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iPhone vs Android app sales: numbers from an indie developer
292 points by bignoggins on Aug 26, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 91 comments
Hey HN,

I've been a full time indie iPhone developer for about 9 months. I've recently ported my 2nd highest selling iPhone app to Android. Here is a comparison for the first 2 weeks of sales. If other iOS developers are out there that are thinking of porting to android, I hope this may be of help.

To keep things fair I'm only comparing one version of my paid iphone app to its android equivalent (Fantasy Football Monster '11). This does not include any ad revenue, in app purchases or iPad sales.

Date Android iPhone

Aug 25, 2011 $177.67 $420

Aug 24, 2011 $261.30 $382

Aug 23, 2011 $386.68 $386

Aug 22, 2011 $447.26 $425

Aug 21, 2011 $422.18 $585

Aug 20, 2011 $280.06 $403

Aug 19, 2011 $211.09 $352

Aug 18, 2011 $194.37 $388

Aug 17, 2011 $357.39 $342

Aug 16, 2011 $463.99 $330

Aug 15, 2011 $384.55 $407

Aug 14, 2011 $376.20 $483

Aug 13, 2011 $263.34 $502

Aug 12, 2011 $209.00 $508

Total $4428.08 $5914

Per Day $316.29 $422.43

So, overall the android version of my app makes about 75% of its iPhone equivalent. This is significantly better than I expected.

One more data point. The android app is currently about 250ish overall top paid, and the iPhone version is 350ish. Take from that what you will.

Some quick observations about android from an iOS developer's perspective:

1) I think developing quality apps is easier on iOS. I'm actually a Java/.NET developer by profession so I should naturally be biased toward Android. But once you get past the initial learning curve, I think that Cocoa Touch APIs get you 90% of the way there, whereas Android APIs get you about 30% of the way there. That is to say, if you want a lot of the nice UI touches you're used to on the iphone, you'll have to spend much more effort getting there on Android. The main advantage I feel Android has is memory management, but the reference counting method that Objective-C uses is second nature once you are familiar with the fundamentals.

2) Android gives you REAL TIME sales analysis. This is pretty incredible. Yes you can somewhat simulate this on iPhone using 3rd party analytics, but being able to see the moment someone bought your app just brings my obsession with checking sales and stats to another level. You also get your daily reports much sooner (about 12:30AM PST as opposed to 5-6AM PST).

3) Android market screws up orders quite a bit. In fact, almost 20% of all orders are declined or cancelled due to some android market error. After checking forums, it seems like this is not unusual. Now, I don't know if this means I have 20% lost sales, but still disturbing nonetheless. In android's defense, apple actually never gives you this level of detail. To my knowledge, you don't know if users can't buy your app due to an app store error. But judging from the fact that we get e-mails about this issue every other day on android and I've never gotten a single e-mail about this in the past 15 months I've been on the app store is very telling. Google has GOT to fix this. Developers lose, customers lose, and google loses.

In conclusion, I feel like the Android Market has really come into its own. The common wisdom that android owners do not pay for apps is demonstrably false. They may not pay as much per user for apps as iPhone owners, but the enormous marketshare Android commands is just too much to ignore.

I'll try to address any questions or comments in a timely manner, but I'm currently in Europe so please forgive me I don't get to all of them. Thanks for reading.

It may be worthwhile for me to chime in here with my own stats, which are far less impressive than bignoggins. I recently ported my iOS app, BridgeBasher, to Android. I took a different route though. Since I had no users on Android, I thought the best thing to do would be to create an ad-based version on Android, mostly because I've heard a lot of people say that Android users are less likely to pay for apps. I decided on using Mobclix for advertising, and here are my stats:

Date - Android / iOS

 8/7/2011 - $2.16 / $142.00

 8/8/2011 - $1.68 / $97.00

 8/9/2011 - $1.15 / $84.00

 8/10/2011 - $1.82 / $76.00

 8/11/2011 - $0.98 / $78.00

 8/12/2011 - $0.57 / $103.00

 8/13/2011 - $0.59 / $88.00

 8/14/2011 - $0.72 / $102.00

 8/15/2011 - $0.43 / $74.00

 8/16/2011 - $0.44 / $75.00

 8/17/2011 - $0.18 / $88.00

Total - $10.54 / $1,007.00

This is obviously comparing apples to oranges, since the iOS version is paid ($0.99) and the Android version is ad revenue only, however given bignoggins success with a paid app on Android, I'm thinking I have made a mistake going the free route on Android.

