Apple, Android retain wide app store lead

Nokia and Microsoft have a mountain to climb if they are to claw back ground already lost to Apple and Android's application stores, statistics from Allot Communications show.
 
The Finnish vendor and US software giant don't even warrant their own entry in Allot's latest mobile broadband report - falling into the "other" category in terms of the amount of bandwidth consumed by app downloads, which, combined, accounted for just 3% of app store traffic growth in 2H11. In contrast, Android Market traffic grew a whopping 232% during the period, with Apple's App Store traffic up 61%.
 
Despite the higher growth, Android Market is still dwarfed by Apple's App Store in terms of overall download traffic, accounting for 18% compared to Apple's 79%. However, Allot's figures show Apple's growth waned in the second half of 2011 - the store generated 84% of download traffic in the first six months of the year.
 
Allot notes that app store traffic as a whole now represents a significant portion of total mobile bandwidth usage, being roughly on-par with the bandwidth consumed by voice-over-IP (VoIP) and instant messaging (IM). The latter two services were the fastest growing during 2H11; however, the pair accounted for just 5% of mobile data usage, which Allot states is still relatively low.
 
Chart 1: IM app breakdown. Source: Allot CommunicationsA look behind the headline VoIP and IM figures reveals some interesting trends, though, notably that new VoIP entrant Viper enjoyed rapid growth during the period to account for just over 2% of VoIP bandwidth. The figure places Viper ahead of Google's Talk service (1% of traffic in 2H11), and just behind Microsoft's Windows Live service (3%).
 
While Viper's growth stands out, the VoIP market remains dominated by Skype, which accounted for 79% of global VoIP bandwidth in the back-half of the year.
 
New entrants are also shaking up the IM market, with Allot noting that WhatsApp, a cross-platform mobile messaging application, grew its share of IM traffic from 3% in 1H11 to 18% in 2H (see chart 1 below). The growth came at the expense of big names including Yahoo Messenger, which generated 17% of traffic in 2H11 compared to 29% in 1H, Windows Live (14% in 2H) and Google Talk (5%).
 
Andrei Elefant, Allot's VP of marketing and product management, says the strong growth of OTT VoIP and IM is as much an opportunity for mobile operators as it is a challenge. "Intelligent, application-based data pricing is the way forward for operators, allowing them to maximize data revenues based on its true value to subscribers," he says.
  
Video and social media
 
While Google suffered in the VoIP and IM sectors - Allot points out that traffic generated by Google Plus Hangouts for Mobile, which launched in September, remains negligible - the firm's YouTube video streaming service remains top of the heap in its sector, accounting for 62% of total global mobile video streaming traffic in 2H11. The firm also accounted for 24% of global mobile bandwidth consumption as a whole, with traffic increasing 143% during the period.
 
While Allot notes the proportion of high-definition (HD) streaming on YouTube grew from 11% in 1H11 to 14% in 2H, the firm needs a significant ramp in the number of compatible smartphones to accelerate the growth in HD downloads. If the trend identified by Allot continues - annual growth of around 4% - it would take nine years for HD content to account for half of YouTube's total traffic.
 
However, YouTube's overall 2H11 growth pitches it between Twitter and Facebook in terms of growth in social media and video sharing. The mobile bandwidth consumed by Twitter grew 184% during 2H11. However, Allot notes that is significantly down on the 297% rise the site enjoyed in 1H11.
 
Regardless, the number is still higher than Facebook's traffic growth in the back-half of the year. The site's traffic growth fell from 166% in 1H to 105% in 2H11, hinting the firm is now running into similar problems experienced by mobile voice providers in the 2G era whereby growth is getting harder to come by.
 
If true, Facebook must begin to consider a change in its strategy - focusing less on subscriber acquisition in favor of managing churn.
  
The bigger picture
 
Chart 2: Global bandwidth and app growth. Source: Allot CommunicationsIn terms of overall traffic, VoIP and IM, and video streaming emerged as the fastest growing applications in terms of bandwidth consumption during 2H11, with overall messaging traffic up 114% and streaming 88% (see chart 2). Allot notes the two categories have enjoyed steady growth since the beginning of 2009 and are beginning to eat into more established services including file sharing and web browsing.
 
Chart 3: Application breakdown. Source: Allot CommunicationsFile sharing accounted for 26% of global mobile data usage in 2H11 compared to 29% in 1H (see chart 3), which Allot reasons is due to growing consumer appetite for real time services evidenced by the growth in video streaming. Another factor in file sharing's decline is high-profile government crackdowns on the websites offering such services, including Megaupload and The Pirate Bay.
Allot also points to a clampdown on content pirating by US authorities as a factor in the fall.

Allot's 2H11 figures are its seventh report on global mobile broadband usage. The firm draws its information from anonymous data provided by global mobile operators with a combined user base of 250 million subscribers.

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