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Flawed study decides iPhone is for games, Android for apps

Trumpeting in its headline that "iPhone is for games, Android is for apps," Xyologic has managed to pull a singular feat: it's undermined 5/8 of its own name with the analysis that follows.

Xyologic compares the entire US Android Market against just the free iPhone offerings in the App Store, which is the first warning that its data and analysis is going to be skewed. Comparing the top 150 downloads between these weirdly disparate markets yields the following results:

Entire Android Market:

  • 85 of top 150 downloads are apps, with 91.5 million downloads
  • 65 of top 150 downloads are games, with 33.4 million downloads

Free iPhone Apps:

  • 50 of top 150 downloads are apps, with 25.6 million downloads
  • 100 of top 150 downloads are games, with 71.6 million downloads

If you didn't know any better, you could easily look at the numbers Xyologic came up with and reach the same conclusion they do: Android users certainly appear to be downloading more apps than games compared to iPhone users. But the fact that Xyologic only chose to analyze the numbers for free iPhone apps skews the numbers so far that the study is essentially meaningless.

Without including the download numbers for paid iPhone apps, or the download numbers for any type of iPad apps at all, Xyologic's study neglects the huge sales numbers of paid apps such as Camera+, Instapaper, Tweetbot, Snapseed, Apple's own iWork apps, iMovie, and GarageBand. None of those apps offer a "lite" or freemium version, while most of the App Store's most popular games do, which is another reason the free iPhone downloads tend to skew more toward games.

Looking through the current top paid downloads for both devices still shows a lot of games scattered throughout the category -- something you'd expect to see after the recent massive sales on games and many young users getting new devices for Christmas -- but that's a far cry from Xyologic's claim that Android users are downloading more non-game apps than iPhone users.

In the end, I wouldn't be surprised at all if Xyologic's claim actually is correct and that iOS users are indeed downloading far more games, both as a percentage of apps downloaded and in total number of downloads, compared to Android users. Apple's own marketing touts the superior gaming performance of the iPhone 4S and iPad 2. Game developers are consistently targeting the App Store more than the Android Market for a variety of reasons, and you won't find high-end titles like Infinity Blade II on the Android Market any time soon.

However, Xyologic's methodology in reaching that conclusion is badly flawed; to make a true apps-to-apps comparison between the Android Market and the App Store, you have to compare the entirety of both stores if you want valid results.

Because of deep discounts on games and the general focus on games during the holiday season, December will probably skew even more heavily toward game downloads than in the download numbers Xyologic obtained for November. If Xyologic or another analysis firm takes a look at the app download numbers for January 2012 and compares the Android Market against the entire App Store instead of just one segment of it, we'll have a far better idea whether "iPhone is for games, Android is for apps" rings true or not.

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