MobClix has big promises as to eCPM, but in the past month, AdMob has been KILLING my MobClix performance. I have AdMob AND MobClix in place, and recently dialed it to send 80% of my impressions to AdMob because of >$1 eCPM from AdMob.

Also, be sure you HAVE a paid version with no ads available to buy -- and don't forget to cross promote it using house ads. I have about a 1.4% conversion rate to paid (at $2), which accounts for more income than the free version so far.

Granted I'm still not getting rich on my Android version, but I'm trying to get a publisher for it (ONE clause left in the contract still to iron out), which should help a lot.

Thanks for the tip. What publisher are you working with?

I'd rather not say until I've signed. :)

Contact me offline and I'll let you know what happens -- there's contact info anti-spamified on here: http://rechargegames.com/page/about-quickcharge

Looking you up on the Market, you have 5k+ downloads. Your competitor, X Construction has 100k+ downloads for the paid version and 5m+ for the free version. So that's roughly a 2% conversion rate. If you released a paid version instead and got 2% of the downloads, you'd have $100 instead of $10. Still not near the iPhone version, but I'll guess you didn't have an entrenched competitor when you started on iPhone.

(Give or take a little inaccuracy as I'm just using the lowest possible figures from what Android Market gives me)

Also, if I search Bridge Builder, (which is pretty much the name of the genre) their app shows up and not yours, which may hurt your visibility. Maybe try fit that into your description somewhere?

Android users are paying, I can attest to that as well. Mind sharing about how high you rank on iOS?

Also, I just went to download BridgeBasher. Your game wants crazy permissions. Why should a game have to update my SD card contents, need my location, AND have access to device calls and identity?

1. Save files. 2. Targeted ads 3. To get a unique identifier for the phone. (I.e. ads again)

Number 3 is an example of Android permissions being insufficiently granular. It's nice that you know when installing apps that they can get a unique identifier (which until iOS5, apps always had access to on iOS. It's randomised or something on iOS5), but its also a nuisance that it requires giving other permissions too.

Number 2 and number 3 are arguments for being able to refuse apps permissions like you can do with iOS location settings.

The permission requirements are ridiculous, but are required for Mobclix. I would like to get away from all that, with a single requirement for Internet.

Location permissions are optional. I use MobClix, and I don't ask for location.

I might be able to get higher eCPMs if I had it enabled, but between GPS taking more battery (for fine location information) and people being hesitant to download apps that track their location, I'd rather have the higher distribution and happier users.

I think many people is losing money with this "Android users dont pay for apps" idea. I bought tons of apps and almost every people I know that uses Android use to buy apps too. It is even easier for people in countries like Brazil, where iPhone users cant buy apps directly (only using gift cards). With google checkout I buy apps in seconds. I have more paid games than most of my friends who have iPhones.

My problem with Mobclix was actually getting payment. For the first three months they only paid me after I waited the 90 days and contacted them numerous times asking why I hadn't gotten paid. After the third month they stopped responding to me completely and last week out of the blue I finally got paid for advertisements from more than a year ago.

Would you mind disclosing your sales for the past week? What did you do (without pushing an update) that made it shoot up so much?


I have another app, SimplePhysics, which is a far better app, and I made it free last week. I have a notification in it that says: "If you like SimplePhysics, then you should check out my other game, BridgeBasher!" and redirects them to the download page for BB. Since SP is free, it's getting around 80k-100k downloads per day, and really driving sales for BB.

80k dowloads a day? really thats crazy

and this is on the android platoform?

this is on iPhone. SP was top 10 overall paid at one point so not surprised free version gets that much.

