Flurry recently revealed that China’s installed base of smartphones and tablets surpassed that of the United States. Further, two thirds of all app sessions now occur outside the United States. With the app market becoming increasingly international, developers need to better understand how app consumer behavior varies across different countries to remain competitive.
This report focuses on how the top 30 heaviest app using countries vary in terms of app usage. As developers build apps for the largest international markets, they need to consider deviating from what has worked in the United States, the former number one market. Can developers simply localize for different markets, or are there meaningful cultural differences in app usage to consider? How different is behavior in China and India, the world’s two most populous countries?
For this study, Flurry grouped countries according to their similarity in app category usage using cluster analysis. Cluster analysis is a statistical technique that creates groupings based on associations; in this case, among the proportions of app users who use different categories of apps. This technique controlled for differences in populations, device penetration rates and app store taxonomies. We ran this analysis for the top 20,000 apps in the 30 heaviest app using countries as of January 2013. For purposes of this report, we focus on app categories used by at least 5% of app users in at least one country cluster. We also excluded social networking, since use of those apps tends to be more country-specific.
Membership in the resulting country clusters are discussed next, followed by a description of some of the differences in app engagement across country clusters.
App Usage Around the Globe
The cluster analysis process produced six country groupings shown in the map below and the country list that follows.
As shown in the map above, the first group of countries in blue is made up of countries that tended to be early adopters of mobile technologies.
The second category, in purple, is comprised of the most hyper-connected parts of Asia: South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
China and Japan had app usage patterns that were unique to them, making each country its own cluster.
Most of the countries in green are neighbors in South East Asia; however, app usage patterns across the Pacific in Mexico also put it in that same category.
The final category, in yellow, includes many large countries, such as Brazil, Russia and India as well as smaller but influential countries such as Switzerland and Israel. Besides sharing similarities in app usage, these countries tend to have lagged behind the Mobile Pioneer and Connected Asia countries in adopting mobile technologies.
Countries shown in gray were not included in the analysis because they are not among the 30 heaviest app using countries.
Interest In Gaming Is Global. Genre Preferences Are Local
The chart below shows the proportion of app users who used apps within each of the gaming categories shown, as defined in Google Play, during January 2013.
Overall, games are the most-used types of apps in each country cluster, with the biggest Android game category being Arcade and Action games for all country clusters. While Android game categories follow a similar rank ordering across country clusters, there is clear variation between clusters. For example, compared to app users in Japan, almost twice the proportion of app users in the Equatorial Pacific country cluster use Android Arcade and Action games. And while countries in the Mobile Pioneers’ cluster are among the most enthusiastic users of Casual Games and Brain and Puzzle Games, they are less enthusiastic users of Arcade and Action games compared to those in most other country clusters.
The chart below shows similar data for iOS apps within each of the gaming categories as defined by the Apple App Store. Please note that these classifications have changed over time and that games are assigned to categories by developers; however those things are common to all countries and therefore should not, on their own, result in differences between countries.
Once again, note that the main Games category attracts a large proportion of people who use any iOS apps, and that the Equatorial Pacific has the greatest proportion of users and Japan has the least though the differences are not as great for iOS as they are for Android. It’s interesting to note that while Japan tends to lag the other country clusters in the proportion of device users engaging with most game app categories, the country that gave us karaoke leads in the proportion of app users who use iOS Music Games.
Interest In Productivity and Utility Apps Varies
While Japanese app users are disproportionately unlikely to play most types of games (with the exception of music, as noted above), they are disproportionately likely to use productivity and utility apps. Chinese app users are also disproportionately heavy users of these more functional types of apps.
Use of More Lifestyle-Oriented Apps Maps To Offline Behavior
Hobbies often associated with Japan came through in app usage for music games, and also in use of lifestyle-oriented apps in terms of Japanese enthusiasm for photography. Japanese device owners are more likely than device owners in other country clusters to engage with photography apps on both iOS and Android devices. Entertainment categories within both app stores are fairly broad so it’s not entirely clear why, but those from China and the Lumbering Giant country clusters are disproportionately heavy users of Entertainment apps on both of the major mobile operating systems.
