Five years ago, the iPhone ushered in the era of mobile computing. Today, more than a billion consumers are “glued” to these devices and their applications, impacting nearly every aspect of their lives. For businesses, opportunities seem endless and disruption is everywhere. The list of disrupted industries is long, including communications, media and entertainment, logistics, education and healthcare, just to name a few.
The past five years at Flurry have been wildly exciting. We joined an industry just as gas was forming to ignite a Big Bang, and we’re still orienting ourselves within its rapidly expanding universe. Since early 2008, we’ve worked with tens of thousands of developers to integrate our analytics and ad platforms into their apps. Today our services have been added to more than 300,000 applications and we measure usage on more than 1 billion monthly active smart devices.
On the five-year anniversary of launching Flurry Analytics, we took some time to reflect on the industry and share some insights. First, we studied the time U.S. consumers spend between mobile apps and mobile browsers, as well as within mobile app categories. Let’s take a look.
Today, the U.S. consumer spends an average of 2 hours and 38 minutes per day on smartphones and tablets. 80% of that time (2 hours and 7 minutes) is spent inside apps and 20% (31 minutes) is spent on the mobile web. Studying the chart shows that apps (and Facebook) are commanding a meaningful amount of consumers' time. All mobile browsers combined, which we now consider apps, control 20% of consumers' time. Gaming apps remain the largest category of all apps with 32% of time spent. Facebook is second with 18%, and Safari is 3rd with 12% Worth noting is that a lot of people are consuming web content from inside the Facebook app. For example, when a Facebook user clicks on a friend’s link or article, that content is shown inside its web view without launching a native web browser (e.g., Safari, Android or Chrome), which keeps the user in the app. So if we return to the chart and consider the proportion of Facebook app usage that is within their web view (aka browser), then we can assert that Facebook has become the most adopted browser in terms of consumer time spent.
The App World
Five years into its existence, the app economy is thriving, with The Wall Street Journal recently estimating annual revenue of $25 billion. Once again, we have to appreciate that this economy did not exist until 2008. As we looked for possible signs of slowing, we could not find any, largely due to the fast adoption of tablets just after smartphones.
In fact, not only is the installed base of devices growing, but also the number of apps consumers use. Our next insight comes from studying how many apps the average consumer launches each day. For this snapshot, we compared three years of worldwide data, taking the 4th quarters of 2010, 2011 and 2012.
From left to right, we see that the average number of apps launched per day by consumers climbs from 7.2 in 2010 to 7.5 in 2011 and finally to 7.9 in 2012. This is not a material change, which is a good thing. To us, the steady growth rate indicates that the app economy is not yet experiencing saturation, as consumers steadily use more apps over time. And while there are more apps in the store, large numbers of them have short lifespans, such as books, shows and games. Assertions that people are using fewer apps in 2012 than they did in 2010 appear to be incorrect. While one could observe that consumers use only 8 apps per day among the million+ available between the AppStore and Google Play, one also needs to remember that the 8 apps each consumer uses varies widely. This creates a marketplace that can support diversified apps.
Finally, we studied a sample of more than 2.2 million devices that have been active for more than 2 years to understand the mix of new versus existing apps people use over time. To do so, we compared Q4 2012 to Q4 2010.
The chart above shows that, on average, only 17% of the apps used in Q4 2010 were in use earlier in the year on a device compared to 37% in Q4 2012. That means that 63% of the apps used in Q4 2012 were new, and most likely not even developed in 2011 (or possibly poorly adopted). We believe that with consumers continuing to try so many new apps, the app market is still in early stages and there remains room for innovation as well as breakthrough new applications.
The Web World
Looking again at the first chart in this study, while also considering the latest numbers from IDC, which projects that tablets will outsell desktops this year and notebooks next year, we draw the conclusion that the web, as we know it, is already facing a serious challenge. Does this mean the web is dead? We don’t believe so. On the contrary, we believe that the web will change and adapt to the reality of smartphones and tablets. Websites will look and behave more like apps. Websites will be optimized for user experience first and search engine optimization second. This supports the trend of mobile first and web second, which brings both mobile app and user experience design to the mobile web. Simply compare Target’s app on iPhone to its mobile web site (target.com) accessed from the iPhone. The mobile web site looks and behaves similarly to the Target app, albeit a little bit slower.
