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 2006, European mobile analysts dubbed mobile the “seventh mass media channel” following print, recordings (e.g., albums, cassettes, DVDs, etc.), cinema, radio, television and the web. However, mobile failed to fulfill its promise. For mobile to have reached its true potential as a mass media channel, it needed to overcome slow and expensive carrier data networks, poorly managed carrier decks, and a heavily fragmented handset base which featured a myriad of small screens, weak processors, confusing user interfaces and clumsy WAP browsers. With so much friction in the channel, content creators were stymied in their ability to deliver compelling experiences to consumers, making mobile look far more like a niche than mass media channel.
Then, in 2007, the iPhone changed everything. In addition to unleashing a prolific media device, Apple wrested control of the storefront from carriers, convinced carriers to offer flat-rate data plans to consumers, tapped into blazing Wi-Fi as a pipe and shipped a useful mobile browser. Most importantly, they built a low-friction, robust channel through which content creators could distribute smartphone apps to consumers: the App Store.
In a few short years, with Apple as a game-changing catalyst, applications have already been downloaded tens of billions of times. Research firm, In-Stat, forecasts there will be 48 billion app downloads in 2015. With their success, apps already challenge the television in terms of reach and the Internet in terms of engagement.
For this report, Flurry used data from over 45,000 companies across their more than 85,000 applications. Flurry Analytics tracks over 15B user sessions per month across iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and J2ME.
Unprecedented and Accelerating Reach
The chart above shows the number of people actively using apps on their smartphones in May 2011 across the top five European markets. Flurry calculates active smartphones by first measuring its own penetration across these devices via apps into which Flurry Analytics has been integrated. For example, Flurry detects roughly 85% of all iOS and Android devices worldwide. We then grossed this number up, by country, for our estimates.
Combined, the top five European markets – the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain – actively use apps on 46 million devices each month. With a combined population of just over 240 million, for ages 13 and over, the addressable market through smartphone apps averages approximately 20% of the largest, most affluent European countries. Additionally, with a month-over-month growth rate (Compounded Monthly Growth Rate, CMGR) of more than 10% over the last two years, we project the installed base of smartphones will more than double over the next 12 months alone.
In the chart below, we show the smartphone app audience as a percentage of each top European country’s population, again ages 13 and over. The UK leads in penetration with a whopping 33% of its population using apps on smartphones per month. France places second with a sizable 20%, next followed by Germany, Spain and Italy coming in with 14%, 9% and 10%, respectively.
After having established the percent of each country’s monthly population that can be reached through smartphone apps, we next look at the pace of smartphone adoption, by country.
The chart above shows just how quickly the base of devices running smartphone apps is growing by country. While the UK and France are the most penetrated to date, as a percentage of their countries' populations, the laggard countries are closing the gap in terms of growth. Spain leads in growth of its active smartphone user base with a monthly growth rate of 14%. Germany and Italy’s active smartphone bases are both growing at 11%. Additionally, France and the UK continue to grow, month-over-month, by 7% and 6.7%, respectively.
With growing adoption of iOS and Android-based smartphones, the imminent release of Nokia phones based on Windows Phone 7, and the fact that the majority of consumers actively use applications, we predict that the growth of this mass market media channel will continue to grow until near total smartphone market saturation. To underscore just how aggressively this channel is growing, if we assumed the growth of smartphone adoption continued at their current rates, all five countries would have full smartphone penetration in just over two years.
Games and Social Networking Rule
Flurry tracks the total number of application use sessions, from when consumers start app sessions to when they end them, and groups these sessions into categories such as games, news and travel. The top categories ranked by session usage worldwide are: Games, Social Networking, Sports & Entertainment and News.
The graph below shows how consumer usage varies by app category across the top five European markets.
With the exception of Italy, the games category is the most popular app category across all countries. In Italy, the one country where the games category does not lead, Social Networking is the top category, with 38% of Italians using Social Networking apps compared to other categories.
Comparing each country’s proportion of usage by category, more consumers play games in France than compared to other countries – a massive 45% of all French app sessions are Games. In Spain, a greater percentage of the Spanish population consumes news compared to other countries, and the UK leads in relative Sports & Entertainment app consumption. In all 5 countries, the 4 top categories make up 80% of all traffic.
Solid App Retention and Engagement
In May 2011, the average worldwide 6-month retention rate for all apps was 36%. In other words, of all consumers who downloaded an app over the last six months ago, 36% had used that same app within the last 7 days of May (Flurry looks at “last 7 days” for its retention metric).
Continuing to look at the top 5 European countries, all have posted 6-month retention rates of greater than 30%. The chart below breaks out each countries 6-month retention rate compared to the worldwide average.
Reviewing the chart, we note that the UK leads in retention with 38%, followed by France at 37%, Germany at 34% and then Spain and Italy at 32% and 31.5%, respectively. Generally, we see a correlation between the maturity of a given market and app retention. We observe that consumers typically try several apps before they settle into using a group of favorites, which they then use several times per week, even per day. In less developed countries, we often see much more app experimentation. The five countries we review for this report are clearly all highly developed economies.
As a mass market media channel, smartphone apps not only reach a sizable audience today, but also continue to grow at staggering rates. The channel is already formidable with no signs of slowing. Smartphone app consumers are highly engaged and consider their smartphone among their most important personal possessions; we believe the 8th mass market media channel has indeed arrived in Europe.