Mapping the Future of Apps
While this analysis only scratches the surface of variation in usage of 20,000 apps across more than 800 million devices being used in 30 different countries, it shows systematic variation across country clusters even at a high level. This has important implications considering the great potential for growth of connected devices and app use in countries and country groupings such as China and the Lumbering Giants, given their large populations and relatively low current rate of device penetration. App usage patterns in those places don’t always mirror those in Mobile Pioneer countries, which up until now have been the source of a lot of app development. For example, productivity and utility apps are more popular in China and Japan than they are in the United States. Differences such as these suggest that app developers in Mobile Pioneer countries may need to give greater consideration to the usage patterns and preferences of those in other countries or else that we may see growing app developer communities in some of those other countries.
Just days into the Chinese New Year (Year of the “Snake” for anyone keeping track), China has passed the U.S. to become the world’s top country for active Android and iOS smartphones and tablets. This historic milestone takes place a year after Flurry first reported that China had become the world’s fastest growing smart device market. Since then, it took China’s rapidly growing middle class just twelve months to close the gap on the U.S.
For this report, Flurry uses its entire data set, tracking more than 2.4 billion anonymous, aggregated application sessions per day across more than 275,000 applications around the world. Flurry estimates that it reliably measures activity across more than 90% of the world’s smart devices.
Reviewing the chart shows that China and the U.S. had roughly the same active smart device installed base in January 2013, 222 million in the U.S. versus 221 million in China. We use a model to project the final February 2013 installed base for each country based on historical growth trends as well as the number detected devices per country through the first half of February. Flurry estimates that by the end of February 2013, China will have 246 million devices compared to 230 million in the U.S.
We also conclude that the U.S. will not take back the lead from China, given the vast difference in population per country. China has over 1.3 billion people while the U.S. has just over 310 million. Considering that the U.S. has the world's 3rd largest population, the only other country that could feasibly overtake China sometime in the future is India, with a population of just over 1.2 billion. However, with only 19 million active smart devices in India, China will not likely see competition from India for many years. Below, we show the top 12 countries by active iOS and Android installed base through the end of January 2013.
The chart shows that the U.S. and China each have more than five times the active installed base than that of the U.K., the world’s third largest market. Additionally, both China and the U.S. continue to see rapid device adoption. Year-over-year, compared to January 2012, the U.S. added 55 million new devices. However, in that same time, China added a staggering 150 million new devices. With its growth rate, China would have passed the U.S. earlier, except for the U.S.’s massive holiday season, which enabled the U.S. to hold off China for an additional two months.
The final chart in our analysis shows growth in the number of active smart devices per country, between January 2012 and January 2013. While China no longer leads the world in growth, it still commanded an impressive 209% rate of growth on top of a base of 71 million devices from January 2012. For this chart, Flurry selected countries that had a minimum of half a million devices as of January 2012. Countries that grew faster than China over the last year were Colombia, Vietnam, Turkey, Ukraine and Egypt. While the four BRIC countries are not all among the top 12 countries in terms of percentage growth (specifically, Brazil and Russia are not top 12 "growers"), all four are among the top 12 when calculating the number of net active devices added per market (i.e., Brazil +11.5 million, Russia +12.0 million, India +12.4 million, China +149.5 million).
In this new era of mobile computing, sparked by a confluence of powerful innovation across microprocessors, cloud storage and network speeds, Apple and Google have helped create the fastest adopted technology revolution in history, 10X faster than that of the PC Revolution and 3X that of the Internet Boom. And now, as the largest and fastest modernizing country in the world, Chinese consumers lead that revolution.
Today as those in relationships rush to stores to pick up Valentine cards and gifts for their significant others, single women looking for relationships may want to pick up their smartphones. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Flurry explored user composition and behavior in a sample of smartphone dating apps. We found that in dating apps targeting both genders, there are typically almost twice as many active male users as active female users. For this analysis, we examined 20 top dating apps whose combined 17 million active users delivered more than 2.1 billion sessions in January 2013.