… and Facebook
Continuing to think about the first chart, it appears that mobile, once perceived as Facebook’s Achilles' heel, has become Facebook’s biggest opportunity. Consumers are spending an average of nearly 30 minutes per day on Facebook. Add to that Facebook's massive reach, as well as their roughly billion mobile users per month and you have a sizable mobile black hole sucking up peoples' time. The 30 minutes a day is a worldwide average which means a large group spends even more time on Facebook (possibly hours) watching and participating in what has become the ultimate reality show in which the actors are you and your friends.
The disruptive force of the mobile app economy has created opportunities, rising stars, instant millionaires, dinosaurs and plenty of confusion. However, one undeniable truth is that tablets and smartphones are eating up desktops, and notebooks and apps (including the Facebook app) are eating up the web and peoples’ time.
GDC is in San Francisco this week, just next to Flurry’s headquarters. By the size of the crowds, we (very scientifically) estimate that attendance should easily surpass last year’s record of 22,500. Having tracked the growth of mobile games for several years, we weren’t surprised to see more than 30 sessions during the week focused on smartphone and tablet gaming.
Here’s the big picture, based on our estimates: There are now over 1 billion active smartphones and tablets using apps around the world every month. And of all the apps consumers use, games command more than 40% of all time spent. Looking at revenue, games also dominate. Today, for example, 22 of the top 25 grossing apps in the U.S. iTunes App Store apps are games. Gamers spend money, and game makers are in love.
In this installment of research, Flurry studies how age, gender and engagement vary across key game types. Understand this, and a game developer can design a more engaging game that appeals to the right audience. In short, they can build a better business. In this study, we included more than 200 of the most successful free iOS games, with a total audience of more than 465 million month active users. For a better comparison, we organized these games by their game type (aka game mechanic) instead of traditional, less granular genres. Let’s start by looking at how different kinds of games appeal to gamers by age and gender.
The chart above plots game types by age and gender. From left to right, we show what percent of the game audience is female, with the far right equaling 100% female. The opposite is true for males. For example, 0% female equals 100% male. From bottom to top, we show the average age of the game type’s user base, between 20 to 50 years old. Putting it together, games in the upper right quadrant are preferred by older females. Games in the lower right are preferred by younger females. Games in the lower left are preferred by younger men, and so on.
Young Men and Their Competition
Inspecting the chart, the tightest cluster appears in the lower left; specifically, game types such as Shooters, Racing, and Action RPG skew younger and more male. Card-battle and Strategy games also skew toward younger males. The only genre that skews toward males over 35 is Casino/Poker, with pure poker games skewing even more male than the game type as a whole. This appears to leave a big gap in the market for developers who can create games that appeal to middle-aged and older men.
While men tend to gravitate toward competitive games, women gravitate toward games that are less competitive and tend to be played in a more enduring way. These include Management/Simulation games where players can build out an environment, Social Turn-Based games in which they can play over time with friends, and Match3/Bubble Shooters and Brain/Quiz games, to which users can frequently return when they have a few spare minutes. Slots and Solitaire are both solo-play game types that skew toward females who are over 40, suggesting that they serve as long-term time-fillers.
From a marketing perspective, mobile game publishers can also leverage this knowledge to design targeted campaigns appropriate for the kind of audience to which a game appeals. Flurry’s ad network, AppCircle, allows publishers to target specific demographics for efficient spending.
From Courting to Betrothed
We find that mobile gamers tend to prefer playing a few kinds of games and demonstrate highly predictable play patterns. In other words, they form relationships with their games. Savvy publishers understand these dynamics and use them to inform acquisition strategy, gameplay design, and both in-app purchase and ad-based monetization tactics.
In the chart below, we map game types by usage and retention. On the y-axis we show the number of times per week consumers play different game types. On the x-axis we show how long different games retain their user (i.e., Flurry defines Rolling Retention as the percentage of users that return to the game 30 days after first use, or any day after that). To see how usage and gender work together, we’ve also colored-coded game types by whether they are more male, female or neutral in appeal. Let’s take a look.
