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It’s difficult to think about a world without apps, however, it is only five years since the launch of the iTunes App Store.  In this time apps have become ubiquitous and found across all platforms and not just the Apple iOS.  Over the past few days there have been a couple of interesting reports published which are interesting in relation to the education apps.

The first is the regular review of the app market by App Annie which compares the Google and Apple app sales in Q1 2013.  It shows that whilst Google is growing fastest and closing the gap on Apple, it is Apple that creates the most revenue (2.6 x Google Play).  In terms of adoption the US still dominates app downloads for both Google and Apple, but the view by revenue shows a different picture (iOS – US; Japan; UK; China; Australia.  Google – Japan; South Korea; US; UK; Germany).

It’s when you look at the categories that create the most revenue that it becomes interesting from an education sector view, as education apps sit at #4.  Gaming remains at #1 with 70-80% of revenue, followed by entertainment, then video & photography.

With games apps dominating revenue the revenue from education apps is small in relative terms. However, the rise of smartphones (>40% market penetration in many key markets such as US, UK, Japan, Germany, France , and Italy) will mean that students will be increasingly using apps in all other elements of their lives and therefore accepting (or possibly expecting) them to be a key part of their learning experience.  It is likely therefore, that we will see an increase in investment by both traditional publishers and content providers and also some new innovators entering the market which can only be good to create a vibrant market in this space.

Whilst the above is likely to be driven from the perspective of developed countries where smartphone and tablet usage is highest, the second report shows the increasing potential for education apps in developing countries.

The iPhone, in part due to its premium price, has not to date had a large market penetration in developing countries and in particular the fast growing BRIC countries.  As with most large corporates Apple tries to give little away in relation to country by country sales, however, sometimes local regulations require greater disclosure which can give a glimpse through the keyhole.  In India companies have to make certain regulatory filings with the Indian Registrar of Companies and this has given an insight into the growth that Apple has achieved in this market over the last year.

In an article by the Times of India it is highlighted that Apple’s revenues in India rose by 223% and its net profit rose by 431% and these figures related to the period before a significant marketing campaign. Underlying these figures is a significant increase in iPhone shipments to 6-700,000.

Whilst this figure is minute when you consider the 1.2bn+ population of India, it shows an increasing trend that with the reducing cost of smartphones and improving infrastructure will open access rapidly.  When you combine this with the low-cost nature of apps and the importance that populations such as India’s place on education then it is likely that we will see some really exciting times in relation to education apps.

There is no question that apps are here to stay as a part of everyday life, however, in the education space the market for education apps is relatively immature with a great variation in quality and effectiveness.  It is however a market that is sure to develop rapidly and from multiple directions.

Whilst I’m sure that the absorptive capacity of the students will be there to leverage the opportunity that education apps offer, it is questionable as to whether the wider education system is as ready and able?  Have schools and colleges invested in the infrastructure required?  Have teachers and lecturers kept themselves up to speed with developments and thought about how they can adjust their teaching style to embrace them?  Have regulators and governments understood their impact on existing curricula and resourcing?

Whilst I’m sure that there are pockets that could answer positively to the questions above it is far from the norm and therefore there is an opportunity for knowledge sharing on a grand scale if we are to leverage the opportunities that are coming towards us in relation to the use of education apps in a rich and engaging learning environment.

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