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Games Claim Most Popular Mobile App Category

Developers looking for the most popular category of smartphone applications need only think one word: games.

That's one finding from a wide-ranging survey of mobile application usage from The Nielsen Company, which presented the data at its inaugural AppNation Conference, held earlier this month in San Francisco.

The study found that 59 percent of smartphone owners downloaded an app in the last 30 days, and that 61 percent of those apps were games. The most popular categories after games, in terms of usage, were weather, at 55 percent; maps/navigation/search, 50 percent; social networking, 49 percent; music, 42 percent; and news, 36 percent.

The most popular apps used in the previous month tended to be the same across all mobile platforms, including the iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile. Facebook was the most popular on all but the Android, where it placed second. The others that made the top five on all platforms were Google Maps, Pandora and the Weather Channel.

Another apps trend that continued was that iPhone users, who skew older and more affluent, download and pay for more apps than Android users. iPhone owners download about twice as many apps overall, Nielsen found, as Android and BlackBerry owners. They also pay for one app for every two free ones downloaded; Android and BlackBerry acolytes download about 3.5 free apps for each paid one.

One interesting nugget from the survey is that among the major platforms, BlackBerry users are less likely to upgrade from a trial or "light" version of an app to a fully-paid version of that app; they only pull the upgrade trigger 21 percent of the time, compared to 34 percent for Android users and 43 percent for iPhone users.

Another area of particular interest to developers relates to the effectiveness of mobile advertising. Nielsen found that teens are much more likely to respond to mobile ads -- 58 percent -- than non-teens. As the age group increases, there's a corresponding decrease in the desire to pay attention to mobile ads. Just 42 percent of teens aged 13-17 never look at mobile ads, a number that jumps to 72 percent for those aged 55 and above. The 25-34 age group sometimes or always looks at ads 43 percent of the time, and ignores them 57 percent of the time.

Survey details, which requires free registration, can be found on the Nielsen website.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.

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