App Retention: 25% of Apps are Only Used Once

Dan Haggerty Dan Haggerty
minute read
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You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

There’s an app for that!

Just over 11 years ago, we were introduced to mobile applications. Today, mobile apps are a daily part of our lives and have revolutionized how we operate as humans. Just last year, consumers downloaded more than 113 billion apps worldwide, a 10% increase from 2017, per AppAnnie. While this is encouraging news for developers, it’s important to consider the user engagement and retention that goes along with them.

Boston-based mobile engagement platform Localytics releases a report every six months detailing these statistics. For the purposes of its analysis, Localytics assessed the engagement and retention rates of 37,000 mobile and web apps from over 2.7 billion devices—both Android and iOS. Let’s see what we’re working with.

An individual app can expect to be launched around 13 times per month, with a weekly engagement rate of 5.48 launches. During these sessions, the average person spends 4 minutes 20 seconds in the app, contributing to a total monthly time in apps of 56 minutes 17 seconds.

One key metric that must always be considered is retention rate, which drops off significantly after the first month since install (although that may not always align with app launch date). After two months, app retention is at 33% before falling to 29% after three months. This means that churn rates—the percentage of people who do not return to an app after install—rise to 67% and 71%, respectively.

Day User Retention
Retention drops sharply by the day in the first two weeks after install.

Industries Tell Different Stories

Unsurprisingly, media and entertainment apps saw the highest levels of engagement in the last half of 2018. Users launched them an average of 16 times per month and spent just under two hours per month in these apps. While these apps dominate “Time in App,” they also face the highest churn rate of any industry with 77% dropping off after three months.

Following media and entertainment, business apps were launched 14 times per month while travel apps were close behind with 11. Interestingly, users spent an equal amount of time per month in both types of apps (~38 minutes), indicating a stickier travel app experience. Churn rates for every month were also nearly identical for both industries.

Retail apps trail behind the rest in terms of monthly app launches (8.76 per month), but they do shine through in many other respects. For example, retail apps only experience 68% churn after three months compared to the 71% overall mobile app rate. In addition, while retail apps are used the least, relative to other industries, they are second only to media apps in time per session.


As we look ahead to the future of mobile app development, it’s important to consider what is contributing to these statistics. First and foremost, quality is going to the top indicator of an app that stands the test of time. Consumers have so many options when it comes to apps, so any one flaw can lead to an app’s downfall.

Another point to consider is how well your mobile app aligns with the rest of your customer journey. Mobile apps are typically just a stop along the way for customers, so if you can’t deliver continuity between your mobile app and other digital and physical platforms, customers are sure to churn.

You only have a limited time every week and month in which you can engage with your customers. Make the most of it, or someone else will.

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