“People often panic when the markets go down and sell off their stocks – but then they aren’t in the game when the markets are doing well.” – Suze Orman
Is it me, or does it seem impossible to get straight answers when it comes to comparing these two markets?
Which makes more money? Should I port my game over Android? What’s the marketing like? All questions I asked myself and all questions that I keep seeing over and over.
I figured I should do an experiment and see what the real deal is. This wasn’t rocket science, but it did have some unique insights that will hopefully help someone of you out there wondering how to squeeze more out of this insane mobile gold rush.
Android – A Virus Made Of Money
The facts are pretty staggering. While all of us iOS app marketers have our heads buried in the latest App Store algorithm changes and churn and burn models, the rest of the world was buying Android phones (see article here). Android is crushing the overall market in volume – everyone and their sister seems to be adopting to Android via the savvy marketing of companies like Samsung and Google (Nexus).
Beyond the distribution side of it, the Google Play store (Apple App Store equivalent) now has just as many apps as Apple. Developer accounts are easy to set up, there is virtually no review time, and apps have fewer restrictions. It’s a market much more so than Apple is and has attracted a lot of really great talent.
Needless to say, I’m sick of ignoring this beast.
Justin Bieber Helped Me Understand Mobile Markets
I needed to have a game engine that was the same for both platforms. I couldn’t buy one Android app from Apptopia then compare it to one of my iOS games – they had to be the same. Before I tackled this whole project, I had the following assumptions:
- iOS is where the dollars are (duh!)
- Android is growing very quickly, especially outside the USA
- Marketing is very different between the two for certain reasons
- iOS heavily relies on chart volume
And so on. In a nutshell, I thought “iOS makes more money…but maybe not for long.”
The #1 conclusion I wanted to determine was about monetization – do Android apps make as much as iOS apps?
Before I begin, you need to know a few insights I have, as well as general observations.
1. The “monetization” gap that everyone talks about hinges on the payment systems – In-app purchases and paid downloads. This is why the entire gap exists and trickles across all other monetization strategies. Android apps aren’t necessarily worse, their users are just cheap compared to iOS users.
2. A huge percentage of in-app purchases and paid downloads on Android are refunded daily because of fraud. There’s a lot of hacking going on out there folks. Lock up your kids.
3. Google Play listings can be updated at any point, without review. You can edit everything and see the results. It’s more similar to SEO and web optimization than selecting keywords in Apple (the description is searchable in Google Play).
4. Google Play makes it very obvious that they care about NET installs. The number of people that un-install your game makes a difference.
Without further ado – let’s party.
Pack It Up, Pack It In, Let Me Begin
Here’s a general breakdown of the two games.
Name: Celeb Style Runner FREE – Dance With Justin Edition
Categories: Games-> Music, Racing
Monetization: Revmob, Chartboost, In-App Purchases
Name: Justin Bieber Is Gangnam Style
Categories: Games-> Arcade & Action
Answers the questions I know you are asking right now:
1. No Revmob in Android. Why? Because install rates are extremely low on Android for some reason. I called a few large Android companies about this and they all said the same thing. I had it in there when I launched, but took it out after the first 1,500 impressions with 1 install.
2. Title. I originally named the iOS “Justin Bieber Goes Gangnam Style” but it was rejected for various trademark reasons.
3. Categories. I’m confident in knowing the iOS categories, but have little understanding of how it affects Android volume. I researched a lot of other apps and chose this one. Originally I had it as Racing until I realized all the other games people installed/viewed were CSR Racing type games.
4. No IAP on Android. It would have been a pain in the ass to integrate the IAP on Android and I really wasn’t trying to make this a big project. So I just dropped it.
Dude. What Happened?
So check this out – here’s a snapshot at the Android campaigns vs iOS campaigns that have the same basic pricing tiers on Chartboost.
iOS Chartboost Metrics
Android Chartboost Metrics
Now, here’s a snapshot at download volume:
iOS Downloads (from launch)
Android Downloads (from launch)
Woah! Cool! Wait…WTF does all this mean?
I’ll let you deduce your own conclusions since I know a lot of the people that read this blog are really smart, but I still want to distill a few key conclusions that this test taught me.
1. eCPM is similar across these platforms for Chartboost. Granted, those iOS numbers are based on other apps as well, but the averages are what matter. In the grand scheme of things, there is nothing overly awful about either and thus can conclude that Chartboost may be a viable monetization platform for both iOS and Android.