The chart above reveals that different strategies should be employed for different kinds of games. It also shows, loosely, that women are more committed while men are more fickle. Sound familiar in life? Hmmm. For the gaming industry, the universal take away is that to optimize engagement, retention, and monetization, developers must tailor their mechanics and messaging to match their ideal target audience. Let’s take a tour of the quadrants.
“Players” try a lot of different games, play for only a short time and tend to be found in highly competitive games (e.g., “Player vs. Player style games). While fickle, they tend to have a high willingness-to-pay in order to progress faster in a game or increase their ability to compete at a high level versus other players. Attracting the right users through targeted acquisition can pay off, as those that stay will pay. Notably, Card-Battle games have very low retention but off-the-charts monetization, extracting enormous revenue from the small number of users that stick. One implication is that these games need to be highly polished at launch with updates ready to go, as gamers will discard games quickly and move on if the game fails to resonate. From a design standpoint, these games should offer immediate opportunities for users to advance by purchasing upgrades and boosts. For the users that might not spend, a lucrative option is to offer in-game currency for watching video ads.
“Going Steady” game types are found in the lower right quadrant of the chart. Usage is less frequent but retention is very high. While these gamers don’t play as often, they are loyal. This group of games tends to be easy-to-learn and easy-to-return-to even after a lapse in playing. They lend themselves to quick play while in a “wait state” (e.g., waiting in line, taking a bus or perhaps checking out of the meeting or class they’re in). Since these are not particularly immersive or competitive games, they are less likely suited to in-app purchase. However, they can generate significant ad impressions over time, and can be designed to show banner or interstitial ads without being overly disruptive to the experience. For games with larger audiences, publishers are utilizing mediation platforms that enable the use of multiple ad networks in one system, ensuring maximized fill and ad-revenue for each space.
“Committed” comprise of consumers who play games for the long-haul. As such, game makers should think of it like a marriage. Think about appoint mechanics like setting a date (hey, even married people need to keep it fresh). These games should be designed with deep content and not try to sell too hard to their users too quickly. From a monetization perspective, commitment-oriented games have great potential for in-app purchases since users of those games are likely to value such purchases and amortize them over long periods of gameplay. And while only the largest titles have achieved this to-date, this group of games are great candidates for in-app product placement. Additionally, with high impressions counts, it is worth publishers’ investment to implement monetization platforms that make ad spaces available to real-time bidded ad exchanges, ensuring they reach the brands and advertisers that value their audiences.
“Infatuated” consumers have fallen hard and fast for their games, but the candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long. They have crushes, and show binge behavior. During the “crush” window, the developer needs to work hard to extract as much revenue as possible. As such, developers must provide vast amounts of content to the users, consistently, in a short-window. Matching monetization to game type, the competitive nature of Strategy games, and Slots users’ incessant desire for in-game currency, make a solid in-app purchase strategy paramount. Sales, events, and purchase opportunities timed with key moments of emotional investment can drive significant profits for publishers.
There’s a Pebble on the Beach for Everyone
In gaming, there are a vast number of game types that attract distinct audiences. And these different consumer segments display very different usage patterns, which have direct implications on monetization strategies. As in life, where the richest relationships are borne from knowing oneself and his or her partner, game companies must also understand both. Only then can you get the most out of the relationship.
While smartphones have reached critical mass, tablets are poised to do the same soon. As a form factor, tablets simultaneously take a step toward the living room and the workplace. For consumers, these devices are multimedia machines, offering a glimpse into how consumers might one day accept connected television. For workers, IT departments are already reacting to the “Bring Your Own Device” wave changing the modern workforce. According to Forrester, 12% of workers already use a tablet at work.
The stakes are high. According to its latest earnings call, more than one out of every three Apple smart devices sold during the last quarter was a tablet, 14 million iPads versus about 27 million iPhones. And with the announcement of the lower-priced iPad mini, more directly competing with Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD, Google’s Nexus 7 and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 2, we anticipate this ratio to increase more toward tablets during the holiday season.
