Exploring Mobile Personalisation - are Apple missing a trick?

April, 11 2019

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‘Personalisation’ has become something of a buzzword for businesses across all kinds of industries. With growing importance being placed on customising the user experience, we wanted to see how this trend has transposed into the mobile world.


Android vs iOS

The customisability of your mobile device depends largely on the make of your phone - or perhaps more specifically, whether or not you have an iPhone.

One need look no further than the total lack of a ‘personalisation’ category on Apple’s app store for a telling sign of the difference in customisation capabilities between Android and iPhones.  

It is no secret that Apple’s phones have a much more rigid ecosystem. For some, the ability to transform the look and performance of their phone is a major selling point in choosing an Android model (and a deal-breaker in rejecting the iPhone).

Out of the top 15 apps globally on the Google Play in the Personalisation category, only 3 had a version available on the App Store. The reason for this? Apple’s software simply does not allow the functionality of these apps to work on their devices.

However, it can be assumed from the iPhone’s success that a large portion of society are content enough with Apple’s default interface that they don’t miss the additional opportunities for personalisation offered by competitors. Does the classic mantra, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it', apply here? 

Interestingly enough, one of the highest performing apps in Google Play’s ‘personalisation’ category is Launcher iOS 12, by LuuTinh Developer; essentially allowing you to simulate the user experience of Apple’s operating system on your Android device.




Other launchers that clone the iOS interface did pre-exist, but none seem to have nailed it quite like this one. This has seen the launcher become the 11th most downloaded ‘personalisation’ app of 2019 so far. Android users clearly seem to appreciate the fluidity and ergonomics of the Apple experience, but ultimately refuse to sacrifice other features of their device. With apps like this they are able to get the best of both worlds.  


ios12 graphage

Launcher iOS 12 Downloads (#)

As evidenced in this graph taken from Priori Data’s app intelligence, since launching in September of last year, the launcher has averaged around 50k downloads per day; with our data showing around 50.8k downloads per day required to reach the top 10 globally, Launcher iOS 12 is on track to break into that prestigious group very soon.

But are there any signs that this app could be something of a passing novelty? Well, as it stands it seems not. With an average 30 day retention rate of 1.6% it trumps the most popular launcher (Color Flash, 0.6%), as well as other high-ranking competitors (Bling Launcher, 1.5%, Nova Launcher, 0,4%), losing only to CM Launcher 3D, boasting an impressive 3.8%.

Obviously, iOS itself is not entirely fixed; however its potential hardly stretches further than altering the settings, and cannot be compared to the plethora of options available to Android. 

Personalisation chart

So, what is available? 

Personalisation apps can be grouped into two main offerings - those that allow you to customise the appearance of your phone (Cosmetic), and those that give it extra or modified functionality, providing you with an improved user experience (Functionality).

We’ve listed a few of the most popular types of app here to better exemplify the options that are out there.


Launcher - Cosmetic/Functionality

  • A launcher arguably has the greatest impact on the appearance of your home screen, however it also affects functionality. A launcher changes your phone’s home screen, how you launch and organise apps, make phone calls and perform other tasks.

Wallpaper/Icon/Ringtone apps - Cosmetic

  • These are fairly self-explanatory - some apps allow you to change wallpapers, ringtones or even the appearance of your icons. The best performing wallpaper apps give the option of live, moving backgrounds, or automatically update them.

Widgets - Performance

  • Widgets are usually an extension of a larger application already installed on your device. They can be seen as condensed, easy-access versions of apps that give you an overview of it’s content on your home screen, removing the extra step of opening the app.

Keyboards - Cosmetic/Performance

  • Personalised keyboards can fall under both offerings. On the one hand it may simply alter the appearance of your keyboard; but on the other it may help by allowing different ways of typing, predicting text or new symbols.  

Contextual - Performance

  • Some apps can alter the behaviour of your phone according to different scenarios. A great example of this is Contextual App Folder, which gives you easy access to apps based on a trigger. For example, your navigation apps become available when you connect to your car via bluetooth.  

Notifications - Performance

  • These allow you to edit what shows in your notification bar. Add reminders, notes, quick replies and extra toggles to the top of your alerts; or change the design, bundling, and more visual features of your notification bar.


