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While the business of virtual goods has probably been popularized most by social games such as Farmville, the mobile market for virtual goods has developed into a lucrative space for mobile games as well.
There's a good reason for this: charging for a mobile game itself has become increasingly difficult for many game developers, and virtual goods offer one of the best ways to implement a freemium model.
According to mobile ad network Flurry, as of June 2011, well over half (65%) of the revenue for top-grossing games in Apple's U.S. App Store was generated by freemium games. Just six months earlier, 61% of revenue was generated by paid games.
The success of Android in the mobile market may be one of Google's biggest accomplishments outside of search, and it may be crucial to the company's long-term success generally.
But when it comes to ecosystems, Android still lags well behind Apple, which has built the mother of all ecosystems around iOS.
The question for Google: why is that?
When it comes to tablets, traditional publishers have a dilemma: the numbers make it clear that the money is currently in native apps, but for publishers struggling to survive, giving up 30% of revenue to Apple, along with valuable subscriber data, is a tough pill to swallow.
So many publishers are trying to have their cake and eat it too. How? By building web apps that look and feel like native apps.
For traditional publishers, the Apple has been a blessing and a curse. On one hand, its iOS devices, including the iPad, have created hope and inspired thought about the future of publishing. On the other hand, it's clear that it is no savior.
It's not into charity either. Case in point: the 30% cut Apple demands from subscriptions sold in iOS apps. Begrudgingly, many publishers have agreed to this fee. But not all.
According to a new survey conducted by MTV Networks (MTVN), a whopping 83% of mobile app users say they're addicted to their apps. For obvious reasons, that's good news for companies participating in the still-rapidly growing app economies built around Apple iOS and Google Android.
But of course, not all apps are successful. In fact, another new study shows that nearly a third of the Android apps released on Android Market have disappeared.
This week, Apple achieved what may be one of its most impressive milestones to date. In the past three years, it has approved 500,000 iOS applications for entry into the App Store.
The App Store, of course, is the world's most popular 'app store.' Billions of iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch apps have been downloaded through it, generating billions of dollars in sales.
For developers hoping to hit the jackpot developing apps for smart phones and other portable devices, the App Store is almost always priority numero uno.
Mobile is here to stay, and publishers are eager to embrace it, even if figuring out how to is not an easy task.
Thus far, publishers have focused much of their effort on building native mobile apps, and it's no surprise why: mobile apps are being downloading at a frantic pace.
According to a recent report by IHS Screen Digest, the top four mobile app stores may generate close to $4bn in revenue this year, and ABI Research has forecast that by 2016, consumers will download 44bn mobile apps.
According to comScore, iOS mobile devices captured 25% of the market in February 2011. That's up only slightly from November 2010, despite the introduction of the iPhone on Verizon's network.
On the other hand, iOS' biggest competitor (in the eyes of many), Google's Android, has grown 7% since November 2010, and now commands 33% of the smart phone subscriber market in the United States.
As venture capitalist Fred Wilson sees it, this is solid proof that everyone should be focusing on Android over iOS.
With marketers spending billions of dollars annually on paid search campaigns, accurately measuring conversions is a top priority. After all, conversion data provides important signals that marketers can use to manage budget and refine campaigns.
Unfortunately, conversions are often more difficult to measure than it seems they should be. According to a study by Marin Software, an ad management solutions provider, the proliferation of iOS devices, including the iPhone and iPad, is making accurate conversion tracking even more difficult.
The market for tablet devices, which basically didn't exist at this time last year, is now a major focus for just about every large computer and mobile manufacturer.
Yet despite this, one company is reaping almost all of the rewards: Apple.
Google's Android operating system may be a prominent fixture in the mobile world, but when looking at the app economy within it, Android is having a hard time competing with Apple and iOS.
One big reason: Android Market, Google's online marketplace for Android applications.
Apple may appear to be on top of the mobile world thanks to the iPhone and iPad. But according to analysts at Gartner, Apple iOS market share will peak at 17.1% in 2011 and drop to 14.9% by 2014.
At the same time, Android, which had just under 4% of the mobile OS market in 2009, will rise significantly this year to become the leading mobile operating system in North America. By 2014, Gartner believes Android will be just about neck and neck globally with Nokia's Symbian OS. Combined, Android and Symbian will have control of approximately 60% of the mobile OS market in 2014, leaving Apple and iOS in the dust.