I agree, the bloodbath of "Payment Declined" orders in our order inbox is downright infuriating. This is especially painful when customers email us saying that they purchase apps all the time on Android and their card didn't work only when they tried to order our games.

Agreed, this problem needs to be solved.

I develop for Android and iOS too, and Android Market is terrible with declined purchases and "failed to deliver" issues. What's worse is that there is no good way to get information about what's wrong and who's affected. In-app purchases also have terrible bugs on Android - bugs like this http://code.google.com/p/marketbilling/issues/detail?id=14 open for months cause payments to just 'disappear'. The only thing worse than Android Market bugs is Android Market support. There is no way to get Google's attention, and emails to support come back with useless, auto-reply messages. I spend at least 30 minutes a day fiddling with refunds and fixing things up for users who contact us about problems. It is infuriating - I'm embarrassed for Google.

I haven't had a single bad payment experience with iOS.

So, I'm about to take the plunge into the market, and have been wondering about this exact issue. How do you deal with it when you get failed to deliver problems? I mean, you probably can't just give them the apk, that's its own can of worms... any tips?

the only thing you can do is tell them to try again at a later date. The problem is squarely in Google's hands so there isn't much you can do.

Regarding #3, I wrote a script that automatically emails the 20% of customers who get their orders declined, asking them to purchase the app directly through me using PayPal. A surprising number of them do. It's not a perfect solution, but at least it recovers some lost revenue. You can have this feature available for your app through http://www.AndroidLicenser.com

wow that's pretty brilliant. I'll have to look into this.

If they don't buy through the market, delivering updates becomes a problem.

Glad to see actual numbers rather than the usual circle-jerk of "only iOS makes money".

Interesting, what kind of marketing are you doing for the app? How are people hearing about it, just market searches?

1000+ downloads of a 2.99 app in the first couple weeks is pretty impressive, well done

My app has been fairly popular on the iphone app store for over a year, and customers were demanding an android port. The only marketing I need to do at this point is just notify my existing customers that a new version is out. Everything after that is purely organic.

Great info. Was this app featured prominently in either store at any time, or just listed rank and file with all the other apps?

I was never featured on either store. Everything came from organic downloads and word of mouth.

Another android dev with (much) lower volume here. Curious how you know about errors driving that 20% number. Is there a report somewhere with this detail or is it just inferred from customer emails? The only failures I ever see come through are declined credit cards or the regular cancellations from users who used the 15min refund window.

The orders show up as "Payment Declined" in the order inbox, or "Cancelled by Google".

If a customer just refunds, then the order just says "Cancelled" and the details of the order say that the card was successfully authorized.

It's those people that WANT to give you their money but get stopped because of a Payment Decline or Google Cancel that are ridiculous.

I bet at least 50% of failures are customers trying to use someone else's card, or habitual charge-backers. What is the experience for each channel 90 days in when actual chargebacks start hitting?

I don't see how you can hang payment declines on Google. Customers failing to enter valid credit card information is just an ecommerce fact of life.

From the Google Checkout inbox. The 20% is just an eyeball estimate of errors/payment declined vs actual sales.

20% sounds about right based on my experience.

I agree. My all time rates are 18.2% returns, 2.5% payment declines. But that 18.2% as I understand it are customer initiated order cancellations.

Thanks for helping to dispel this myth that has somehow developed that Android users "don't buy apps". I don't know how this idea got so entrenched. You can definitely make an argument that they buy somewhat less, but it's completely misleading to say they never buy any, which is what you will see commonly stated around the net.

It got entrenched from Android devs sharing their numbers and those numbers being lower for Android than iOS. I don't know if other Android devs were making good money and just didn't want to share that info or if it's gotten better recently, but it's good to see that it's actually a viable market now.

When iOS became popular, developers spilled the beans left and right about how successful they were, causing a landslide of competition and a massive goldrush. I think Android devs with success realized this and have decided it's better for business just to shut up.

I think this is silly. Android download info is public (the range anyway). You can just go to the android market and easily see that the top apps are making quite a bit of money.

