Mobile applications (apps) have been gaining rising popularity due to the advances in mobile technologies and the large increase in the number of mobile users. Consequently, several app distribution platforms, which provide a new way for developing, downloading, and updating software applications in modern mobile devices, have recently emerged. To better understand the download patterns, popularity trends, and development strategies in this rapidly evolving mobile app ecosystem, we systematically monitored and analysed four popular third-party Android app marketplaces. Our study focuses on measuring, analyzing, and modeling the app popularity distribution, and explores how pricing and revenue strategies affect app popularity and developers’ income.
Our results indicate that unlike web and peer-to-peer file sharing workloads, the app popularity distribution deviates from commonly observed Zipf-like models. We verify that these deviations can be mainly attributed to a new download pattern, to which we refer as the clustering effect. We validate the existence of this effect by revealing a strong temporal affinity of user downloads to app categories. Based on these observations, we propose a new formal clustering model for the distribution of app downloads, and demonstrate that it closely fits measured data. Moreover, we observe that paid apps follow a different popularity distribution than free apps, and show how free apps with an ad-based revenue strategy may result in higher financial benefits than paid apps. We believe that this study can be useful to appstore designers for improving content delivery and recommendation systems, as well as to app developers for selecting proper pricing policies to increase their income.