Mobile apps are some of the things that have the most impact on our lives, and we now use them for practically everything. Whether you need a ride, need to buy something, want to contact someone, or do something entirely different on your phone, you are opening your app and getting the job done. So, what does our relationship with these apps look like? What trends are there in data revolving around apps? Ultimately, how do we use apps, and how do they affect us?
Here are some key facts and figures to get yourself started:
Before focusing on specific categories or facets of apps or the app store, let us first consider just how common apps are, how often people use them, and how people interact with smartphones in general. We want you to keep these in mind for all of the stats to follow:
- Every day, there are at least 250 million or more app downloads, based on the most recent data we could find. This is only expected to rise as more people get smartphones and get comfortable with using an app store regularly.
- Overall, there were about 142.9 billion app downloads across all platforms in 2020. That is a bit more than 28 app downloads for every person on this earth, and not everyone has a cell phone, much less a smartphone that can download so many apps. There are clearly some of us trying out more apps than others.
- Out of all the time spent on smartphones, about 90 percent of that time is spent in apps (note that this is opposed to a browser, which some might consider an app). This is surprising, but given how apps are well-designed for smartphones and practically all information can be obtained there, perhaps it is not so far-fetched an idea. It also depends on whether mobile browsers might be considered apps or not.
- More specifically, people are expected to spend an average of just a little more than four hours a day on their phones in 2022. As it stands, people spent about three hours and 35 minutes on apps each day, and four hours and one minute on their phones. This amount is expected still to increase, though with so many hours in the day we can only wonder what people are not doing instead.
- While apps are extremely popular and commonly used, people do often feel resistance to downloading an app. About 78 percent of people in the United States using smartphones will not download an app to continue a transaction, despite how easy it is. Quite possibly people are protective of their digital space and do not want to invite confusion and needless notifications on their devices.
- Some app types are more popular than others. Looking at downloads from the Apple App Store, games take up 21.86 percent of downloads (more on games later). They know what you like and app developers are probably going to invest big in the future to make sure you get it.
- Some of this might also be skewed by the number of available apps and the desire for novelty. Games have a mostly limited shelf life, despite developer efforts to the contrary, but once someone finds a news app they like, they are unlikely to download another one or find a need to reinstall it.
- That being said, the development will also be placed on what will provide the most return on investment, whether that comes in the form of direct sales and purchases or in data that can be sold or utilized for advertisements later.
- Demographics matter when it comes to app usage. Just looking at age statistics can show you that, with a clear line down showing that the older people yet, the less time they spend on apps. See the graph below:
- However, the future is uncertain for this one, as the younger generations of today will be the older generations of tomorrow, and they will be far more used to apps than the elders of today who grew up without apps and can go without them. We also still need to learn about the usage habits of people younger than 18, some of which truly grew up with smartphones and know nothing else. Will there be a backlash, or will the trend continue?
- Where people download apps also matters if only so you can know where development is focused. China is the clear powerhouse with downloads, though many apps are China or Asian-countries only and you would not have heard of them. It is its own separate market in many regards, though with examples such as TikTok we might see some prominent imports in the future.
A Tale of Two App Stores
The vast majority of people either have a smartphone that uses either the Apple App Store or Google Play to get all of their apps. Between them, there is near-complete dominance of the market, and there is a sense that there is no other option (and this is especially impactful for app developers, who have to give a major percentage of earnings from one or both developers if they want access to any audience at all).
By looking at these app stores and how people use them, we can understand quite a bit about smartphones, so here are some things you should be aware of:
- Much like everything else online, we are effectively reliant on algorithms to sort our lives and provide the best experience. There are 1.96 million apps on the Apple App Store and 2.87 million apps on Google Play as of late last year, and the number is generally rising. We cannot hope to sort through those ourselves, or even sort through a category of the app.
- As expected, we are going to see more downloads overtime on both stores, though the rate of change for each store is interesting, if you look at the chart below, you will see that while Google Play is predicted to get more downloads over time, the App Store is just a bit more stagnant in its growth.
- While this is not necessarily a bad thing (people might find apps they like more on the App Store), it may also mean that experimentation is less encouraged on the platform. Also, note that this statistic is focused on downloads and not usage, affecting how we might perceive the research.
- People generally do not like to pay for apps upfront, and most of the apps on the App Store are free, as shown below.
- Of course, as you well know if you have used apps before, most free apps will have advertisements, a premium option, microtransactions, or something similar to monetize the product. How this is done is constantly changing and evolving as people become savvy to some of the more predatory methods on the market.
In the future, we can probably expect these two app stores to continue along their established lines unless something comes along to cause a major shakeup or a controversy erupts causing people to flee from one app store. However, we also cannot rule out the possibility of another app store rising to create some more competition. While Microsoft has had poor results in the past, they certainly have the resources to try again should they see a worthwhile opportunity.
Social Media Apps
By far the most common category of apps people download is social media and messaging apps. You probably have several apps on your phone, and you likely have checked a few of them within the last hour, if not the past five minutes. They keep you constantly connected (for better or worse) and have become a cultural force in themselves. Here is a little bit more about them:
To start with, we should consider what the most popular social media networks are, as shown by this graphic:
- In terms of active users, Facebook is still king, though the lead may be shrinking. While usage might be down in the eyes of some from its major growth period and hold over popular culture (which it still maintains in many ways), it is an acceptable part of people’s lives.
- While usage might be down in the eyes of some from its major growth period and hold over popular culture (which it still maintains in many ways), it is an acceptable part of people’s lives.
- Other notes from this are that Twitter, despite taking up so much time on the news and in the cultural consciousness, is not as popular as one might think. That might be because its focus is on the United States and many people have sworn it off entirely.
