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iPod Touch Versus iPhone Downloads: Stats Are Misleading

There's been some coverage of statistics from mobile app analytics and monetization tools vendor Flurry Inc. about a sudden rush of app downloading by iPod Touch users. Although the figures are somewhat interesting, the conclusions seem overblown to me and don't take into account some common sense explanations. Here's a chart from the company:

The most important caveat to the figures is that there is no way for anyone outside of Flurry to know how widely in the statistical sense its tools are used. Would the iPhone/iPod Touch apps as a whole really be represented by the companies using their tools? At the least, you'd want to know whether the most popular apps downloaded from iTunes used Flurry products. If not, then the results would be suspicious.

If the information is representative or more than the company's own customers, then it is interesting that app downloads to iPods moved ahead of those to iPhones by 172 percent. However, let's consider what's going on in the economy. Spending patterns in electronics show that people are trying to pay less, not more. Checking iPod Touch prices on Google Shopping you can see that a third generation unit with 8GB of storage is well under $200. Given that there is no subscription involved, that's a good deal less than the total cost of an iPhone. So thinking that more iPod Touches were holiday gifts than iPhones doesn't seem that big a stretch.

Now Flurry provides two other numbers:

  1. "iPod Touch 3G downloads increased by more than 900% on Christmas Day, compared to the average of all previous Fridays in December."
  2. "Total iPod Touch downloads (all generations) jumped by over 1000% on Christmas Day, indicating that in addition to new iPod Touch 3Gs coming into the market, iTunes gift card giving may have driven downloads to older generation iPod Touch devices."
By comparing downloads on Christmas Day, when most of the presents are being opened (though clearly not the Hanukkah gifts), to the rest of December, the company has stacked the deck. If anything, the number of active new units during the rest of the month will be suppressed because they're largely purchased as gifts.

Furthermore, we know that iPhone and iPod Touch users tend to consume apps. It would follow that when all the units get opened, there's a sudden rush of downloading compared to the amount done on other Fridays in December. In short, the results don't seem all that surprising.

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