t work out that way:


Most of the categories have no free apps at all in the bottom 200. It turns out that at the bottom of every category there are pages and pages of paid apps, uninterrupted by even a single free app.

Busted Loop calls this segment of paid apps in each category the "dead zone". App Store popularity is based on daily download rate, so the apps in the dead zone for each category have fewer daily downloads than even the least popular free app in that category, Busted Loop points out.

So how many times per day are apps in the dead zone downloaded? Well, since the vast majority of downloads are for apps near the top, we assume that the least popular free apps in each category have very few downloads per day. Probably none.

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  • Elvis

    There's a reason for this: Most apps suck. Further, nearly everyone knows this.

    This is why sites like AppCraver exist, and why I come here every day.

  • xf

    wow Elvis your comment is pure ownage. i totally agree with you.

    creators of lousy paid apps are just wannabes which yearn for a slice of the big apple app store pie.

    its not about quantity but quality!

  • http://www.ethervision.net Randall Cross

    I agree that there are a lot of really bad apps out there. A lot.

    But, there are also many paid apps that are really good yet do not sell all that well. A developer not only needs a good app idea but also a way to promote the app to a targeted segment. Once a paid app disappears off the category top 100 list, it could be all over for them.

    There is also some luck involved as well.

  • John

    Would be much better if the store allowed downloads with a trial period of a couple of days before it had to be activated - might as well make something of the itunes drm lock-in.

    The stats also mirror my experience on flickr
    lots of views on the day pics are posted then the abyss - I think this is to do with user interface and browsing patterns. People used to talk about intelligent agents/bots that would search the net for what you wanted. Itunes should be a salesman that asks questions about what your looking for and suggests the best fit - not just serve up a list of the most recently deposited turds.

  • Coldsmoke

    I agree with the comments made before me..... many of the so called "apps" are pure trash. This includes the free ones too. Like Ifart....its a travesty to call that an "app"
    At best, 95% of the apps are single focused utilities or stupid-ass games. For this consumer games are not "apps". They're games. Period.
    So here's the interesting part; I'd be willing to pay a fair price for a true application; something that truly accomplishes a task. $10, $20, even $30 if it were worth it, but the developer had better put some skin in the game and offer a trial period, a guarantee of performance.....something.

  • Brian


    I guess the other thing is that finding the best app for a particular task is very hit and miss. THe search engine can be usefull for some things yet useless for others.
    Example "racing games" will find many games where you can race cars, "adventure games" will find many facebook style web games and the few actual point and click adventure games are burried.

    Apple needs to work on a frame work of categories to assist in searching/browsing for new apps.

    A more powerful search engine with filters is needed. Eg so I can organise by price, popularity, rating, release date, relevancy, last update.

    I also think developers who sell apps for more than the minimum price need to offer a free trial/lite version to succeed. Obviously it could cut into sales, but if designed correctly that can be minimised. I find that adds in free apps are a good incentive to get the full version so long as I see enough value for the outlay. Usually i don't mind paying AUS$1.19 if it only gets rid of the ads, if the price is higher then I expect more feature than the free/lite version.

    Even tough the apps are cheap by software standards I do find it hard to distinguish between several similar apps on the basis of reviews and published data in the app store. Trial versions help a lot, and websites with more detailed instructions, feature lists, and photos also help. I pay attention to whether the developer is active in updating the application, and whether they look stretched thinly accross many apps, or focused in their chosen field (Are they professional and/or passionate?).