- Looking at the list, you might also notice that there are plenty of apps you haven’t heard of yet. Perhaps you might like to try them out or at least look them up to see what they are about. Some though, are mostly for non-English speakers or strictly for people in one region or country, which might limit their usage to you.
- There are some social media platforms and apps that are harder to track. How can one easily say how many Reddit and Quora users there are when it is so easy to make a unique account? Even the collection of data on them can be difficult, and proper measurement of users is not done as frequently as with other apps and networks.
- As you can already tell from experience, the above chart is by no means a permanent ranking or chart, but instead a snapshot of what will be a volatile history. Next year everything could be different, though numbers across the board will likely go up.
- In total, there are about 4.62 billion social media users worldwide, and the vast majority of those people use apps for most of their browsing.
- And those people use social media a lot, spending an average of three hours a day on the sites in total. Perhaps it occurs only a few minutes at a time, but those minutes add up each day. Assuming you reach that average, what would be able to accomplish with an additional three hours a day back in your life?
Gaming and Entertainment Apps
Whether we realize it or not, our smartphones, at least the most modern ones, are practically portable gaming consoles now, complete with a massive library of games to choose from. Mobile gaming is many people’s only form of gaming, especially in Asian markets, and it is the main form of gaming in many countries that do not have too many gaming consoles.
On top of that, apps have allowed us to gain access to a massive library of entertainment, from movies to books to audiobooks. If you can consume it on a tablet, computer, or television, you can consume it on a smartphone. And with better data plans and internet connections, there are endless options.
Whether and however you use your smartphone to keep yourself entertained during those boring waits, here are some stats to keep yourself in the know and give you some new ideas:
- First, to figure out where the mobile gaming sphere is, we should take a look at the most popular games. Yet doing even that can seem impossible depending on how you look at it. A list of the most popular games for March of this year will have games that will be completely forgotten in a few weeks and will have little impact, with perhaps a few others that will have a major influence.
- Perhaps instead you can look at some revenue numbers, to see what people will spend their money on. This can be indicative of an active player base and people invested in the progress they have made or are yet to play, and will also show what mechanics and tactics will be used in the future.
- Looking at the numbers for December, you will see some known names such as Pokémon GO, PUBG Mobile, and Roblox as well as some other games you might not have heard of, perhaps because their player base is primarily in another country.
- Again, this is another category where everything is expected to change. Many of the most popular mobile games of today were not even around three years ago, and these will be replaced by newcomers eventually as well, with perhaps a few exceptions (and only because they update so frequently they are practically new games every year or so)
- The next thing to consider is video streaming apps and video streaming in general (the two are effectively intertwined). First off, out of the subscription services, which are the most popular?
- As you can see above, Netflix still reigns supreme, followed by Amazon Prime Video and Disney+. Though it should be noted that Amazon Prime Video subscribers might just be interested in other services from Amazon and not use the service, and Disney+ memberships often come in other promotions. Usage data still is most important, and that data is unfortunately not fully available.
- Looking outside of paid options, YouTube is by far the most popular option for people, and you likely use it yourself. They have more than two billion regular users and growing, and the amount of free content on the site only grows as well, to the degree that YouTube is as much a search engine as anything else.
- Across all devices, people spend an average of about 40 minutes a day on the site.
Overall, as both smartphones and the nature of entertainment change, we might start to measure different things or think about the results of surveys much differently. If we think about how the world was even a decade ago and imagine that the world will be just as different in a decade when it comes to apps, we have a lot of excitement and innovation to look forward to when it comes to entertainment.
Unexpected Growth and the Future
The entire app market is volatile and at times confusing, and fortunately unless you are a developer or a publisher you do not need to worry about that all that much. You use what you are going to use, leave the rest behind, and that is that. Yet looking towards the future is always important and certainly interesting when it comes to anything technology-related. Therefore, here are a few facts and figures we think you should know about:
- The usage of voice assistance, at least part of the time, is expected to go up over time, to the degree that about 93 percent of users will use them by 2023. As to why this might be the case, it can be a combination of convenience, necessity (to avoid using the phone while driving), and improved voice recognition technology.
- And as more people use them, the competition to create the best voice assistant will increase in intensity, perhaps leading to even further developments.
- As mentioned before, mobile gaming is becoming increasingly popular, with more games being available, more revenue being taken in by mobile games, and more games being developed (including by major studios hoping to cash in on popular IPs). The point where people can play top-tier releases with their phone and a controller is not far away.
- Both AR and VR apps are being developed regularly, and the market for these types of apps is growing. While they might be associated with gaming primarily at the moment, it is not hard to imagine a VR app that allows for house tours or viewing of special events as if you are really there. Some will be mobile-focused while others might require a bit more processing power, but what first comes somewhere else will eventually come to mobile.
While you are looking at all the above stats and figures, app stores and app developers are as well and they are constantly trying to optimize both the user experience as well as take in the most profit (or procure the most downloads, whatever is best for their business model). And while we will not bore you with too many more business figures in this article, we can say that following the money will show you the future, even if there is just a slew of imitators.
Many mobile apps are the result of much of the research and technological development that has occurred over the past couple of decades. All the statistics above could barely have been imagined years ago, and yet here we are. Reading this might have inspired you to download a few more apps or do the opposite and resolve to lessen your screen time, and both options are completely justified.
Whether you are on social media, doing taxes, dating, or something else entirely on your phone (and therefore its apps), we hope you have learned about where smartphone technology is and where it is going. There is so much more to consider, so we encourage you to do more research if you are interested and to keep up to date with these numbers.