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One chart shows why no one cares about your awesome smartphone app

Updated Dec 19th, 2018 8:47PM EST
How Mobile Apps Make Money

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Being a mobile app developer is tough. It’s entirely possible to create a mind-blowing app that will change the world and yet not have anyone notice. Even more infuriating is the fact that tons of useless Flappy Bird-style apps seemingly pop up as overnight sensations for reasons that are completely inexplicable.

Analyst Ian Maude has posted a chart on his Twitter account that’s from a recent Ofcom study on mobile apps and it shows that the vast majority of people out there download mobile apps based on the recommendations of either friends or family.

As you can see, 77% of mobile users said they downloaded an app that they heard about through word of mouth, while 38% said they downloaded apps they found in the top charts. Less than 20% of users said they downloaded an app because they saw it advertised or they read about it in the media.

This means that for mobile apps to be successful, they have to rely a lot on word of mouth. This requires someone to first take a chance on an app and then become passionate enough about it to recommend it to people they know, who will then in turn recommend it to others.

This involves a lot of luck and it also means that your mobile app might never get popular even if you do a great job of promoting it through the media and with strong ad support. The moral of the story seems to be that if you think you can quit your day job to spend all your time developing a great mobile app that you think will make you instant millions… you really probably shouldn’t.

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.