I'm just saying that you may have made a monster mistake by posting your numbers.

One of our games was making very similar numbers for about 4 months, then a competitor, a talented college kid, decided he would make a game really similar to ours and put it out there for free. Not even with ads.

Over the next 4 months, we saw sales drop to about 1/5 of what we were making in our good months. He has out-ranked us and doesn't seem to have any interest in making much money tho he as since put in an ad that shows up upon a game-over.

I'm worried that you just put a nail in your own coffin, and are about a month or 2 from realizing it... on Android at least.

I wish you good luck. You need to step up your game now and make sure you are on the very cutting edge. If there's even 1 feature that your users want that you haven't done yet, that's the one feature that gets the competition an edge-in on your app.

i'm not too worried. if it happens it happens. This isn't even my best performing app by a long shot. Besides, it already has a ton of visibility in the app store so competitors would naturally arise whether I posted any numbers or not.

From my experience most successful entrepreneurs don't worry about competitors that much. They just focus on building the absolute best product they can.

this is so true. theres a bunch of people banking but why divulge secrets when it only invites competition :)

It doesn't look like this is a fair comparison. If you ported your app from IOS to Android, then presumably the IOS version has had the opportunity to gain popularity already, which the Android version has not. I'm not a mobile app dev, but I assume that it takes some time before an app can gain popularity and hit it's sales peak.

It may make more sense to compare the first two weeks of IOS sales to the first two weeks of Android sales, even though they'll be different dates. Or, maybe that is what you're comparing and I just missed something.

I don't think there's any way to do a truly fair comparison, unless you manage to launch both apps at the same time on the same platform.

Both the iOS and Android markets have grown in the past year or so, so comparing sales at different points in time is even less valid, in my opinion.

I think it's an annual app, so the iPhone users need to rebuy it each year at the start of football season. So it seems a fair comparison.

I have to disagree, even though they have to rebuy it he has already had a year to build up a user-base.

Yes, brand awareness and commercial goodwill are important.

My app is annual, in that I release a completely new app every year rather than offering free updates. So this is about as close to what you are looking for as it gets. The iOS version was released about a month earlier, but the numbers are not significantly different.

Thanks for posting your figures! What did you do to advertise the new app on Android? I have recently ported one of my games from iOS to Android and even though it is free on Android, it is really having trouble getting traction, and this is even after sending an e-mail to 40k people and several hundred dollars in Admob advertising.

Edit: Ah, nevermind, I see you already answered this in your reply to utnick.

Just want to say thanks. I bought the $2.99 iPhone app, and the ease of managing my team has definitely made me a few hundred dollars from bets with our pool over the season.

thanks! If only I took a rake like the casinos =)

Thanks for the raw data. We've been considering doing an Android port but were not sure whether the resulting revenue would make it worthwhile. I'm glad to see that the Android paid app market is picking up steam.

Any reason you didn't include iPad sales? There are also Android tablets, so unless none of your sales are for Honeycomb users it might not be a fair comparison.

I'd also be interested in seeing how it changes when you take into account ad revenue and in-app purchases. Do the numbers stay as close when you add them, or does one platform take the lead?

Because the iPad version is a completely different app at a different price point, so it would skew the results. If I counted iPad/in-app/ad revenue it would nearly triple the iOS numbers.

Damn, you are doing well. Is it just you behind this operation?

only me full time. I hire contractors for graphics and some programming. Android is handled mainly by a friend of mine and we have a 50/50 revenue share.

I also have another iPhone app that sells much better but it came out recently so I haven't had a chance to port to iPad or Android yet.

Is the 50-50 revenue share for all revenue or only for Android?

android only

Very useful, thank you, could you keep us updated perhaps? It would be interesting to see how this matures as your app becomes more established in the android marketplace (or if this makes any difference at all).

Sure, if there is enough interest I can do a follow up post. You may have to pester me about it on twitter or something b/c I'm not really one to put myself out there on the internet. This is my first major contribution to HN, I'm a long time lurker.

