September 8th, 2011

The Guard­ian adds free Android app to paid iPhone app

The Guard­ian news­pa­per announced the long awaited launch of its Android app this Wed­nes­day, to sit along­side its iPhone app and mobile website.

How­ever, whilst the iPhone and Android Guard­ian apps are sim­ilar, in the UK there is one fun­da­mental dif­fer­ence. The iPhone app only provides access to con­tent via a 6 or 12 month sub­scrip­tion whilst the Android ver­sion has been launched with free access to con­tent, sub­sid­ised by advertising.

Past iPhone and Android usage data sup­ports the view that, in gen­eral, iPhone users tend to use their phone to do more, down­load and use more apps and crit­ic­ally are far more will­ing to pay for apps than Android users. It is not known whether The Guard­ian has taken a view that it can charge ‘high-​end’ UK iPhone users but not mass-​market Android own­ers or, as it did with the iPhone app, it is launched as a free app and then replaced with a subscription-​based app.

The Android app launch was repor­ted by paid­Con­tent, which is pub­lished by a wholly owned sub­si­di­ary of Guard­ian News & Media. paid­Con­tent repor­ted a Guard­ian News & Media spokes­per­son as say­ing, “We feel that hav­ing a free, ad-​funded Android app is the right busi­ness model for this mar­ket­place and plat­form at this point in time… We have no plans to change our iPhone pri­cing model as it stands, though we are always review­ing and watch­ing the mar­ket very closely.”

The Guard­ian announce­ment of the Android app and paid­Con­tent also provided some inter­est­ing insights into The Guardian’s approach and uptake on mobile.

  • • The Guard­ian pro­motes its free mobile web­site harder than its sub­scrip­tion iPhone mobile app.
  • • The mobile web­site,, now accounts for around 12% of their digital traffic on aver­age achiev­ing a record 802,975 vis­it­ors recently.
  • • After revis­ing its iPhone app on a sub­scrip­tion model in Janu­ary 2011, by June, 67,258 people had sub­scribed to the app (in the UK, 72% of them for one year at £3.99, 28% for six months at £2.99).
  • • That sug­gests it made £193,218 from annual subs and £56,308 from six-​month subs in the first half of the year, for a total £249,526 before Apple’s commission.
  • • The mile­stone coin­cided with the first of the six-​month sub­scribers being required to renew, although The Guard­ian won’t dis­close how many people have done so.
  • • It also coin­cided with Apple’s new policy of requir­ing sub­scrip­tion pay­ments go through iTunes Store with 30% com­mis­sion. “Our iPhone sub­scrip­tions have always run through iTunes, so there is no change in terms of the 30% issue,” a spokes­per­son says.
  • • The iPhone app has been down­loaded 52,915 times in the US, where it is free because The Guard­ian wants to build an audi­ence there.

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