The half-life of an iPhone app

February 20, 2009, 2:53 PM UTC

As of Friday morning, according to 148Apps, there were 22,235 applications on Apple’s (AAPL) iTunes App Store competing furiously with one another for the attention of anybody with an iPhone or an iPod touch.

But once they have that attention, how long does it last?

The question is important to developers trying to decide whether to put a price tag on their app or give it away and make money selling ads.

The answer, it turns out, is a matter of minutes.

In a slide show packed with hard-won insights, Jesse Rohland and Greg Yardley of Pinch Media offer the results of a statistical analysis of 30 million App Store downloads. Among their findings:

  • Users tire of applications pretty quickly; fewer than 20% ever come back to run a free app the day after download.
  • Time spent on any app declines by almost 1/3 in the first month, stabilizing at just under five minutes.
  • Paid applications see slightly more use than free apps and are used for slightly longer periods.
  • The biggest usage differentiator is category — games are used for longer periods than any other type of application.

Behind these general observations are some very useful stats:

  • Appearing on the top 100 list increases daily new users 2.3 times.
  • The average price cut increases demand by 130%
  • The average price increase drops demand by 25%

Bottom line: only a few of the stickiest applications — less than 5% — are suitable for advertising at the current ad rates, and a developer won’t know if he or she has got one until after launch.

The slide show was presented Wednesday evening at the New York iPhone Developers Meetup and is published here. It’s must reading for any App Store developer.

For more analysis of the findings, see AppleInsider and TechCrunch.