During the month of November, Flurry reached a major milestone, measuring more than a trillion unique events completed inside of mobile apps by consumers. The magnitude of this number, and what it means to an industry barely over four years old, that has already generated tens of billions of dollars, is unprecedented. An industry has shot up around Flurry in a way that no one, anywhere, could have imagined.
So it was against this backdrop that I began reading a series of differing investment theses written by Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures (What Has Changed), Dave McClure of 500 Startups (What Hasn’t Changed) and Chris Dixon of Andreessen Horowitz (The Product Lens). The gist was about the cyclical nature of investing between consumer internet and enterprise companies, with another suggestion to focus on product over finances. The debate is entertaining, and not surprising. It validates a theory I’ve held since the mid-nineties about the fundamental difference between entrepreneurs and investors. Simply put, entrepreneurs focus on opportunity while investors focus on risk.
The venture industry wants familiarity, so it talks about consumer versus enterprise. The web comes with an understood set of metrics like page views, visits, unique users, returning visitors and bounce rates, to name a few. And there’s still a standard way of buying traffic (SEM) and getting traffic organically (SEO). There’s a clear index and path to the web, called Google, and most VCs understand Google economics. They understand the lifetime value vs. cost per acquisition equation. They can value businesses accordingly.
What the venture industry doesn’t yet understand is mobile and apps. Traffic acquisition is still an art more than a measurable science. No one has defined a set of metrics that the venture industry can use to universally compare the value of one app property to another, and business models on mobile are still new. On Sand Hill Road, the best line I hear is that “99 cents is the new free,” referring to the freemium model, but few truly understand what it means.
Mobile and apps are gobbling up the web and consumer Internet, and that’s where the opportunity is. And the opportunity has never been bigger. All around me, I see entrepreneurs living it, loving it and collecting it “99 cents” at a time. Meanwhile, the VCs are debating it.
Mobile App Growth: Measured by Flurry
In the month of November, we measured over a trillion events from over 250,000 applications created by more than 85,000 developers. Events are actions completed by consumers inside apps such as completing a game level, making a restaurant reservation or tagging a song. In November, we also measured over 60 billion sessions, which is the start and a stop of an application on a mobile smart device. The chart below shows the growth in events tracked since May of 2008, when we first made our analytics service available to developers. This growth reflects the growth of the app economy.
Mobile Apps: Dominating the Web and Challenging Television
The chart below updates Flurry’s analysis comparing time spent in mobile apps on smartphones and tablets to time spent on the web using a browser. For web usage on desktops, laptops and smart devices, we build a model using publicly available data from comScore and Alexa. For mobile applications, we use Flurry Analytics data, now gathering data from over 250,000 applications. This time around, we add time spent on television using data released by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2010 and 2011. Note that the bureau hasn’t yet released their 2012 numbers, but given the maturity of the TV market, we assume that time spent on TV is flat year-over-year.
Between December 2011 and December 2012, the average time spent inside mobile apps by a U.S. consumer grew 35%, from 94 minutes to 127 minutes. By comparison, the average time spent on the web declined 2.4%, from 72 minutes to 70 minutes. By our measurement, U.S. consumers are spending 1.8 times more time in apps than on the web.
The chart also shows that time spent in apps already totals 76% of time spent on television. With new content released via thousands of new apps each day, we expect this trend to continue. In fact, we ultimately expect apps on tablets and smartphones to challenge broadcast television as the dominant channel for media consumption. Compared to the 60-year-old television industry, apps are just over 4 years old. In particular, tablets will drive growth in app consumption in 2013 as TV-style content and major programming moves to the tablet. Most TV Networks have already adjusted to a dual screen world and are synchronizing their TV content with their tablet app content. We believe that, with the introduction of connected TVs, TV shows will behave like apps.
Media, Games and Entertainment: The 80/20 Rule
Finally, we measured the time spent using mobile apps per app category across iOS and Android smart devices. For this comparison, we use Flurry data over the month of November 2012 as a baseline, and then adjust based on Flurry’s penetration per category. The chart below shows that 80% of the total time spent is across gaming, social networking and entertainment categories.
The stats on gaming are particularly interesting. Returning to the Bureau of Labor Statistics survey data, the average U.S. consumer spent 1.2 hours (72 minutes) per day playing a game, on any platform. Our data shows that 43% of time spent in mobile apps, 55 minutes, is spent in games. This means that mobile gaming on tablets and smartphones has absorbed 76% (55 of the 72 minutes) of the total time consumers spend on gaming, anywhere. Now, that's disruptive.
