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AR vs VR: AR Apps Downloaded More, Make Less Money Than VR

4 min read

You probably already know about Pokémon Go and how it has been breaking all kinds of revenue records. But is this an anomaly, or a sign of things to come? With our latest blog post, we will focus on the debate of AR vs VR in detail.

For a long time, the question has been: Which technology will become more widely adapted, virtual reality (VR), or augmented reality (AR)?

Most people have an opinion, but there hasn’t been any real strong evidence, either way. Mark Zuckerberg has made a big bet on VR, with his acquisition of Oculus VR. On the other hand, Kevin Rose believes that “VR sucks,” but he is waiting for a more definite answer from consumers.

The truth is that nobody really knows. But with all the money being thrown at VR, and the success of Pokémon Go in the AR world, we should start to see more concrete results soon.

However, if you want to build an app, or you are thinking of investing in an app company in the near future, then you will need more than opinions.

You will need some hard data.

So in this post, we will show you the estimated downloads and revenue for VR and AR apps…that are not Pokémon Go.

In other words, we want to give you a better picture of the overall state of these technologies in the mobile app world, to see if we can uncover any clues as to which technology will prevail.

AR vs VR iOS apps First Banner

What We Wanted to Find Out

In order to try and answer the question of which technology seems to be winning, we asked a very simple question:

How much revenue and how many downloads are top iOS AR and VR apps currently getting?

So we got our Data Science team to pull together this data on AR and VR apps. Getting these estimates for each app is fairly easy with our estimated downloads and revenue metrics.

But actually finding these apps proved to be a little more difficult…

How We Compiled the Data

Since there aren’t official VR and AR categories on the Apple App Store yet, we had to figure out a way to find the top apps.

Sure, we could manually research a bunch of apps on tech blogs, and base our results on what seems to be popular. But there would be some human bias involved and we wanted to provide as objective a picture as possible.

On top of that, using an automated approach might also uncover the state of public awareness of the two types of apps. Therefore, we decided to use the results for keyword searches as the best way to learn more about the state of each technology.

Yes, we know that this method is not perfect and it may have missed some apps. But until there are specific categories for these apps, we believe that search results are the best way to understand what is going on in the marketplace.

We compiled data for the keywords “augmented reality” and “virtual reality.” Other related keywords didn’t return consistent results.

Next, we decided that the top 100 apps in each search would be enough to get a good picture of download and revenue numbers. We also wanted to see only the most recent stats, so we compiled download and revenue numbers from August 2016, for the US App Store.

Now that you understand the scope of the data, here are the results…

Estimated Downloads of Top 100 AR vs VR Apps

First, let’s take a look at the total number of downloads. AR apps in our study got 36% more downloads than their VR counterparts.

AR vs VR - Downloads by search results

Keep in mind that this does not include Pokémon Go, which would skew the numbers greatly in favor of augmented reality. But even without the mega-game, AR is doing pretty well.

Estimated Revenue of Top 100 AR vs VR Apps

But when it comes to total estimated revenue, VR is in the lead…by a lot. These apps made a cumulative $125,370 more than AR apps, in August 2016.

AR vs VR revenue

Again, this does not include Pokémon Go, which has been making as much as $3 million, per day, by our estimates.

AR vs VR - Pokemon Go revenue chart

But as far as we can tell, AR apps are generally not making much money…yet.

Number of AR vs VR Apps

Now let’s take a look at the number of apps that appear for these search terms. This can also give us a good indication of user demand.

Theoretically, if there are more of one type of app or the other, this is some indication of demand.

AR vs VR Number of apps (iOS)

Surprisingly (at least to me), there are more than double the number of AR iOS apps. I actually thought that there would be more VR apps, especially given the popularity of Google Cardboard.

So either app publishers are meeting a demand, or they are betting that AR will be more successful. Either way, this is a big vote for AR.

Searches for Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

Research on these keywords would not be complete without looking at our Search Score, to see which term keyword is being searched for more.

AR vs VR - Relative augmented reality searches

“Augmented reality” has a Search Score of 44 (out of 100), which means that a fair number of people understand the term and are specifically searching for these apps.

AR vs VR -searches

However, there are a lot more people searching for “virtual reality.” This may seem odd, given the fact that there are more AR apps out there and more people seem to be downloading them.

I might have a possible explanation for this…

In my mind, “virtual reality” is a term that is probably more familiar to the general public. I remember hearing it long before “augmented reality.”

Therefore, many people may actually be looking for an augmented reality app. But perhaps they are more familiar with “virtual reality,” and search for that keyword instead.

I could be totally wrong. But before you rush out and create a VR app solely based on Search Score, this is certainly something to consider.

Either way, if your app is an AR vs VR app, our Search Score shows that it is worth testing those keywords because people are searching for those terms. Research long-tail keywords like: “virtual reality [your niche],” to see what people are looking for. One example would be: “virtual reality shooter game.”


Even though VR apps appear to be making more money, there is no denying that the technology is still looking for its first major hit. On the other hand, Pokémon Go has shown that AR probably has a very bright future.

Our data shows that augmented reality apps are getting more downloads and appear to be more popular. The fact that they are making much less money, possibly means that most AR apps simply don’t have good monetization pathways yet.

Based on this preliminary data, AR appears to be the more viable technology for consumer apps.

But again, it is still too early to tell who will reign supreme in the debate of AR vs VR.

Stay tuned for more data…

To get download and revenue estimates for specific AR vs VR apps, be sure to login to our dashboard and find out right now.

What do you think? Will AR prevail or is VR the more viable technology? Or something in the middle? Leave a comment below and let us know…

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