Even With Slowing Growth, Time Spent In Apps Increased 69% In 2016
Digital Trends

Even With Slowing Growth, Time Spent In Apps Increased 69% In 2016

David Bolton • January 12, 2017

“It is safe to say that social has absorbed the media industry.”

The mobile app industry may be almost 10 years old, but its dominance in terms of its effect on our everyday lives is beyond question. Apps run the world.

And social media and messaging apps are the ruling class.

A report from Yahoo-owned Flurry Analytics said that mobile app usage showed a year-on-year growth rate of 11% in 2016 compared to the 58% recorded by Flurry in 2015. On the plus side, people are now spending more time in apps, with average time spent in all apps increasing by 69% in the last 12 months.

Year-on-year usage in messaging and social apps grew by 44% in 2016, with time spent in this category of apps rising by an impressive 394%. The increased amount of time that people spent in messaging and social media apps was down to what Flurry has coined as “communitainment”—communication apps that show live streaming content that people class as entertainment.

The mobile apps industry could not sustain astonishing growth forever. Thousands of apps appear every day, the majority of which contribute to the ongoing myth that the market is close to peak app … a myth that Flurry disputes.

“As the iPhone celebrates its first decade, the mobile industry has grown into a dog-eat-dog world,” said Yahoo’s senior vice president Simon Khalaf, in a blog post. “The decelerating rate of growth could signal market maturity, saturation or simply the end of the app gold rush. But let us put things in perspective. The gold rush in California ended in 1855. A lot of wealth has been generated since then. We are excited to see what app developers do in the next decade and which industry they chose to disrupt, again.”

App Categories Begin To Cannibalize Each Other

Flurry’s annual app usage data report is based on sessions, when an app is opened and a person spends time in the app before closing it. Open an app and check the weather and then click back to the home screen? That’s a session. Flurry tracked more than 940,000 applications across 2.1 billion devices with 3.2 trillion sessions.

“In previous years, we saw all app categories growing in tandem; however, this year the story is different,” Khalaf said. “After shifting the Web and television to the rearview mirror, mobile apps started eating their own, with session and time-spent growth in some app categories occurring at the expense of others.”

Mobile app growth

Sports and business or finance apps also recorded year-on-year increases in mobile usage.

Mobile app usage for sports grew by around 43%, with time spent in sports apps increasing by 25%. Sports apps will continue to increase via streaming on big screened phones and tablets, the report said.

Shopping apps maintained a healthy level of interest for people throughout 2016. Impulse buys are far easier on mobile, which could account for the time spent in retail apps recording year-on-year growth of 31%. According to Flurry, brick-and mortar retailers cite shopping apps as major cause for concern, although it is worth noting that people often browse on mobile first and purchase in-store later.

Time Spent In Games Declines

By its standards, the poster-child of the mobile app industry—gaming—had a difficult 2016.

The report said that mobile app usage fell by 15% in the last 12 months, with time spent decreasing by 4%. Flurry cited the fact that gaming is a hit-driven category, with 2016’s big hit—Pokemon Go—burning bright to start and fading just as quickly. People are more at ease with in-app purchases during gameplay, which accounts for the increase in revenue recently reported by the App Store.

Personalization apps had a shocking 12 months, according to the report. In 2015, personalization apps—which were often emoji-based—had a year-on-year mobile app usage growth rate of 332%. Twelve months later, personalization apps have a growth rate of -46%. Flurry cited a lack of real ongoing value for personalization apps as one reason why the market flipped so dramatically in 2016.

“Time spent in social and messaging apps grew by an astounding 394% over the last year, proving to be the driver that helped mobile achieve its year-over-year time-spent growth of 69%,” said Khalaf. “This is a result of consumers using their social and messaging apps as their voice and video calling utilities, as well as the phenomenon we call communitainment. With news and magazines sessions down 5% and music, media and entertainment up only 1%, it’s safe to say that social has absorbed the media industry.”

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