This report focuses on how consumer demographics and behavior vary between smartphones and tablets. Taking a snapshot in September 2012 from Flurry Analytics, that totaled more than 6 billion application sessions across approximately 500 million smart devices, Flurry provides a comprehensive comparison between smartphones and tablets, spanning age, gender, time of day usage, category usage and engagement metrics. For age and gender comparisons, Flurry leverages a panel of more than 30 million consumers who have opted-in to share demographic data.
The chart above shows the distribution of age for smartphone versus tablet users across traditional age groupings (aka “age breaks”). The blue bars represent smartphone consumers and greens bars represent tablet consumers. Each group of same-colored bars totals 100%. On average, smartphone users are younger than tablet users, 30 versus 34 years of age. Nearly three quarters of smartphone users are 34 years of age or younger, while more than two thirds of tablet user are 25 years or older. Additionally, recent research from the OPA conducted by Frank N. Magid and Associates indicates that household incomes for tablet owners are becoming increasingly affluent, with 59% of household incomes for tablet owners surpassing $50,000 versus the U.S. average of 41% households with incomes over $50,000.
The pie charts above compare the gender split between smartphone and tablet users, with women shown in dark pink and men shown in blue. While smartphone usage trends slightly more male, tablet usage is nearly even. Traditionally, males adopt technology devices more than women. With an even gender split for tablets, this bucks the trend, indicating that tablets likely have more long-term mass-market appeal.
The chart above shows how consumers allocate their time using apps across a day, also called “dayparting.” Smartphone app usage is indicated with the blue line, and tablet app usage with the green line. Each line spans 24 hours of a day and totals 100% usage across the day. Studying the chart, tablets have a greater spike of usage during the prime-time television window, from 7 pm to 10 pm, whereas smartphone usage is more evenly distributed throughout the day. This would indicate that tablets are more often used alongside, or instead of television viewing than smartphones. In an earlier study, Flurry compared the combined usage of tablet and smartphone apps versus the Internet and television.
The chart above compares the time spent across app categories between smartphones and tablets. At a high level, consumers spend more time using tablets for media and entertainment, including Games (67%), Entertainment (9%) and News (2%) categories which account for nearly four-fifths of consumption on tablets. Smartphones claim a higher proportion of communication and task-oriented activities with Social Networking (24%), Utilities (17%), Health & Fitness (3%) and Lifestyle (3%) commanding nearly half of all usage on smartphones. Games are the most popular category on both form factors with 67% of time spent using games on tablets and 39% of time spent using games on smartphones. Further reinforcing that tablets are “media machines” is the fact that consumers spend 71% more of their time using games on tablets than they spend doing so on smartphones.
Finally, we compare engagement metrics between smartphones and tablets. On average, consumers use apps on smartphones more frequently but for shorter periods of time. With consumers using tablets more for media consumption, and during the evenings, this stands to reason. Conversely, consumers use their smartphones for shorter periods of time across more sessions over the course of a day to complete tasks like checking into social networks and using utility apps.
The Battle for the Living Room
Studying smartphone versus tablet usage differences not only provides insight into how developers should consider form factor when designing app experiences, but also how digital distribution could disrupt the living room. As we imagine a world of connected TVs, tablet usage gives us the best current-day hint of that world to come. Tablet users are older, more female, and we can surmise, more affluent. Additionally, they use more during the evenings and for longer sessions. Finally they consume more media and entertainment experiences, with a significant proportion spent on games. In particular, this would indicate that as Apple and Google enter the living room with connected TV initiatives, game consoles made by Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo would experience the greatest competition. The distribution of content into the living room may also significantly change for network and cable television content providers. In summary, the impact of smart devices on both work and play are profound. With a bevy of significant companies vying for tablet hegemony, including Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Samsung, developers and consumers should expect nothing short of tremendous innovation.
