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Flogging an iTunes app? Just 4k downloads will get you in Top 10

And if you're thinking of releasing a new one, do it on a Sunday

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A free app in iTunes' US top 10 gets around 70,000 downloads daily, while a paid app needs just 4,000 nods from fanbois to get to the top of the tree – but markedly fewer on a Tuesday.

The numbers come from number-crunchers Distimo (free with registration), but combine with those from NetBiscuits (also free, also requires registration) to show people downloading apps at weekends, running them at work and using them to buy things on weekday evenings.

Distimo competes with Flurry (among many others) to embed analysis software into downloaded apps, and claims to have had three billion installs. NetBiscuits monitors web traffic while optimising content, so knows what people are doing with apps, and in some cases it asked why too.

Downloads vary by around 10 per cent across the week, with Sunday being the peak time for app downloads and Tuesday the day when even iPhone users have better things to do. Getting into the top 10 is even easier on Amazon's store, which logs about a tenth of iPhone freebies, and a fifth of its paid titles.

Sadly NetBiscuits can't tell us why 20 per cent of Chinese smartphone owners are using augmented reality, something which remains little more than a cool curiosity in the West, but they did ask users why they downloaded site-specific apps for their smartphones. Apparently a third of users thought the irritating pop-up suggesting they download was a requirement, and that they'd be denied access to the content otherwise.

NetBiscuits also tells us that users browse during the day on their phones, but buy stuff in the evenings from their tablets or laptops, making a synchronised shopping basket essential to the modern internet service.

Distimo can't tell us why people do anything, but it can tell us that one of the top-50-grossing iPhone apps will be raking in around $12 a day from the US alone, while an Android app in the same position will make its developer just over half that – though, as Distimo admits, the qualification times are different, so the Android app will make less money for longer, making the comparison of limited value.

Selling mobile apps remains the usual mix of luck, branding and the ability to exploit any success to squeeze maximum revenue. Angry Birds followed a list of failures from developers Rovio and was itself followed by Amazing Alex - arguably a better game, though few have heard of it. Where the publisher excelled was to squeeze the Angry Birds brand for every penny, and then squeeze it some more.

Getting into the top 10 downloads ensures exposure, which can be critical, but getting 4,000 mates to buy a copy on that basis might eat into the profit margin - though it's good to know what you're aiming for. ®

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