Distimo highlighted the potential of Asian app markets, stating that the download volume for Apple’s App Store for iPhone “grew significantly” in Asian markets in the last six months. In contrast, other (Western) countries saw a decrease in the same timeframe – with France and Germany being noted examples. In addition, China has recently become the second-largest App Store market after the United States, it said.

Distimo’s survey covered the App Store for iPhone in China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. Unsurprisingly, in addition to the regional differences, it found a number of differences between preferences in individual markets.

It was noted that the download volume in South Korea is “remarkably high despite the relative small size of the country’s population.” In addition, because the “Games” category is absent in this store, all downloads are of other apps – when in most countries, it is games which are driving volumes. This means that South Korea is “an especially interesting country for publishers and developers in the non-games categories.”

A comparison of the most popular categories between the United States and Asia showed that there are “no significant differences between content preferences.” This means that iPhone developers could offer the same type of applications across both markets.

Different monetisation models
In terms of monetisation, however, Asia is some way behind the US and Europe. The proportion of paid downloads and overall revenue still lags, and while in-app purchases have became an important monetisation method in other markets, this has not happened in Asia. “Thus, developers have to look for other ways of monetisation such as advertising,” Distimo said.

While the average download volume of the 300 most popular applications in all Asian countries combined is “about equal” to the average volume in the US, when looking at paid apps alone this ratio drops to one-third. Excluding Japan, this figure even drops to one-sixth – meaning that “customers in these markets appear to be more price-sensitive, and prefer to download the free equivalent of an app rather than pay a few dollars for a premium, ad-free version.”

Interestingly, while the number of paid-for apps downloaded in Asia is one third of that in the US, revenue is two thirds that of the more developed market. This is because of the higher average selling price of the 300 most popular applications in Asia (US$2.62) when compared to the US (US$1.48) – with Japan generating the majority of the sales.

With the exception of Singapore and Malaysia, the proportional revenue generated by applications which feature in-app purchases is lower in APAC markets, with China and Sri Lanka lagging most. The total number of available apps which support in-app purchase does not differ much when compared to the US. It was noted that “this can change quickly;” in June 2010, US revenue from applications which feature in-app purchases was only 39 percent, but by May 2011 it had increased to 68 percent.

The need for localised content
Finally, Distimo said that the regional concentration of apps also stands out when looking at the difference between Asia, Europe and the US. In Asia, an average 34 percent of the most popular applications are only popular within the region. For both the US and Europe, only 20 percent of apps available are aimed at the specific regional market.

Unlike in Europe, where the numbers are fairly consistent country-by-country, in Asia there also are pronounced differences between different markets. iPhone users in China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have a preference for apps aimed at the region, for example with 65 percent of the 300 most popular free applications in China popular regionally only. In South Korea, 87 percent of free and 78 percent of paid apps are regionally aimed, although this is partially due to the absence of the “Games” category in the App Store.

The company said that “generally speaking, an increase in efforts to localise content is needed in order to be successful in Asia.”