It may be getting harder for mobile developers to break into the top charts in the various app stores, but there is a healthy and growing “middle class” app economy, according to new data released by analytics firm Flurry this morning. The company reports seeing 357% growth over the past 18 months from independently owned apps that have a worldwide audience of over 20 million monthly actives, and 121% growth from those with an audience of over 1 million.
The data was collected from apps running on Flurry’s platform from Q1 2012 to Q3 2013. That platform has a broad reach – there are now over 400,000 apps across over 1.2 billion mobile devices which use Flurry’s app analytics.
While the growth percentages here are impressive, it’s worth noting that in the case of the independent-owned apps with the 20 million active users, the actual number of apps has only grown from 7 in Q1 2012 to 32 in Q3 2013. In a world where the iTunes App Store now has a million mobile apps to choose from, that’s still a small piece of the pie.
But the number of mobile app developers hitting 1 million is much larger, going from just under 400 to 875 in the same time period.
“These numbers are simply unprecedented, especially because most of these app developers have risen organically, and not as a result of consolidation or through mergers and acquisitions,” writes Flurry CEO Simon Khalaf on the company blog.
He also notes that the app economy’s overall health is doing well, and is continuing to grow, citing the increasing number of new mobile apps arriving on the app stores since January 2012. Because Flurry’s customers tend to install the company’s analytics software in their apps during testing periods ahead of their public launch, Flurry has insight into what the app ecosystem will look like in the near future. Today, the company says that over the past 18 months, application starts (as these new apps’ appearances are being called) have nearly doubled.
The data seems to counter a number of theories and various reports that the app stores are becoming overcrowded, and that while the app stores are filled more apps than users could ever want, few of these apps are being used. In fact, Flurry itself reported something similar earlier this year, when it found that Facebook app usage on iOS and Android devices accounted for a whooping 18% of time spent, ahead of games, web browsing, productivity apps, news apps, utility apps, and entertainment apps, among other things.
In addition, another earlier report from comScore, which Flurry also cites today, found that Facebook and Instagram combined accounted for 26% of all time spent on mobile. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg later confirmed comScore’s metrics, saying on a recent earnings call that Facebook accounts for more mobile minutes in the U.S. than YouTube, Pandora, Yahoo, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, AOL, Snapchat and LinkedIn combined.
The takeaway, so far, from reports like these has been that there’s not much room for other mobile apps when so much of users’ time is spent with Facebook, and a few other major app properties. Khalaf says now that’s not so, adding “there appears to be plenty of whitespace for others.”
To be fair, a good bit of the growth Flurry is touting today is due to mobile app adoption in emerging markets, something the company alludes to today by citing the adoption of gaming, utility and messaging apps like LINE, Kakao, Snapchat and WhatsApp around the world. In particular, the company found earlier this summer that China alone accounted for 24% of all the connected devices worldwide, including both smartphones and tablets. So while’s Flurry is making a good point that there’s still plenty of room for growth in the mobile app stores, by taking a high-level view of the data like it has done today, it may be glossing over the very real struggles developers in mature markets have to overcome to even get their app seen, and then keep it from being abandoned.