In just 4 years, mobile apps have overtaken the web and are beginning to challenge television, the top media channel. As we enter 2013, the app industry shows no signs of slowing. On the contrary, we continue to see a strong flow of new devices and new apps activated in our network. While VCs debate what part of the investment cycle we’re in and how to manage risk, all entrepreneurs need to know - from one entrepreuneur to another - is that you're witnessing the opportunity of a lifetime.
The era of mobile computing, catalyzed by Apple and Google, is driving among the largest shifts in consumer behavior over the last forty years. Impressively, its rate of adoption is outpacing both the PC revolution of the 1980s and the Internet Boom of the 1990s. Since 2007, more than 500 million iOS and Android smartphones and tablets have been activated. By the end of 2012, Flurry estimates that the cumulative number of iOS and Android devices activated will surge past 1 billion. According to IDC, over 800 million PCs were sold between 1981 and 2000, making the rate of iOS and Android smart device adoption more than four times faster than that of personal computers.
Powerfully, smartphones and tablets come with broadband connectivity out-of-the-box, instantly combining the best of “Silicon” and “The Cloud” for consumers. The Internet, which served to connect the installed base of PCs, grew to 495 million users by the end of 2001, according to the International Telecommunication Union. With the Internet beginning its commercial ramp in 1996, iOS and Android devices will see double the number of device activations during its first five years compared to the number of Internet users reached during its first five years (Internet 1996 – 2001 vs. Smart devices 2007 – 2012).
On top of this massively growing iOS and Android device installed base, roughly 40 billion applications have already been downloaded from the App Store and Android Market. More than ever, consumers are splitting their time accessing services on the Internet from PCs versus doing so on mobile devices from apps. Last summer, Flurry published a report detailing how the average smartphone user, for the first time ever, began spending more time in their mobile applications than they do browsing the web. Updating the analysis, Flurry finds the usage gap continues to widen. Let’s look at the updated numbers.
The chart compares how daily interactive consumption has changed over the last 18 months between the web (both desktop and mobile web) and mobile native apps. For the web, shown in green, we built a model using publicly available data from comScore and Alexa. For mobile application usage, shown in blue, we used Flurry Analytics data, which tracks anonymous sessions across more than 140,000 applications. We estimate this accounts for approximately one third of all mobile application activity, which we scaled-up accordingly for this analysis.
Since conducting our first analysis in June 2011, time spent in mobile applications has grown. Smartphone and tablet users now spend over an hour and half of their day using applications. Meanwhile, average time spent on the web has shrunk, from 74 minutes to 72 minutes. Users seem to be substituting websites for applications, which may be more convenient to access throughout the day.
Our analysis shows that people are now spending less time on the traditional web than they did during the summer 2011. This drop appears to be driven largely by a decrease in time spent on Facebook from the traditional web. In June 2011, the average Facebook user spent over 33 minutes on average per day on the website. Now, that number is below 24 minutes. Time spent on the web without Facebook has grown at a modest rate of 2% between June 2011 and December 2011.
The analysis also shows that people are spending ever more time in applications. In fact, time spent in apps and the web, combined, has grown as users lead a more connected life. This growth though has been driven entirely by applications. The growth in time spent in mobile applications is slowing – from above 23% between December 2010 and June 2011 this year to a little over 15% from June 2011 to December 2011. The growth is predominately being driven by an increase in the number of sessions, as opposed to longer session lengths. Consumers are using their apps more frequently.
Facebook Pushes into Mobile Apps
Based on our analysis, we believe that Facebook users, and users of other traditional style websites, are increasingly accessing services through mobile applications than from desktops. Nielsen recently reported that Facebook is the most used app on Android among 14 – 44 year olds, surpassing usage of Google’s own native, pre-installed apps. Additionally, Facebook Messenger became the top downloaded app, at least one time during 2011, across more than 100 different App Store countries. In the U.S., the largest App Store market, Facebook Messenger ranked as the top overall app across most of the holiday week, during which more downloads occur compared to any other week.
With Facebook’s recent push into HTML5 with Project Spartan, where apps built for Facebook’s platform can run on top of the Facebook app, instead of requiring the user to launch the iOS app equivalent, this poses a disintermediation challenge to Apple. As Apple and Google continue to battle for consumers through the operating system and devices, Facebook is demonstrating that it can leverage its hold over consumers at the software level, through the power of the social network, across multiple platforms.
Facebook and Google are already locked in a battle for the online consumer, with Facebook having steadily taken share from the search engine giant over the last several years. Recently, as Google countered with its socially-oriented Google Plus, Circles and Hangouts services, Facebook added features such as news feeds to further lock in consumers to its service by obviating the need to discover content through search.
