Why most people aren’t downloading apps anymore

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In August, a widely reported report from comScore, a measurement firm, concluded that the majority of smartphone users in the United States download precisely zero apps in any given month.

US smartphone users' number of apps downloaded per month

“One possible explanation is that people just don’t need that many apps, and the apps people already have are more than suitable for most functions,” speculated Quartz’s Dan Frommer at the time. New data from Localytics, an app analytics firm which tracks 28,000 apps across 1.5 billion global devices, lends some evidence to this theory.

According to Localytics, the amount of time people spend within apps has shot up by a fifth over the past year, helping app use alone outpace all desktop computer use. Moreover, people are launching apps more often, up from 9.4 times to 11.5 times a month.

Driving this increase in use is the stickiness, to use a Silicon Valley term, of the apps people already use. It will surprise nobody that the categories with the most significant uptick in time used fall into categories of music, health and fitness, and social networking.

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The increased share of user attention claimed by music can partly be attributed to changing consumer habits as people shift away from downloading music to their phones to streaming it through apps like Spotify and Pandora. Moreover, people use music apps while commuting, helping explain the category’s tremendous jump. Health and fitness has gained, suggests Localytics, thanks to a bevy of new products and sensors that have come out over the past year, helping people sync or use their phones themselves as health-tracking devices.

Social networking is more complicated. In August, apps in this category were used for an average of only 2.5 minutes whenever opened, the lowest of all the categories listed by Localytics. Yet these apps were opened more than 25 times a month, far in excess of other “snacking” categories such as news or sports apps.

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