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An Android App Bubble or Something Else?

Fast-growing caller-ID app TrueCaller, which is starting to attract attention in Silicon Valley, has joined a wave of so-called utility apps that have hooked themselves into hundreds of millions of smartphones by focusing on mundane features like saving battery life, offering wallpaper options or screening for spam calls.

New high-fliers seem to pop up every quarter among Android phone users in emerging markets. The latest group includes Apus Launcher, one of many Chinese-made apps that let people customize the look of their devices, such as the background “wallpaper,” and mCent, which lets Android users in emerging markets use some apps without having to pay data charges.

The open questions: whether many of the apps’ technology and features will actually make money, are susceptible to copycats or will eventually be baked into the Android operating system itself. Some are currently monetizing their apps by selling ads and getting bounties from sending traffic to other sites or facilitating app downloads. And some of the app makers are spending enormous amounts of money in marketing in order to get distribution.

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mCent’s advertising customers include, Tencent Holdings and Twitter, which pay Jana anywhere from 50 cents in India to $1.50 in markets like Brazil for every user who installs and keeps using their apps.