2. Like most iOS games, the launch spikes, dies, then goes away. Android has a much longer and flatter curve. This is based on the charts and their power on iOS. Of course, this is only 2 weeks so I don’t think I am in any position to make full conclusions here, but from talking to others it seems that having great publishing (especially great copywriting) on Android can have a much more positive long term effect than trying to select perfect keywords on iOS.
3. Install Rates are much better on Android. This shocked me…until I started using my Samsung Galaxy. The SDK integrations are doing what the iOS StoreKit framework SHOULD be doing – opening the store while the game runs in the background.
You know how when you click on an ad in an iPhone or iPad game, it leaves the game and has to open the app store? Then you close the app store to go back to the game? In Android it’s much more seamless. Less time and less actions for the user means more revenue.
The rest – I’ll let you decipher. Leave comments with your experience or questions for everyone to see.
Lastly (and probably what you’re all wondering)……
Should I Develop My Game On Android?
Here’s a basic equation to answer that:
a) Cost of iOS app * 0.5 = Cost of porting to Android
If (net revenue from Chartboost) > (Cost of porting to Android) -> Do it.
50% is a ballpark cost I see for developers to move an iOS app to Android. Based on my test, if I make enough money on the iOS version to justify the cost of developing that app, then awesome. This does not take into account Lifetime Value (LTV), so make sure that revenue isn’t just from your launch.
Also remember you’ll have to learn how to manage a whole new developer account, new publishing dashboard, and marketing strategy. I personally find that really exciting, but it can also be a LOT to take in at once.
Most importantly, ask yourself if it’s worth it to make an Android version of your game, or create a new re-skin on iOS (similar cost).
From The Horse’s Mouth
One of the benefits of being in San Francisco is that I get to meet all the awesome people that are part of the mobile gaming community. I went down to the Chartboost offices to catch up with Nate and hear about what they’re up to. We ran through a few optimization techniques and also chatted briefly about Android.
What he said was pretty much on par with this – Android monetization through their network is almost up to iOS. In certain overseas markets like Brazil, the market is growing incredibly fast and thus the bids are increasing (meaning higher eCPMs for all of us).
Additionally, there’s a lot of upside left for Android. After walking through Chartboost’s office and seeing what these guys are up to, it’s safe to say that this is the tip of the iceberg.
Always remember – when there’s a market as massive as Android, someone’s going to figure out how to monetize it well.
So – hopefully that gives some info to anyone wondering about if the Android market is worth it. I think yes if your app can monetize via Chartboost and IAPs well.
Keep kicking ass!
Thanks very much, Carter, for sharing this. I’ve been thinking of porting my iOS apps to Android recently, and your experience is really helpful. Admire your bravery of always trying something new. Keep rocking.
… seriously, it’s amazing!
Thanks dude. Glad to help.
Thanks for the reference to ChartBoost. My app Poker Income is in finance category and I never found any good ad network. The number I am getting is ridiculously low ($0.05 eCPM). Will give ChartBoost a try.
I am keen to add Chartboost to my apps. However, I heard that there Apple may not approve your app if it has Chartboost integrated. Could you throw some light on this based on your experience?
I’ve never had any problem with Chartboost. Tapjoy can give you some issues, but not Chartboost. They don’t like anything that mimics In-app purchases.
Great article, informative and well-written. You almost sound like one of us journalists! One question: Does this contradict your earlier post that the future of your own app development will be all IPad?
Thanks for the words! What I meant is that all my iOS development will start with iPad, then I move it to an iPhone version. Until now, it’s been the other way around. With Android, it’s the same work flow.
Tablet/Device is one decision, Platform is the other.
Or…Just use a solution that allows you to build and export to any platform like Corona. Hands down the best solution for build for iOS and Android at the same time!
Yeah, Corona is sweet. I’m building games with Unity4 now and it is so bad ass. Export to 10 platforms!
Thanks for that great article Carter. I’ve had Android on my mind as a way to expand my apps for the last couple of weeks, and a case-study like yours is just what I was looking for! Just one question, what do you think is better… converting iPhone IOS apps to iPad or to Android first?
I would convert to iPad first. You’ll save a lot of time and money and you already know the basic revenue model on the app. When you switch over to Android realize that you’re starting from scratch and have to learn all the ropes. It’s worth it, but isn’t as simple as just another iOS app (which I’m sure you’re used to by now haha).
