Quantitative indicators of a successful mobile application

University essay from KTH/Radio Systems Laboratory (RS Lab)


The smartphone industry has grown immensely in recent years. The two leading platforms, Google Android and Apple iOS, each feature marketplaces offering hundreds of thousands of software applications, or apps. The vast selection has facilitated a maturing industry, with new business and revenue models emerging. As an app developer, basic statistics and data for one's apps are available via the marketplace, but also via third-party data sources.

This report regards how mobile software is evaluated and rated quantitatively by both endusers and developers, and which metrics are relevant in this context. A selection of freely available third-party data sources and app monitoring tools is discussed, followed by introduction of several relevant statistical methods and data mining techniques. The main object of this thesis project is to investigate whether findings from app statistics can provide understanding in how to design more successful apps, that attract more downloads and/or more revenue.

After the theoretical background, a practical implementation is discussed, in the form of an in-house application statistics web platform. This was developed together with the app developer company The Mobile Life, who also provided access to app data for 16 of their published iOS and Android apps. The implementation utilizes automated download and import from online data sources, and provides a web based graphical user interface to display this data using tables and charts.

Using mathematical software, a number of statistical methods have been applied to the collected dataset. Analysis findings include different categories (clusters) of apps, the existence of correlations between metrics such as an app’s market ranking and the number of downloads, a long-tailed distribution of keywords used in app reviews, regression analysis models for the distribution of downloads, and an experimental application of Pareto’s 80-20 rule which was found relevant to the gathered dataset.

Recommendations to the app company include embedding session tracking libraries such as Google Analytics into future apps. This would allow collection of in-depth metrics such as session length and user retention, which would enable more interesting pattern discovery.

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