Taking credit cards is hard. You get random declines from merchant banks all the time. I bet the app store simply doesn't tell you about it. Not a single decline in 15 months? Hardly likely. 20% of all attempted virtual purchases bouncing sounds not unreasonable if you compare to other markets (pc, game credits, etc)

I think the difference is that with Apple, you get charged BY Apple, and a payment to Apple doesnt get declined, but on Google, each dev is a merchant that the banks aren't recognizin, and we get declined left and right.

I have actually found my Phone 7 has 4x my android, blackberry, WebOS, and iOS app sales combined.... Probably because the market isn't flooded yet. Android was my lowest, iOS next, then Blackberry, followed by webOS. If you can hit markets people do not yet find viable, that may very well be your key to success.

Do you have a blog or anything? I've recently gotten into WP7 coding (submitted my first WP7 app to AppHub last night!) and am interested in reading more about people's experiences.

Thanks so much for this.

This is helpful information and something I always wanted to see side-by-side. It's also very nice to see that it seems like in some cases it is worth making an Android port, but that you, even as a Java/.NET developer by profession find it more difficult to create a quality app on Android.

For 75%, it well worth the effort of porting the app, instead of creating a new one for the iPhone.

not mutually exclusive. I outsourced the port and in the meantime created a new iPhone app (which happens to significantly outsell the original that I ported).

You are genius man!

you said you are ranking 250ish on android right now.

what is the best way to find your ranking on android? is their a website or tool or did you just go on the market and scroll down and counted till you saw your app?

awesome numbers btw! thanks!!

market.android.com and click on Top Paid. I think I've dropped as of late.

Do you have any automation test? How's the testing and build infrastructure in both Android and iPhone/iPad?

Would love to be able to automate the build/test/deploy using some sort of continuous integration or something.

Take a look at Jenkins CI -- it can do automatic builds and tests for Android and iOS.

Thanks for this post man, It helped me a lot with this http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2931430 question.

just curious, what is the magic formula for high iOS downloads whether paid or free? good graphics? games? how do you go from zero downloads to many with new apps?

My strategy was to target a well-defined niche and dominate it rather than trying to compete in a saturated category (like games or entertainment). I think overall polish is extremely important. You can't just release an MVP and iterate like you can on the web. You really have to hit a homerun from the get go or you have no chance of survival.

This is good advice. It's important to make a big initial splash. It's a mistake to put out something half-baked with the idea of polishing it later, unlike the web.

Any plans to add winphone7 version now that it's mango time??

Not until it gains significant marketshare. Supporting Android/iPad/iPhone is enough to keep me busy for now =)

Fair enough. Currently a 3GS iPhoner, but the temptation of LTE and a larger screen may be luring me to (or away from depending on who you ask) the dark side. I've enjoyed your iOS hockey app, but one app won't make my decision on which phone I choose.

Thanks for the details. Feel like sharing numbers for the iPad too? Please?

iPad is pretty much identical revenue to iPhone.

Thank you!

as an iPhone to Android refugee, I'd add that android users are driven more by function rather than magic, and that probably affects the value they place on apps.

Pretty awesome stats. Great job, man! Good insight.

Simple yet biased answer: Android owners want free apps, iOS users are more willing to pay.

What are you answering? I think his post goes to show that this statement isn't really true.

Android users are willing to pay for quality apps, and the lack there-of has made your statement somewhat more true in the beginning of Android, but not so much anymore.

There are huge issues buying content on iTunes. Apple doesn't fix it or tell you, or help you get in touch with the developer to work around it.

that may be true but I've never gotten a single customer e-mail complaint regarding this, whereas I get one nearly ever other day on android (where my sales are a small fraction of my total iOS app sales). So the problem appears to be significantly greater on android.

Can you expand on that? What are the issues?

One I can think of now: It doesn't tell you when someone with prior versions of the OS tries to download something you built with too high of a deployment target. This happens so often right now with the Verizon iPhone versioning being <4.3.

Good point. That guy Marco from instapaper talked about this issue some time ago but didn't mention that apple makes it hard to specify a minimum os version in any kind of informed way.

For instance?

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