Jailbreaking methods have been around as long as the iPhone, and recent stats prove that the practice is also leading to a surge in app piracy- a problem that Apple is beginning to take seriously.
By having a jailbroken iPhone, you also have access to pirated or “cracked” apps that are available from a variety of sources. Cracked apps usually include premium apps otherwise only available for a fee via the iTunes store.
Mobile analytics provider Pinch Media decided to take a look at the issue and discovered the problem is bigger than most think. They’ve been tracking jailbroken devices for several months now and have started to get a handle on this previously unexamined ecosystem.
According to their data, which includes 4 million jailbroken devices, 38% have at least one pirated application installed. Pinch Media says this estimate is low since pirates often take extra steps to avoid detection. Still, it’s worth noting that this percentage is nowhere near being the majority of jailbreaking users, since there’s a majority of people who just want extra control over their device and not necessarily an opportunity to steal apps.
Surprisingly, the findings indicate that app piracy is relatively low in the US, UK and Japan where a majority of iPhone users reside, and rampant in countries such as China, Russia, Brazil and Mexico where it’s negatively correlated with per capita national GDP.
The number one excuse jailbreakers give as the reason for pirating apps is that they simply want to try before they buy. Pinch Media wanted to examine that claim as well and proved the opposite by setting a baseline for typical conversion rates of legitimate “lite” to paid applications and found that the conversion rate there is 7.4%.
This means about 1 in 14 who try the “lite” version go on to purchase the paid version. However, among the pirate community, pirated-to-legitimate conversions are 0.43%, or only 1 in about 233 installations. In other words, few users of pirated apps are truly “trying before they buy,” they’re just trying.
Jailbreaking and pirating apps will never go away, and Apple and its app developers will continue to take steps to curb the situation, but in the end it’s safe to say that anyone that would utilize pirated apps would never pay for the same apps in the first place- so the developer isn’t really losing revenue, they’re just gaining users.