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Statistically, you aren’t buying any apps for your smartphone

Angus Kidman 30 January 2017

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Sorry, Mario: more than half of us can't be bothered.

Time for my periodic reminder: the chances of you becoming rich by developing a killer smartphone app are remote, to put it kindly.

A recent survey of 3,000 consumers by Gartner found that more than half of us haven't spent anything on either paying for apps or on in-app purchases in the last three months. The consumers were based in the US, UK and China, but I'd be amazed if Australia was a significant exception to this global trend.

The research confirms earlier findings that we're more likely to spend money on in-app purchases (such as bonus game items or additional features) than we are on the apps themselves. However, the numbers aren't enormous in either case. The average spend on in-app purchases over that period per consumer was US$11.59, while for apps themselves it was US$7.67 - and remember, more than half the population didn't spend anything. In other words, don't go placing the order for that new Porsche just yet.

Long-term, it seems like paying for apps could disappear entirely. The younger you are, the more likely you are to pay for in-app purchases, but the less likely you are to pay for the app itself. "Try before you buy" seems to have become the dominant model. That's good news for consumers, but it makes building a business as an app developer extremely risky.

There will always be exceptions to that rule, and they're the ones that are likely to make the headlines. Nintendo appears to be coining it in with Super Mario Run, which costs an eye-watering $14.99. As our review points out, there are plenty of similar endless runner titles available for less, so in this case you're paying a nostalgia premium. The lure of Luigi means that's OK for this particular game, but that's simply not a strategy that's going to work for the average developer.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on finder.com.au.

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