Nielsen: iOS users download twice as many apps

Fifty nine percent of all American smartphone owners download mobile applications each month according to new research issued by The Nielsen Company, which adds that 9 percent of feature phone owners downloaded an app in the last 30 days as well. Games remain the most popular application category among U.S. subscribers, with 61 percent of smartphone users and 52 percent of feature phone users playing a game in the past 30 days. Weather is the second most popular app category, used by 55 percent of smartphone owners and 39 percent of feature phone owners--navigation and mapping apps are third, used by half of smartphone owners and 30 percent of feature phone owners. Nielsen notes that while all categories of apps are more popular on smartphones than on feature phones, the gap is even wider in categories like Maps/Navigation, where increased computing power, touchscreen interfaces and larger screens translate to a more satisfying user experience.   

Social networking giant Facebook is the most popular application across most operating systems: Fifty percent of iOS users have accessed the app within the last 30 days, compared to 45 percent of BlackBerry users and 32 percent of Windows Mobile users. Facebook is the second most popular app among Android users (45 percent)--only Google Maps ranks higher, and just barely (46 percent). Other popular apps across multiple platforms include The Weather Channel, YouTube and Pandora.

Nielsen reports that iOS device users download twice as many applications from Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) App Store as their counterparts download from Google's Android Market or Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry App World--moreover, App Store customers say that for every two free applications they download, they pay for one premium app, with Android and BlackBerry owners downloading more than 3.5 free apps for each one they purchase. Also noteworthy: BlackBerry owners are the least likely to convert from a free "lite" app to the full premium version.

Fifty seven percent of feature phone owners and 40 percent of smartphone owners cite searching app stores as their preferred method of discovering new mobile software, followed by recommendations from family members or friends. Ratings and reviews are also critical factors behind user download decisions: Eighteen percent of app consumers tell Nielsen that consumer feedback is "extremely important," 36 percent say ratings and reviews are "very important" and 34 percent say they are "somewhat important."

For more on the study:
- read this NielsenWire blog entry

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