Asia is “the most lucrative app market in the world”, with 41 per cent of total revenue generated globally in December 2013 coming from this region, according to the latest report from Distimo.

In comparison, North America generated 31 per cent of the total, while Europe accounted for 23 per cent. And Asia is still growing fast – increasing 162 per cent year-on-year, compared with a not unhealthy 46 per cent in North America.

This was largely down to the success of Google Play in the region, which saw revenue more than quadruple during the last 12 months. For Apple’s App Store, iPhone revenue growth was 94 per cent, with iPad growth at 64 per cent.


In terms of specific markets, Japan was “undoubtedly the most lucrative”, followed by South Korea, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. In fact, Japan and South Korea feature in the top three global countries in terms of mobile app revenue, behind the US.

But there is a big variation in the size of markets: number one-placed Japan generated 77 times the revenue of tenth-placed Malaysia.

South Korea saw the steepest growth in revenue: money generated here climbed by 271 per cent, driven by uptake of Google Play.

And for markets in Asia, there is also a notable difference between the revenue split between Apple’s App Store and Google Play. While for North America, three-quarters of revenue comes from the Apple portal and one-quarter from Google Play (with a similar split applying in Europe), it is closer to half-and-half in Asia.

Freemium leads the way
Freemium is the leading business model in Asia.

In China, 96 per cent of App Store revenue came from in-app purchases, with Japan and South Korea not far behind, at 94 per cent and 91 per cent respectively.

Distimo found differing degrees of demand for what it calls “locally popular” apps – those that only ranked highly in one Asian country.

In Asia, Singapore had the lowest proportion of locally popular apps (between 10 per cent and 13 per cent), while Japan had the highest (60 per cent to 72 per cent). As a comparison, in the US, 25 per cent to 32 per cent of apps were locally popular.

It was noted that this is “directly correlated” with the specific languages and alphabets used in some Asian countries, as well as developers investing in the localisation of apps on leading platforms – for example Kakao in South Korea and Line in Japan.

China: a “big opportunity” for foreign games
Distimo created its latest report in partnership with Wandoujia, a mobile content search engine for Android in China, which provided data from its more than 300 million users.

According to data from Wandoujia, foreign games have a “big opportunity to reach hundreds of millions of gamers in China”. Some international titles are “still wildly popular”, including Temple Run 2, Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja.

However, there was less success beyond the games category, with only two foreign apps in the top 30. It was noted that “China’s domestic market is so large that it can support an entirely independent ecosystem from the rest of the world”.