A Note about Engagement Metrics in this Study versus Previous Flurry Studies
Please note that in previous studies, Flurry combined all smartphone and tablet usage to generate total time spent by the average “smart device” user in a given day. Using the stats provided in this study, a clever reader could back into a comparison to that study. However, breaking out time spent per day using the metrics included in this study (by taking ‘number of sessions per week’ multiplied by ‘time per session’ then dividing by seven days to get to a daily figure) will not simply add up to the total ‘time spent per day’ provided in previous studies. This is because individual users of smartphones and tablets spread their total usage time across multiple devices. By separating out smartphone and tablet usage for this study, the overlap of users who have more than one device is not taken into account. In short, these two studies do not provide an apples-to-apples comparison.
Regardless of a company’s earlier success, thriving in the new mobile app economy depends on engagement and retention. After acquiring users, the real battle to keep and ultimately monetize consumers begins. In the brave new world of “mobile first,” engagement is the new battleground.
This research is a redux to one of Flurry’s most popular reports, entitled Mobile Apps: Money, Models and Loyalty. Released three years ago, the initial report organized app category usage into a loyalty matrix. We do the same again now, while also acknowledging that a lot has changed in the app economy since then. To start, there is an order of magnitude more available apps in the App Store, now brimming with over 700,000 app choices for consumers. We are three generations beyond the then-new iPhone 3GS. We have since met the iPad, and perhaps tomorrow will meet the iPad Mini.
Combined, smart devices – iOS and Android smartphones and tablets – are the fastest adopted technology in history; adopted faster than electricity, televisions, microwaves, personal computers, cell phones, the Internet, dishwashers, stoves, and a whole lot more. Last month, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook – the number two most visited website on the web – declared “we are now a mobile company” explaining that “you just could do so much better by doing native [application] work” versus using languages like HTML5 on top of browsers. Each month, approximately 600 million of Facebook’s 1 billion monthly active users already accesses Facebook via mobile.
Each app category has different user engagement and loyalty characteristics. Understanding a given app audience based on the category to which it belongs can inform a company’s app acquisition, retention and monetization strategies. For this analysis, we use a sample of apps used more than 1.7 billion times each week. In total, more than 80,000 companies use Flurry Analytics across more than 230,000 apps to understand consumer behavior and improve their apps.
The above matrix plots application categories by how often they’re used compared to how long consumers continue to use them over time. Specifically, we plot the 90-day retention rate of app categories on the x-axis against the frequency of use per week on the y-axis. We lay the “scatterplot” out in a Cartesian coordinate system with four quadrants. For our categories, we started by taking the application categories defined by Apple in the App Store. In cases where a cluster of applications within a parent category showed meaningful usage differences, we created a sub-category. For example, Flurry divides games into Social Games and Single Player Games given how differently consumers use these sub-categories.
Quadrant I includes apps that are used intensively and to which consumers are loyal over time. News and Communication apps are the two categories that appear in this category. On average, because these apps tend to have stable, growing audiences, they are best positioned to generate advertising revenue or charge a subscription. Consumers perceive these apps to deliver enduring value over time.
Quadrant II is comprised of apps that are used intensively, but for finite periods of time. They are perceived by consumers to deliver value in bursts. Streaming Music, Dating and Social Games best typify this quadrant. Consider for a moment why Dating is a category that appears in this quadrant. For most people, we can assume that finding a long-term “significant other” is the ultimate goal of dating. As a result, the app maker should expect customer churn. While usage may be high during the time when a consumer looks for a suitable partner, once that person is found, usage stops. An implication could be that to maintain a growing audience, apps in this category require heavy, constant acquisition to find consumers who are “in the market” for dating. Ironically, the better the app is at match making, the more churn it should expect.
Quadrant III contains apps that are used infrequently and have high churn. They contain the most “one-and-dones.” Personalization is an example that makes sense for this quadrant, since a consumer uses this app to change her screen saver or select a theme for her operating system. Once this set-up is complete, it’s unlikely that the user will need to re-use this application. Since the app’s value is diminished almost immediately, applications with this kind of usage pattern are best served with premium pricing models; that is, charging the consumer before providing access to the content.
