Youth movement driving iPod touch app usage

With so much speculation about the future of the iPhone--e.g., if and when Apple will launch the smartphone via Verizon Wireless, or what the next version of the device has in store--it's easy to overlook the iPod touch. As easy as it is to overlook any product that's sold close to 25 million units over the last two years, that is. But as mobile application analytics provider Flurry points out, the iPod touch accounts for about 40 percent of all iPhone OS-based devices sold worldwide--moreover, the firm contends that the portable media player may boast even greater long-term strategic value than its smartphone sibling, because it's building a loyal consumer base among teens and pre-teens representing the next generation of iPhone users. "When today's young iPod touch users age by five years, they will already have iTunes accounts, saved personal contacts to their iPod touch devices, purchased hundreds of apps and songs, and mastered the iPhone OS user interface," Flurry notes. "This translates into loyalty and switching costs, allowing Apple to seamlessly ‘graduate' young users from the iPod touch to the iPhone."

Six months ago, the iPhone accounted for 57 percent of application user sessions tracked by Flurry--the iPod touch represented 31 percent, and Android devices were responsible for 10 percent. As of late November, total user sessions have increased across all three devices, but the iPhone now accounts for just 50 percent of sessions on average--the iPod touch's share of user sessions grew to 35 percent, followed by Android at 14 percent. No less significant, Flurry states that social networking and gaming sessions on the iPod touch are outpacing that of iPhone and Android, driven by the youth demographic--the iPod touch represented 40 percent of social networking sessions in June 2009 and 42 percent six months later, while iPhone sessions slipped from 50 percent to 49 percent and Android grew from 7 percent to 8 percent. And while half of mobile game sessions tracked by Flurry in June took place on iPhones, that number is now 46 percent--iPod touch sessions grew from 43 percent to 49 percent over that span, and Android fell from 2 percent to 1 percent.

While younger audiences make up the lion's share of manga readers in the U.S., in their native Japan the comics attract readers of all ages--and now, those fans are consuming manga on their iPhones. With more than a million iPhone 3G S devices sold in Japan in the three months after the smartphone's mid-2009 introduction there, Flurry reports that Japanese developers and content providers are increasingly turning their attention to the platform, with manga leading the way--one major Japanese publisher is now releasing more than five new manga titles for the iPhone each day, exploiting the device's rich graphical presentation as well as mobile content snacking habits perfectly matched to shorter, manga-friendly reading sessions. Keep in mind that last month, Flurry reported that books now represent one out of every five new iPhone and iPod touch applications--and with Apple reportedly poised to introduce a larger tablet form factor that will run on the iPhone operating system, it looks like the App Store is ready to write another chapter in its ongoing evolution. -Jason