I noticed on the ios app you were are running both revmob and chartboost. What is the revenue like when your popping both at the same time?
Running both will essentially double your revenue and knock your lifetime value in half. Think of it as a way to squeeze the orange now instead of letting it drip out over the next 6 months.
Thanks for sharing your results with this experiment. Really interesting to see just how big the gaps are but it’s a shame that you didn’t have the same game name for both platforms. I can see how this could have a huge impact on first impressions even with the same icon.
A great article, been wondering this for a few days. Perfect timing. So no to Revmob for now? interesting…
What’s your opinion on how paid business iOS apps would do if ported to android?
Great article amigo. And you’re definitely right… Can’t ignore the beast
Woa, I must be one of the not so smart one’s 🙁 I look at the earned money and ios = $9000 and android = $330. What did I miss?
I’m with Steven, the chart you are showing shows your making $9k off essentially the same installs. You sure that’s just the one game? None of my games some of which get more downloads get anywhere near that many delivered installs or impressions for that matter.
Thanks for sharing Carter, you are very kind! Awesome man.
Guys – the iOS charts delivered about 17,000 installs. The Android delivered 480 or so. Don’t look at revenue, look at the ratio (eCPM). I should have been more clear that the iOS chart there is like 30 of my apps, not just the one Android app.
All that matters is eCPM (earnings per thousand impressions) which are not statistically different enough to make me think Android isn’t much worse than iOS.
Does that make sense?
Thanks Carter! Really helpful. Now to try and get over my block about android (…but I love IAPs!)
It’s amazing you can dynamically update android apps. Gotta get an Android to play around with one day soon!
Just a question, would you now make Android versions of most new apps you release based on this experiment?
I’m going to make Android versions for my new apps, but my biz model has changed. Not sure if you saw the article but I just sold all my apps. So now, instead of making hundreds of apps for iOS, I build 2 or 3 huge, money making apps and publish them on every platform.
If I were continuing my old stuff, I probably would if I could get a bulk rate on all the runner games, then hire someone to do all the publishing.
Article is here in case you’re interested http://blog.apptopia.com/200k-app-portfolio-sale/
Thanks Carter, I knew I was missing something! the eCPM’s are really close between the two platforms and therefore worth the trouble 🙂 Thanks.
Congratulations and well done Mr Carter (I feel like you deserve the honour of Mr after closing a deal like that!) Sounds like a great move, any chance you can share with us the strategy your going to use to build just one of the 2-3 hugh money making app’s your embarking on?
Thanks Stephen. I’m going to write a big blog post about my next steps at some point. Will let you know.
I’m kinda confused. You said above that the money you earned was from 30 of your iOS apps but I thought you sold all of them. Did you make a majority of that money through the Bieber Run game? I’m just kinda confused since I’m debating making some apps but creating 30 apps can be expensive if its not going to bring in enough income from it.
The point here is to look at the eCPM, not revenue. eCPM is the ratio that determines how well apps make money. The 30 apps was an aggregate figure for iOS apps on Chartboost using campaigns with similar characteristics. That could be 200 apps or 4 apps – if the eCPM is the same, it doesn’t matter.
And yes, I did sell them but this all happened before I did.
Hope that helps.
What language was the game originally written in? How did you port it?
Originally written in Objective C (Xcode) and ported to Java via Eclipse/Google APK. I hired some guys to do it for me.
Ok, thanks Carter!
Hey, I was looking at the chartboost website and I noticed something about direct deals though interstitial ads. Have you thought about using direct deals or have already done so? If you are already using direct deals can you share your ecpm stats of direct deals vs regular chartboost? From what I read, direct deal cuts out the middleman and you reap the full profit that would have otherwise be deducted by chartboost.
Direct Deals are awesome. I highly recommend them. Here are answers to your questions:
1. Yes, I use them. Moving forward they are my primary method of using Chartboost.
2. eCPM is typically 20% higher than market if I have the right partner.
3. Direct deals CAN cut out Chartboost, but then you have to do your own invoicing which is a pain. If you use Chartboost, they take 10% which is well worth it in my opinion. I believe CB takes 30% of the ad spend so you’re basically saving 20%.
Please note that one of your games needs to have 20,000 bootups a day to be eligible for the Direct Deals platform.
I’ve got my game update rejected because I used fullscreen Chartboost ads on the title screen while the game was loading. What is even more funny is that they have approved 2nd version of the game which is excatly the same(+ Chartboost ads) but has iPad Retina graphics.
