Supply Of mHealth Apps Far Exceeds Demand

Posted on October 19, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

With demand relatively high and barriers to entry low, the supply of mHealth apps available on the two main marketplaces has exploded in recent years. And according to a new report from analyst firm Research 2 Guidance, the number of apps continues to mushroom despite lagging demand.

The report notes that nearly 100,000 mHealth apps have been added to the Google and Apple app marketplaces since the beginning of last year, bringing the total apps available to about 259,000. Also, 13,000 mHealth publishers entered the market since the start of 2015, bringing the total to 58,000, according to the study, which looked at global health app development.

To get a sense of trends, the group’s mHealth App Developer Economics 2016 report compared the number of available apps and publishers with the number of mHealth downloads.

During the past year, researchers found, the total number of mHealth apps climbed a whopping 57%, boosted by the expanding number of health app publishers, the increased importance of publishing across both key app marketplaces in the increase in app portfolios by publishers, R2G found.

Multi-platform publishing seems to be particularly important. Currently, 75% of mHealth publishers are developing apps on both iOS and Android platforms. (An even higher percentage of HTML 5 and Windows Phone developers publish across each other’s platforms, but their numbers are small so they don’t contribute much to the overall market stats, the firm found.)

Meanwhile, the number of health app publishers on major app stores climbed 28% since the beginning of 2015, a torrent of entries that doesn’t seem to be slowing down, the analyst firm concluded. This includes not only veteran publishers but also ongoing entrances by new mHealth publishers.

The problem is, demand is nowhere near keeping up with supply, at least when measuring by the number of downloads. Statistics by the research firm indicate that while demand continued to grow by a solid 35% in 2015, health app downloads are estimated to be only 7% in 2016.

Though such downloads are expected to reach a total of 3.2 billion in 2016, further massive growth seems unlikely, as the growth in use of capable devices that can use and download apps has slowed down in most Western countries, R2G notes.

Given the amount of noise in the mHealth app market, few publishers are likely to have the resources to stand out and grab significant download market share. As the analyst firm notes, only 14% of mHealth app publishers generated more than 100,000 downloads across their portfolio in one year, a number which is climbed only 3% since 2014.