Quadrant IV is made up of apps that are used infrequently but deliver very high value when used. Even though they’re used only occasionally, these apps can remain on a consumer's handset almost indefinitely. For example, consider how useful an airline, hotel or rental car-booking app is to a business traveler. While the app remains unused between business trips, its value spikes as soon as the next business trip needs to be scheduled.
Which Pill to Take
The quadrant an app falls into can help the content creator decide what business model is best. On average, Quadrants I and IV (the right-hand side) are better suited to subscription and advertising-supported models. The main reason is that these apps have perceived enduring value by consumers over a long period of time, and therefore more successfully retain their user bases. For ad-supported apps, high repeat usage translates into more ad impressions served. Categories on the left-hand side, Quadrants II and III, are better suited for one-time download fees. Additionally, quadrants II and IV (top left and bottom right) are likely best for in-app purchase models. For Quadrant II, the intense usage means that consumers find very high value during a short window. This creates the opportunity to offer new content or functionality during “binge” usage. Adroit social game makers are masters at driving in-app purchases during a consumer’s greatest moment of engagement. For Quadrant IV, because the user will return again and again, there also exists the possibility to find new ways of increasing value, which includes offering add-on functionality or content for a fee.
For more data, the table below provides 30, 60 and 90-day retention rates as well as weekly frequency of use numbers. Note that some of the categories included in the table below are not included in the matrix chart above.
Compared to Flurry’s 2009 analysis, 90-day retention rates have increased from 25% to 35%. Additionally, frequency of use has decreased from 6.7 in 2009 to an average of 3.7 now. We attribute increased retention rates to increased quality in the market, driven by more competition. With tens of thousands of more companies building apps and hundreds of thousands of more available apps, the quality of apps has risen dramatically. Simply put, app makers are getting better at holding a consumer's attention longer. Additionally, we believe usage rates are lower because consumers have more choice than ever and are splitting their time across more applications. While Flurry included 19 categories in its 2009 report, we now include 30 distinct categories as the industry has matured and more distinct verticals have appeared.
Brave New World
With more than a billion smartphones and tablets now in use, as well as the eventual move of apps into the living room through connected TV efforts by the likes of Apple and Google, digital distribution is changing the way the world does business. No matter what category your app belongs to, understanding and improving user engagement is the new currency of doing business in the new digital world.
The popularity of iOS and Android gaming is driving among the largest disruptions in video game history, already eclipsing portable platform gaming revenue. With low barriers to entry and potent revenue generation possibilities across more than 500 million active iOS and Android devices in the market, casual gaming is reaching new heights on mobile.
In this report, Flurry compares traditional versus independent game companies in the new mobile app marketplace. To set the stage, let’s get a current read on which kinds of apps consumers use most.
Gaming Dominates Mobile App Usage
For the first two months of 2012, Flurry Analytics measured that more than half of all end user sessions were spent in games. Across January and February, Flurry observed sessions across a sample of more than 64 billion applications sessions across more than 500 million iOS and Android devices. In addition to the snapshot above, we lay out the trend in app session growth over the last three years.
Game Session Growth Exploding
The above chart compares normalized game session levels seen in 2010 versus 2011 and 2012. We did so by first taking game sessions tracked by Flurry Analytics in Q1 of 2010 and setting that as a baseline. We then compare gaming sessions observed in subsequent years against the 2010 baseline. By our calculations, 2011 and 2012 gaming session grew by 5.3 times and 20.5 times, respectively, over the level observed in 2010. Note that we use the first quarter of each year, extrapolating Q1 2012 from January and February of this year.
Indie Games Dominate Consumer Usage
For the above chart, Flurry separated game sessions between indendent game developers who started their businesses on iOS and Android versus established gaming companies who extended to iOS and Android from other platforms. Starting from the left, in 2010, we see that about 60% of all mobile game sessions occurred in games built by independent studios. In 2011, this figure declined slightly to 56% primarily due to a wave of consolidation by established game companies who acquired independent studios (e.g., EA acquiring Chillingo, Zynga acquiring Newtoy, DeNA acquiring Ngmoco and Gameview, etc.). However, in 2012, another larger wave independent companies appeared to emerge, overwhelming established companies once again, pushing indie game session share to 68%.
