10 Mar Understanding the iOS App Charts
Below is an excerpt from an internal paper I wrote in 2013 for N3V Games
How the iOS App Charts Work
The Apple iOS App Charts rankings are influenced by the following factors:
- Rolling Download Count per 24 Hours
- Download Figures for the Previous 72 Hours
- Daily Active Users
- Amount of Reviews
- Volume of Ratings / Average Rating Score
Through a combination of these values, apps are ranked against each other overall, and on their genre specific stores. Knowing how this ranking system works, it is possible to put yourself ahead of the majority of apps available by implementing a few key measures that specifically aim to improve your numbers in the 4 major ranking areas which will increase your performance on the mobile app charts.
What are these measures you may ask? Well, we can learn a lot by studying the top 25 grossing apps and asking some specific questions.
What do all of the top 25 grossing apps on the iOS app charts have in common?
- Requests to enable push notifications as soon as the player loads the app for the first time.
- Social media/Facebook connectivity. Either log in to Facebook to share details of the app, scores, achievements, or connect your Facebook account to the game account system to use as a login.
- Constantly push reminders to players who have yet to do so, to rate the app or review it.
- Provide a daily type of reward to encourage players to load up the app once every 24 hours.
These types of features are prevalent in all high ranking apps and are not just limited to the top 25, because they directly benefit and influence the apps ranking.
By increasing the number of reviews, improving & maintaining a high average rating, and by pulling in a large number of daily users the app is propelled higher up the rankings, which in turn generates more downloads. By properly understanding this cycle, it’s easy for a well-positioned app to manipulate the way the app stores ranking system works to achieve a ‘critical mass’ and break into the top chart numbers.
Further analysis of the top 25 grossing apps goes on to show us that the apps also share other important stats. These are:
- An average rating of 4.26
- An average of 116,814 ratings.
- Localized in 5.4 languages (average).
- All fewer than 49.9mb file size.
Climbing Up the Charts
In order to rank within the Top #10 of the iOS App Charts, a free app must achieve an incredibly high number of downloads within a 72 hour period, 72,000 – 80,000 to be specific. With paid apps only needing 4,000 downloads per day to reach the relevant top #10 charts. In contrast, to reach the top #50, a free app needs on average 23,000 downloads per day for the free charts.
To reach the top #50 of highest grossing apps, an app needs to be generating approximately $12,000 per day. To climb higher, its revenue generation has to grow exponentially, with many of the highest earning apps on the iOS App store, like Supercell’s Clash of Clans generating up to or over a million dollars in revenue per day.
A recent report from Distimo notes however that the amount of downloads needed can fluctuate on a per day basis.
Compared to the downloads required for rank 10 in the top overall free on an average Monday in May 2013, only 94% of these downloads were required on Thursdays for this position in the Apple App Store for iPhone in the U.S. In order to obtain this position on a Sunday, an app needed 11% more downloads than on the average Monday.
This type of analysis shows us that you can scale your marketing campaigns accordingly. Knowing that you need less on certain days, allows you to plan a type of campaign that starts off slow, and increases in budget each day, or vice versa, where you start off strong and decrease spending as you approach the middle of the week.
For a small independent studio, or for a large marketing campaign, knowing where and how you can save money but still achieve optimal results can be integral to success.
 Current as of the 10th July 2013
 Exceptions include apps which are leveraging a well-established brand or IP.
 All figures represent the US app store only.