ABI: iPhone app downloads nosedive after Apple bot crackdown
Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone generated an all-time low of just 29 percent of quarterly global smartphone app downloads during the second quarter of 2012, far below the 47 percent posted by Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) rival Android, according to new data from ABI Research.
"The iPhone's download share tends to see a lot of seasonal fluctuation, but over the past year or so it has stayed surprisingly resiliently between 30 percent and 37 percent of the total," said ABI Research Senior Analyst Aapo Markkanen. "In our estimates the second quarter represented the first time the iPhone dipped below 30 percent. The iPhone 5 will most likely cause a second-half hike to the download count, but that may be of a rather temporary nature."
ABI states that the decline in iPhone app downloads is a direct result of Apple's efforts to crack down on iOS developers and marketers exploiting so-called "bot farms"--robotic installation services that set up automated, recurring downloads to artificially inflate App Store rankings. A statement posted to the Apple Developers page in early February reads "When you promote your app, you should avoid using services that advertise or guarantee top placement in App Store charts. Even if you are not personally engaged in manipulating App Store chart rankings or user reviews, employing services that do so on your behalf may result in the loss of your Apple Developer Program membership."
ABI notes that data from mobile user acquisition platform Fiksu indicates the bot clampdown may have slashed daily App Store download volumes by as much as 25 percent. At the same time, bots have never exerted the same impact on Android download volumes, due to different app ranking methods in the Google Play storefront as well as the overall economic stature of the Android app ecosystem, where far less money changes hands.
Markkanen also credits the drop in iPhone app downloads to cannibalization from Apple's own iPad tablet. "It's notable that among the iOS apps the momentum is also shifting up the value chain and towards iPad applications, and this change is happening definitely faster than what Google is experiencing," he said. "We estimate in the first half of this year the iPad saw over five times more app downloads than all Android tablets combined."
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