Historically, the video gaming industry has been ruled by brands and established IP from a few major game publishers such as Electronic Arts, Activision, Ubisoft, THQ and others. High production, marketing and distribution costs created formidable barriers to entry. High retail price points created risk for consumers to try new titles with which they were not familiar. For these reasons, brands published by larger companies dominated the landscape.
With Apple and Google entering the ecosystem, the rules of competition have changed dramatically, arguably creating the most open, egalitarian market in the history of video games. Flurry first wrote about this phenomenon in 2009 in a series entitled The Rise of the Middle Class. While we would have expected indie game developers to fare better early on in the history of iOS and Android mobile app platforms, it's remarkable that their dominance has grown over the last several years, with no signs of slowing. Even when traditional, established game companies have attempted to buy a stronger position on iOS and Android through acquisition, the reduced importance of brand power in mobile app gaming allows indie developers to continue to innovate and capture increasing consumer mind share.
In the new smartphone app economy, Apple and Google have truly empowered indies to thrive. And among indies, game developers are thriving the most.
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.
Although the Internet entered the mainstream a mere 15 years ago, life without it today is nearly incomprehensible. And our use of the web has rapidly changed as well. In simple terms, it has evolved from online directories (Yahoo!) to search engines (Google) and now to social media (Facebook). Built on the desktop and notebook PC platform, the web’s popularity is significant.
Today, however, a new platform shift is taking place. In 2011, for the first time, smartphone and tablet shipments exceed those of desktop and notebook shipments (source: Mary Meeker, KPCB, see slide 7). This move means a new generation of consumers expects their smartphones and tablets to come with instant broadband connectively so they, too, can connect to the Internet.
In this report, Flurry compares how daily interactive consumption has changed over the last 12 months between the web (both desktop and mobile web) and mobile native apps. For Internet consumption, we built a model using publicly available data from comScore and Alexa. For mobile application usage, we used Flurry Analytics data, now exceeding 500 million aggregated, anonymous use sessions per day across more than 85,000 applications. We estimate this accounts for approximately one third of all mobile application activity, which we scaled-up accordingly for this analysis.
Our analysis shows that, for the first time ever, daily time spent in mobile apps surpasses desktop and mobile web consumption. This stat is even more remarkable if you consider that it took less than three years for native mobile apps to achieve this level of usage, driven primarily by the popularity of iOS and Android platforms. Let’s take a look at the numbers.
The preceding chart compares the average number of minutes consumers spend per day in mobile native apps vs. the web. For mobile apps, Flurry tracks iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and J2ME. And for the web, our figures include the open web, Facebook and the mobile web.
Flurry found that the average user now spends 9% more time using mobile apps than the Internet. This was not the case just 12 months ago. Last year, the average user spent just under 43 minutes a day using mobile applications versus an average 64 minutes using the Internet. Growing at 91% over the last year, users now spend over 81 minutes on mobile applications per day. This growth has come primarily from more sessions per user, per day rather than a large growth in average session lengths. Time spent on the Internet has grown at a much slower rate, 16% over the last year, with users now spending 74 minutes on the Internet a day.
As a note of interest, Facebook has increasingly taken its share of time spent on the Internet, now making up 14 of the 74 minutes spent per day by consumers, or about one sixth of all Internet minutes. Considering Facebook’s recent leak regarding Project Spartan, an effort to run apps within its service on top of the mobile Safari browser, thus disintermediating Apple, it appears Facebook seeks to counter both Apple and Google’s increasing control over consumers as mobile app usage proliferates.
Games & Social Networking Dominate Mobile App Usage
With mobile app usage soaring, Flurry additionally studied which categories most occupy consumers’ time. For this snapshot, Flurry captured time spent per category from May 2011 across all apps it tracks, now totaling more than 85,000. 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. Combined, these two categories control a whopping 79% of consumers’ total app time. Further, as we drill down into the 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 mobile today.