Women wishing to further stack the odds in their favor may wish to download an Android dating app. When we compared the user composition for a sample of dating apps available on both iOS and Android phones, we found that active users of Android dating apps skew even more male.
Young adults in search of a Valentine (or those in search of a young adult Valentine) also may want to download a dating app on an Android device. In looking at the sample of dating apps available on both iOS and Android, we found that adult users of Android dating apps are more likely to be under 25 than adult users of iOS dating apps.
The millions of people who use dating apps do so regularly. They typically open their dating apps eight times a week and use them for seventy-one seconds at a time. Users of dating apps for gay men are even more active. They typically use them twenty-two times a week for ninety-six seconds at a time.
The Super Bowl is one of the world’s top media events. This year’s contest, Super Bowl XLVII, was hosted in New Orleans and drew an average of 108.4 million viewers, the third largest audience in U.S. television history. According to Nielsen, previous Super Bowls captured the top two U.S. TV audiences, with last year’s event drawing 111.3 million viewers and the previous year’s attracting 110.0 million.
While the contest on the field pitted the San Francisco 49ers against the Baltimore Ravens, an equally fierce battle for consumer engagement was waged across multiple screens. As the world’s top brands paid up to $4 million to air 30 second television spots, consumers were more distracted than ever, accessing mobile apps and social media in droves. Twitter reported 24.1 million Super Bowl-related tweets, the most popular of which focused on Beyoncé, Destiny’s Child, the Superdome power outage and key game moments. Facebook reported similar increases in conversations around these topics.
Mobile Apps Make TV the Second Screen
In this report, Flurry finds that mobile appears to have become the first screen. The implication is that, from this day forward, as marketers advertise on television, they must ensure that the content is sufficiently compelling to pull the consumer away from her smartphone or tablet. While TV may continue to be widely regarded as the first screen, Flurry believes that brands need to reverse that logic in order to reach and engage their consumers.
For this study, Flurry measured U.S. app session starts, per second, over the course of this year’s Super Bowl, last year’s Super Bowl, and the equivalent time period on the Sunday before this year’s Super Bowl (to establish a baseline for an average Sunday) from 3 PM PST to 8 PM PST. Flurry Analytics is used by 275,000 apps, including many of the most-used apps, with aggregate daily usage sessions of 2.4 billion.
For this analysis, we estimated U.S. app session starts occurring on Super Bowl Sunday by sampling from our own data and extrapolating based on the proportion of the market that Flurry "sees." To be able to compare across last year's to this year's Super Bowl, we created an index where “100” represents a baseline for app usage. Let’s start by looking at how this year’s Super Bowl app activity compared to that of last year’s.
The chart above shows this year’s Super Bowl in blue compared to last year’s Super Bowl in grey. The spark lines show application session starts in the U.S. sampled from Flurry’s system, per second. The way to interpret the chart is that if the line is moving up, consumers are picking up their phones (or tablets). And if the line is moving down, consumers are putting down their phones (or tablets). In other words, when something on the TV cannot sufficiently hold the consumer’s attention, she often reaches for her connected device. The advantage for using mobile app usage as a signal is that we can accurately measure when consumers are interacting with the mobile apps. In this way, we can distinguish between active (consumer is using the "app") and passive use (app is just "on"). Using mobile app usage as a signal, the events to which consumers paid the most attention were the National Anthems, Halftime shows and close finishes.
A few structural differences to the length, shape and height of the curves are worth noting. First, last year’s Super Bowl was faster up through the first half, as we see that Madonna’s half time show started earlier compared to Beyoncé’s. Additionally, this year’s Super Bowl was further extended due to the 34-minute power outage in the Superdome just after the beginning of the 3rd quarter. Relative to last year’s Super Bowl, consumers began picking up their phones and tablets en masse during this period. Next, this year’s Super Bowl curve (blue) sits higher than last year’s curve (grey), which indicates that there was more relative app usage in the U.S. this year versus last year. Specifically, we measure a 19% increase in app usage between last year’s Super Bowl versus this year’s.