Likewise, Apple’s recently launched iCloud service, which allows consumers to store their most personal content, including music, photos and contacts, as well as its deep integration with social-service, Twitter, appears to buttress against Facebook’s ability to control the consumer relationship. With games as the top app category across Facebook, iOS and Android, as well as having become increasingly social in nature, Facebook is countering to reclaim valuable game play sessions it earned from its own platform play launched in 2007, rather than simply surrendering them to iOS and Android, who have effectively wooed consumers off of the web platform to mobile apps.
Games & Social Networking Dominate Mobile App Usage
With mobile app usage soaring, Flurry additionally studied which categories most occupy consumers’ time. The results are shown in the pie chart below.
The chart clearly shows that Games and Social Networking categories capture the significant majority of consumers’ time. Consumers spend nearly half their time using Games, and a third in Social Networking apps. Further considering that Flurry does not track Facebook usage, the Social Networking category is actually larger. Combined, from just what Flurry can see, these two categories control a whopping 79% of consumers’ total app time. This breakdown in usage reveals Facebook’s inherent popularity as the leading social network, as well as how important controlling the game category is for all platform providers. As we drill down into the category data, consumers use these two categories more frequently, and for longer average session lengths, compared to other categories.
Any way we slice it, Games and Social Networking apps deliver the most engaging experience on the web and mobile today, and set the stage for the battleground for controlling the consumer relationship going forward for all platform providers on all platforms.
On broadcast television, brands seek to reach their target audiences as efficiently as possible. For example, a brand might run a TV campaign targeting 24 – 35 year old females through prime-time shows that reach that desired audience.
Prime-time, from 7 pm to 11 pm, is widely known as the part of the day that attracts the most viewers on television. In advertising parlance, this is referred to as a “daypart.” And given its popularity, networks charge significantly more for ads aired during this time.
On radio, “drive time” is the most valuable daypart. Online, the evening has seen an increase in relative usage with the popularity of social networks like Facebook, instant messaging like Skype and video-on-demand services like Hulu.
This report focuses on dayparting in mobile apps. Through Flurry Analytics, Flurry tracks more than 110,000 mobile apps on iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry and J2ME. The sample used for this study assembled a bundle of popular iOS and Android apps across games, social networking, music, news, sports and communication categories. In total, this group of apps is used by more than 15 million consumers each day.
For a point of comparison, we overlaid our mobile app daypart graph onto a chart shared by Michael Zimbalist, VP Research for the New York Times, in a guest post he authored for AdAge. Let’s take a look at the findings.
The chart shows the percent of its own total user-base that a given medium reaches, each hour of the day, starting at 5 am. In keeping with Mr. Zimbalist’s analysis, we also limit our mobile app data set to include those 15 years of age and older. For each curve, the percent displayed on the y-axis relates to the proportion of consumers reached during a given hour on that respective medium. Note that the total audience size for each medium reached varies in terms of its own absolute number of users. We’ve chosen to overlay Flurry’s data onto this chart to compare the shape of the curves, which indicate the relative concentration of usage during different times of the day. For reference, we shaded the hours that make up the prime-time television slot.
Our analysis shows that, compared to relative TV viewing and Internet usage, mobile app usage is higher from 6 am to 6 pm. And while the relative percent of television viewers surpasses that of mobile app users during prime-time, mobile app usage continues to climb until 9 pm, exceeding relative Internet usage throughout the prime-time window. Mobile consumers are using apps either instead of, or along-side prime-time television and the Internet. In fact, the percent of relative mobile app usage is greater than that of relative Internet usage every hour of every day.
To provide a tangible example of audience size for mobile apps, we estimate that the combined number of active iOS and Android devices in the U.S. is approximately 110 million. Taking 10 am as a daypart of mobile apps (the red curve), 30% of iOS and Android device owners, or 33 million consumers, use an application during this hour. In theory, apps are like TV shows, in that they reach specific audiences. With the eventual ability to target apps by various criteria such as age, gender, dayparts and more, advertisers can one day target a tightly defined audience that uses different applications.
To put the sheer size of the mobile application audience into perspective, consider that the American Idol finale, which airs once per season, reaches approximately 20 million viewers on that day. Mobile apps already reach more than 20 million U.S. consumers per hour, from 7 am to 11 pm. That’s already the equivalent of 17 American Idol finales each day, or more than 6,200 American Idol finales per year.
With Google recently acquiring Motorola and Apple gearing up to launch the iPhone 5 this fall, these numbers will continue to grow. Further, with companies like Amazon pushing harder into tablets with its recently announced Kindle Fire, and companies like Nokia and Microsoft partnering to stay competitive, we can easily imagine a world of mobile apps where it’s prime-time all the time.