With a better understanding of how consumers spend their time across app categories, Facebook’s Project Spartan makes even more sense. As a category, social networking – which is Facebook’s core competency – commands the second largest allocation of consumers’ time. Games, which typify the most popular kind of app played on the Facebook platform itself, are also the top categories on both Android and iOS platforms. As interactive media usage continues to shift from the web to mobile apps, one thing is certain: Facebook, Apple and Google will all expend significant resources to ensure that no one company dominates owning the direct relationship with the consumer.
In the United States, Thanksgiving weekend sales are closely studied to predict consumer spending for the upcoming holiday season. This year, NPD Group reported that the share of shoppers for brick-and-mortar increased by about 6 percent while online shoppers' share grew by 44 percent. Further, according to IBM’s Coremetrics, Cyber Monday online sales already exceeded this year's Black Friday by 31%.
Similarly, over the Thanksgiving weekend, Flurry measured strong growth for new smartphone devices and application downloads. Note that because the mobile device and application download markets continue to grow at accelerating rates, we used a week-over-week vs. year-over-year comparison.
The chart below shows the number of new devices detected by more than 55,000 applications in the market which include Flurry Analytics. The bulk of growth is driven by Apple iOS devices and a number of recent break-out Android devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S, Motorola Droid 2 and LG Optimus S. Flurry detects a new, unique device the first time an application which includes Flurry Analytics is launched on that device.
Reviewing the chart above, new devices detected on Black Friday jumped by 57% over the previous week's Friday. Total new device growth for the holiday weekend, compared to the same four-day period from the prior week, was 31%. Interestingly, this surge demonstrates that consumers appear to be buying and activating smartphones early in the season for personal use. This early indicator suggests that strong spending on smartphones as gifts throughout the season should continue.
App consumption over Thanksgiving weekend also showed solid growth. However, as the chart below shows, downloads on Thanksgiving Day led all days of the holiday weekend with 54%, versus new handset growth which led on Black Friday. At 39% growth, Black Friday applications were also strong. Total week-over-week download growth was 25%.
Christmas is historically the strongest season of app downloads to mobile phones. As consumers receive new handsets, they immediately personalize their handsets with new content. With early growth indicators for both handset and download growth, Flurry predicts Holiday 2010 will deliver another record-breaking season for application consumption and mobile device sales.
Consumer spending during the holiday retail season, beginning with Black Friday, is among the most important predictors of U.S. economic health. Since the late 90s, tracking online sales of websites like amazon.com on the first Monday after Thanksgiving, Cyber Monday, has become a second important barometer. The National Retail Federation, the world's leading retail trade group, extrapolated that total spending for this year's Black Friday "weekend," Thursday-to-Sunday, was up 0.5% from a year ago. Additionally, Lazard Capital reported Cyber Monday sales were up strongly over last year, by 35%.
As we enter the holiday season, downloads in the iPhone App Store can also serve as an indicator of consumer spending. While App Store sales are small relative to online and retail, Apple's September announcement that the App Store surpassed two billion downloads demonstrates how quickly this digital market is growing, having doubled in just the last four months. Further, according to Admob, the App Store is already generating over one billion USD in annual sales. Finally, the iPhone OS installed base, which sold more than 12 million units world-wide for the quarter ending September 2009, is reaching meaningful critical mass. Flurry estimates that, life-to-date, more than 34 million iPhone and iPod Touch devices have been sold in the U.S. through the end of September 2009. This equates to roughly 10% of the U.S. population.
Monitoring application downloads tracked by Flurry over the last six months, we observe strong patterns of seasonality and an aggressive ramp toward the holiday season. Note that because the iPhone installed base grew so dramatically between last year and this year, we have selected a time series trend analysis versus a year-over-year comparison. The chart below reveals three phases: first, strong summer downloads; second, a dip in September Flurry attributes to back-to-school; and third, strong growth over October and November leading up to the holidays. Specifically, October downloads exceeded September by 30%, and November further grew over October by an additional 16%.
Historically, the week after Christmas has been the strongest for data downloads to mobile phones, since consumers load up after receiving new handsets as holiday gifts. With download growth at its current rate, Flurry predicts that December downloads will exceed November by at least 20%, making it a strong season for Apple.