  • The possibilities for customisation within Android seem endless, and developers are constantly coming up with new ways to improve the user experience. One app that doesn’t fit into any of the above categories, but lies 3rd in global downloads of 2019, is Parallel Space. This allows the user to run two separate accounts of one app simultaneously - a great time saving tool for users who run business accounts, but also want to easily access their personal one.


Key Insights into the Personalisation Category

Using the data available to Priori Data customers we analysed the Google Play category, noting some points of interest. 


All Systems Go - Battle of the Launchers

We had a look at the top 5 launchers of Q1 this year. From the figures it's clear that Color Flash Launcher outshone competitors by some margin, with almost half of all downloads from apps on this list.


Top 5 launchers TABLE


However, this wasn’t always the case. Now sitting in 2nd place, CM Launcher 3D will miss the days when they held top spot. Nevertheless, it seems they failed to hold off competition from rivals towards the end of 2018 and it cost them dearly.

Initially, one might have had their money on Bling Launcher to take the crown as it saw incredibly rapid growth following its introduction in July, coinciding with the start of a decline in downloads for CM Launcher 3D.


SLAP IT INTop 5 Launchers on Google Play Q1 2019 Downloads (#) (since 01.01.2018)


However, this growth was to be short lived as downloads for Bling dropped and subsequently levelled off, allowing the app to claim 3rd spot but not troubling those above it. Cue the rise of Color Flash Launcher.

Despite having already been on the market for some time, Color Flash capitalised on the downfall of CM Launcher by timing their rise with falling download rates of CM so that by November they began to achieve the most weekly downloads of all launchers on the store - form that has continued to date. More on potential reasons for this later…

Microsoft, sitting in 5th place, seem fairly unfazed by the actions of those around them, having maintained a consistent user base for some time. However, if they had ambitions to grow a change of strategy would be necessary as download rates show no sign of increasing organically. 


Category Choice

We recently emphasised the importance of categories for app-store-optimisation, and there are some prime examples of the benefits of switching categories at work here.

Color Flash Launcher’s rise to dominance closely coincides with it switching category from ‘Lifestyle’ to ‘Personalisation’ in June 2018.


Color Flash rank historyColor Flash Launcher - Rank History


You might have also noted Yandex Browser’s presence in the top 10. Whereas most browsers can be found in the Communication category, Yandex have chosen to position their browser as a Personalisation app.


Yandex growthYandex Browser with Protect - Downloads 2017 to date


If we study the browser’s download figures, we can see that for much of its life downloads had been steady but shown no signs of significant growth. However, when Yandex changed category in July 2018, it had an almost immediate effect on uptake - triggering significant growth.


Keyboard Worrier 

Keyboard app developers will be troubled by the apparent dwindling popularity of personalised keyboard apps. If we order the personalisation category by growth so far this year (#) and reverse this list so that the biggest depreciators are at the top, a staggering 8 of the top 15 are keyboard apps. Correspondingly, just 1 of the top 15 for positive growth is a keyboard app.

FunType Emoji Keyboard has taken the biggest hit, with downloads down 8.1m compared to the same period last year. Cheetah Keyboard, despite holding 4th place in total downloads, has seen 5.1m less downloads than last year, with rates looking likely to fall further.

Perhaps the novelty of a personalised keyboard has worn off?



With so many options out there - some extremely useful, and performing exceptionally well (with the exception of keyboards!) - it begs the question: are Apple missing out by blocking apps that can customise their devices?

The short answer: It is simply not in Apple’s business model.

Whereas Android phones choose to differentiate themselves by offering opportunities for customisation, Apple see the consistent and familiar experience of using their products, brought about by their inflexible operating system, as a key selling point of their own. 

Less interference from 3rd party applications also means less potential for bugs and stability problems. 

Both have their advantages and disadvantages - it essentially boils down to personal preference. For Apple, the familiar interface is an integral part of their offering and brand identity which, on balance, should not be sacrificed for the sake of customisation. 

Nevertheless, as has been evidenced this is an extremely popular category for Google Play; and as technology advances we can only expect developers to provide even more customisation options and add to the functionality of your phone. 

Perhaps therein lies the most exciting aspect of this category; the endless potential to bring new capabilities to our mobiles and improve our user experience. Whilst Apple may seek their own way of achieving these things, the open source nature of Android does mean that these advances tend to reach their users first.

But perhaps more importantly it allows any developer to work on new personalisation products, which drives competition and pushes this category to develop more impressive technology, faster. 

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