The chart above plots app usage during this year’s Super Bowl against the same time period from the Sunday before. This gives us a sense for how much application usage varies on a normal Sunday compared to Super Bowl Sunday. Overall, total app usage dropped in aggregate by only 5% from the Sunday before to Super Bowl Sunday, which suggests that the Super Bowl largely failed to curb consumer app usage when compared to normal behavior. The height and the shapes of the curves are very similar. More notable differences did appear from just before the Super Bowl started up until about half way into the second quarter of the game, where consumers appeared to be paying more attention to the Super Bowl (i.e., the blue line was modestly below the grey line for that period). We also note a spike in app usage during the Jeep halftime report during the sports analyst commentary, followed by a plummet in activity during Beyoncé’s performance. Next, during the outage, consumers began using their apps. After gameplay resumed, app usage was very similar to a normal Sunday except for the last minutes of this year’s close Super Bowl finish, as the 49ers mounted an exciting, narrowly-missed comeback.
Next we studied how app usage varied during different times during the Super Bowl: while the game was on, when ads were broadcasted, during halftime and during the power outage. We used app activity during the game as a baseline.
The overall finding was that app usage did not vary greatly between commercials and game play, with only a slight increase in app session starts during ads in this Super Bowl, and an even smaller decline in session starts during the last Super Bowl. In contrast, session starts dropped by nearly ten percent during this year’s halftime. That suggests that while Beyoncé was compelling enough to cause viewers to put down their phones, much of the game and many of the ads were not. The large increase in app session starts during the power outage provides additional evidence that TV cannot hold attention without compelling content. Consumers turned to their smaller screens in great numbers as soon as there was a lull in the action on TV.
Of course, there is variation within these averages. Groups particularly prone to starting app sessions during ads include: Photo & Video Enthusiasts, Real Estate followers, Small Business Owners, TV Lovers and Movie Lovers. For your convenience, you can find Flurry (psychographic) Personas listed here. Consumers less inclined to start app sessions during ads include iPad Users, Food Enthusiasts, Catalog Shoppers, Fashionistas and Home & Garden Enthusiasts. Those most inclined to take a break from their apps and watch the halftime show included Home & Garden Pros, Health & Fitness Enthusiasts, Fashionistas, Catalog Shoppers and Food Enthusiasts. Groups whose app use climbed most during the power outage – suggesting that they were paying closest attention to the game at other times – were Males, Seniors and Sports Fans.
Mobile Is Killing The TV Star
Ratings from Nielsen confirm that people continue to sit in front of TVs on Super Bowl Sunday. However, the fact that overall app usage declined by less than just 5% compared to same time period on the prior Sunday suggests that a large amount of consumers’ attention is spent in apps, even as they sit in front of the TV. This should cause advertisers to question the value of paying a premium for Super Bowl ads when the attention premium they command is eroding. That’s particularly true for some groups. For example, overall app usage by Moms, during the time the Super Bowl was on, dropped by less than two percent compared to the previous week. While Tide’s “Miracle Stain” ad was certainly entertaining, it appears that the “Mom” target market was not paying attention.
The price of a Super Bowl ad pays for a lot on mobile whether that’s in app advertising, sponsored content, in-app product placement or branded apps, and Flurry believes many marketers may benefit from reconsidering their media mixes in light of evidence in this report showing that unless exceptionally interesting things are happening on TV, a significant and increasing amount of consumer attention is spent using smartphones and tablets.
New Consumer Behavior. New Strategy.
Brands who continue to believe in the potential of TV during major events such as the Super Bowl must also now understand the multi-screening behavior of their target market, and take that into account in developing their campaigns. For example, marketers targeting Fashionistas would be well-served by scheduling ads to run during or near the half-time show, while running in-app ads during the game itself. The reverse strategy would apply to groups such as Sports Enthusiasts. These results also have implications for those who wish to run integrated campaigns across screens: those will only be effective if the TV portion is compelling enough to pull attention away from the screens in the hands of the audience.
With the holy grail of TV events disrupted, advertisers need to take note. The winner of the Screen Bowl is the smartphone. Mobile is here. Mobile is the new first screen.