Do Apps Lead to Higher Smartphone Sales?

by Matt Klassen on September 23, 2010

There is the common perception out there that the real gold mine of the mobile market is the development, production, and sale of mobile applications. With more and more app stores popping up almost weekly, it really seems like everyone is trying to get a piece of the application pie, but are consumers as interested in apps as mobile manufacturers? It doesn’t seem so.

In a recent study conducted by international consulting and accounting firm Deloitte it was found that the quality, quantity, and availability of mobile applications weren’t even close to the top of people’s list when it comes to choosing smartphones, meaning, simply enough, that focusing on apps won’t necessarily increase the sales of any given smartphone.

But if apps don’t sell smartphones, why is app development the current focus of the mobile market?

The basic answer to this question is easy, if there’s money to be made, any amount of money, in the mobile app business, tech companies are going to want to get their hands on as much of it as possible. Until recently the app market has been largely untapped, a bubbling well of monetary possibilities, and so its been tough to determine exactly how popular it actually is and just how much money could be available from this new market.

As the study shows, a surprisingly small percentage of potential smartphone customers (only 18%) consider the quality and availability of apps when making their decision. Instead, consumers are more concerned with the size, speed, keyboard, and, of course, price when it comes to choosing which phone is best for them.

However, before we start to think that consumers in general don’t care much about mobile applications, the details of the study seem to tell a different story. Beyond the surprisingly low interest potential consumers have in apps, the number jumps to almost 65% when it comes to smartphone users downloading and using apps on their phone. This means, simply put, that while people may not be thinking about apps when looking for a phone, they certainly think about apps when they’ve purchased the phone.

To me the findings of this study are unremarkable. Mobile applications are a relatively new technology, one that many consider, at this point at least, to be a frill, an extra, something purchased on a whim. As with most technology, people want to know how fast their new smartphone will go, how easy it will be learn, and how productive it will be, not what crazy bird flying app it’s going to run.

That being said, the mobile application market is still a veritable goldmine, as the 65% of smartphone users that do purchase apps are likely to come back time and again to purchase more. Sure apps may not help sell smartphones, but they do help smartphone manufacturers make money, and that’s really the bottom line.

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