Android users only spend time on top apps

Android (s goog) users have about 250,000 apps to choose from but most have little use for any of them outside the top 50. That’s according to new data from Nielsen’s Smartphone Analytics, a new initiative that analyzes data from on-device meters.

The interesting news is that the top 10 Android apps account for 43 percent of the time spent on all mobile apps by Android users. And when you look at the top 50 apps, 61 percent of the time spent is on these apps. That means that if you’re an app maker on Android, you’re facing long odds at being used if you’re even in the bottom half of the top 100. And if you’re lost among the rest of the 249,550 apps, good luck getting any usage.

This backs up data that I recently reported from Mobilewalla, an app ratings analytics and discovery firm. Mobilewalla found that the top 30 apps in Android Market had between 11,000 and 20,000 ratings compared to about 6,000 ratings for the top 30 apps in the Apple App Store (s aapl). But when you looked at the next 210 apps beyond the top 30, Android’s average ratings per app plummeted to just a few hundred per app while Apple’s ratings counts remained between 2,000 and 6,000. That showed that app usage on Android was clustered at the top of the app charts but didn’t extend down to less popular apps.

The growing picture here is that Android has a real issue in making sure that more developers can thrive in the Android Market. If you’re a developer and you can’t afford to pay for marketing or you don’t have some amazing viral hit, it looks like it’s very hard to get your app used and that makes it hard to crack profitability on Android for all but the biggest apps. If you’re not being used that often, you can’t expect to garner that much in advertising or in-app purchases.

This is part of the reason why developers prefer Apple’s App Store, because it’s better place to make money. It’s still hard to get noticed among the 425,000 apps there but iOS users seem to explore more of the apps outside the top charts. That means developers get more in download revenue and more through other monetization tools. And that’s why Apple can boast about cutting a check of $2.5 billion to developers because it’s opening up broader opportunities for more developers.

Google has done a lot of work to improve the app experience in Android Market but it’s got to do a better job of aiding in discovery. And Android developers need to keep pushing the quality of apps in Android Market so people take note of not just the top apps. With developers increasingly getting their revenue from freemium apps, which now generates 2/3 of the revenue in the top 100 games on iOS, it’s even more important for developers to get their apps used and to have longer term engagement with users. That’s something Google still needs to keep working on with its developers to ensure that the success of Android Market is not only limited to a few top publishers.

Nielsen also found that the average Android users in the U.S. spends 56 minutes a day using the web and apps on their phone. Android users spend 67 percent of their time in apps compared to 33 percent using the web. That appears consistent with recent findings from analytics firm Flurry, which found that minutes spent on mobile apps eclipsed mobile web usage on smartphones for the first time in June.