The end of the comments were even more exciting that the article. If you don’t mind sharing, what was the cost of all the apps that you sold for 200k?
Haha good question. I’m honestly not sure. Maybe $50K?
Very good ROI, and perfectly fits into your 200%-300% ROI target. Congratulations, and I guess you’ve now deserved a break in Aruba ))
Haha you got it!
I must admit that you are my inspiration for app creation. Few months earlier when I got this idea of app making the first think I googled about it and found your wesite and got your FREE ‘4_hour_app’ pdf doc which was the bible for me to proceed with the next steps. Now I am almost ready with my first app ‘Story Train’ (moral stories for the kids). I will be submitting sometime in 1st week of Feb. I have named Carter for my character in one of my story. I will send you the promo code shortly.
I wish you all the very best for the valuable detailed information that you are sharing to everyone.
That’s awesome man. I’m pumped for you! Definitely send over a promo code so I can check it out.
Glad I could provide you with some momentum to make it happen.
Dude, just listened your interview (guys, check it out here: http://karol.gajda.com/app-cloning/) — as always, one of the best content on the net re: app business. Already did two things after that: a) emailed programmers on Elance re: source codes they are willing to sell/license for re-skinning, b) pressed the Replay button of the interview. Amazing stuff!
Glad you enjoyed it man. That was a fun one. Karol’s a smart dude, pumped to help him out.
I haven’t known that you sold all your apps until now. How does such acquisition look like? These apps are published under ‘Bluecloud Solutions” name and dev account, so what about your brand?
If it goes about your new strategy and big apps – games or something else?
It was just the apps. I’m keeping my brand/website/social accounts. The deal was great – the guys I worked with were terrific and everything went well.
My new strategy is big games, specifically casino games. I see a huge opportunity to become a massive publisher in the game world…but I want to do it really well. Deep integrations, especially in a way that makes the user actually enjoy the advertisement is what I want to do.
In pretty much every situation I’ve ever been in when it comes to business, success happens much faster when you work WITH the people who have a lot of money instead of trying to get your own. I want to partner with big gaming companies and provide them with solutions to their problems. Even if I don’t have the next Supercell, at least I’ll say I made things better 🙂
that would be great if you could write a blog post about Direct Deals and the specifics of this system, how to make it right and bring the best value to the partner.
I’m very interested in going that way & develop that kind of relationships, build apps with the partnership in mind.
How do you approach them and what are the metrics that get their attention?
Congratulations for the deal,
and thank you for sharing open.y on this blog. This is very much appreciated.
Direct deals are bad ass. That’s what I’m focusing on long term. To approach them, use the Chartboost marketplace and think about the following:
1. Why you? Why should a company allocate money to you? Answer: your install rate is higher than most, etc.
2. Use math to determine every request
3. Research their market bidding prices.
4. Be able to deliver a legit amount of installs. >500 a week, based in the USA,UK,Canada,Australia
Hope that helps.
Thanks for the info. A couple more of my thoughts after listening to your interview someone posted earlier…
Do you think that company’s branding while developing apps is really important? I mean, there are many companies producing apps across multiple categories and on the other side, there are teams focusing only one one niche/category. I’ve always wondered if it really made any big difference. Let’s assume I want to create various content-based apps – should I focus on educational apps for kids (just an example) or I can publish apps for kids, women, health & fitness apps etc under one account and do not worry about branding?
In the interview, when you talked about targetting specific demographics (to attract potential big advertisers) something hit me. Maybe it’s better to just stick to one profitable niche, own it and hopefully sell the company for $$$ to some big players? 🙂
My thinking might be wrong, but I guess that a company focused on one niche/demographics could be potentially sold for more cash than a company being ‘all over the place’.
The risky thing about this approach is that I might not do well in one particular category I chose to build a brand in. Having products (apps) across multpile different niches seems to be a safer bet.
It’d be awesome if you could let me know your thoughts. Hope I was clear enough to respond to ‘this’! 😉
1. If you’re looking to sling a lot of apps that pump out money for a few weeks then die off, then no. If you’re looking to build something you want to sell someday, yes.
2. Owning a niche is the way to go.
Bottom line is this – your apps and portfolio is only worth as much as someone is willing to pay. Remember that. Even if your apps are making $50-60K a month (like mine were), it doesn’t mean anything unless someone is willing to take all the risk and management of it. It’s WAY harder than you think to find. Being able to deliver something that’s streamlined and easy to transfer, however, makes that process better.
Thanks for sharing the info. You might want to check cocos2d-x for your next productions(it is cross platform).
What caught my attention is how did you manage to get these 2.5k downloads on launch day? Is that keyword-magic only? Have you advertised your games somehow? I see you didn’t play with initial price(publish app as paid and then drop the price), so that’s not the way.
My game got about 150 downloads/day for a few days after launch. And with such low volume, eCPM does not really matter, cause all you get is just change anyway.
Any tips on that?
I’ve heard about cocos2d-x. Looks sweet.
That’s all keyword/icon/screenshot sizzle. I don’t really do the Paid->Free thing anymore. I’m not sure it works like it used to…
Not sure what to tell you about your eCPM question. Yes it matters.
Thanks for sharing this info with us, great reading!
I’m about to publish a free game (with in-app) in a couple of weeks. Do you
recommend CB or Revmob nowadays? 🙂
Also, with CB, do I have to spend money to earn money? As in advertise my own games, to be allowed to advertise others.
Both networks have their benefits. Revmob pays more but annoys users more, Chartboost has flexibility but pays less.
No, you don’t have to spend anything. It’s all gravy, baby!
Carter, you’re killing me!
I just read your last post. I’ve been working on an app turned pc game turned casino game for months. This town ain’t big enough for both of us! lol
Haha no worries Brian. Winners win in this market, plain and simple. Doesn’t matter how many people show up, winners always win.
See you at the top.
You’re right. The key is to have a great idea and never give up. Good ideas are hard to come by though, I’m lucky to have two at the moment that have never been done before. Were all your apps your own ideas?
Nope. I’d say about 10% of them were. I just executed better.
Actually you can download straight from the ad already on iOS ( as you describe about the android).
From Chartboost changelog:
Added support for the iOS 6 App Sheet so your users can download apps without ever leaving your app! You must include StoreKit.framework for access to the App Sheet. We are rolling out this feature in phases, apply for access via email@example.com.
Radical. Good to know.
Loved the post..But I want to add some points into it like Pre & Post Launch Marketing strategy which I have discussed in my posts @ http://creatiosoft.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?fid=11 ….. Would love to have your comments and feedback to make my post more interesting and useful
This is very inspiring, as getting from the start & Having no real background in programming (aside from making some adventures on ZX-81 and MSX), this does sound like I could get started on developing something for my own Android based eBook reader and android app development training even this online course seems to be interesting http://www.wiziq.com/course/13599-professional-android-app-development-training-1-on-1-sessions. Has anyone tried any online courses so far. Please do provide a light on this also.
Thankyou for all the info also.
I have a pretty solid idea for an app. I have a degree in MIS but do not have very much experience programming yet, especially for mobile environments.
Where the hell would you suggest that I start? Do most people in this situation hire some sort of development team/firm? I am very open to trying to get it done myself, but acknowledge that I may not know what I am getting myself into, and also want the app to be done right the first time.
Thanks for any suggestions you can provide,
I have an idea for an app but first wanted to check and see what kinds of competition there might be for it. Is there a way to efficiently sort through the tens of thousands of apps to identify those which may have already implemented my idea?
Nice Article, although I’m a bit confused on the stats at the bottom.
How from only 20k ish downloads on iOS did you have 3 million impressions?
Those numbers from ChartBoost boggle my mind.
Or is that just a placeholder image?
I’m just curious as that is an insane amount of user retention.
@Dustin – Apples and oranges. The Chartboost data is for the entire month and the download data is for a week or so. Even still, the retention was nuts on some of those games, way beyond anything I was expecting.
Great cast of designers here. Nice post.
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hello carter i have this app idea but i am more of a green horn in the app developing and monetization. i will want to request for your expertise as a coach. send me a reply message.
Its nuts how often I do a search relating to mobile developement and land on your site. Great job. And congrats on selling your apps for a staggering amount. Would like to see a post on how that was executed.
Is there any way one can tell if he or she idea will sell? Thanks.
Great post! IOS development online training enables you to learn & understand coders which are new to IOS development with the right knowledge to start creating fully-fledged apps on their own. Also, you will learn how to work with X-code 6, the tool used for developing debugging and deploying applications to the App Store and you will use Objective-C language to program your applications.