- Mobile app usage has doubled in the past two years to an average of two hours per day, boosting it to 7x the amount of time users spend on mobile web browsers, according to a study by App Annie made available to Mobile Marketer. The top 20% of people who use apps for the longest periods spend more than four hours a day with mobile apps.
- Native mobile apps accounted for 88% of the time and 93% of sessions on Android phones worldwide, with the remainder being spent in mobile browsers, the study found. The preference for apps was seen among all age groups, not just millennials and teens, in every country surveyed during the first half of 2017.
- Marketers are accordingly boosting their investment in apps, with 63% of respondents saying they expect their app marketing budgets to increase. Retail apps are growing sales through mobile channels, with mobile app users converting to paying customers at 3x the rate of other mobile users, according to a Criteo study cited by App Annie.
Mobile apps have many advantages over mobile web browsers, even though mobile-optimized websites have less friction in not requiring people to download additional software. A well-designed app, however, can work faster and be more stable than a mobile website that's dependent on a continual cellular connection. Apps are also easy for users to access with an icon on a smartphone's home screen, eliminating the extra steps of opening a browser and either looking through bookmarks, using a search engine to find a website or typing in a web address.
Mobile apps also can have greater functionality with access to the array of hardware packed into smartphones, including a camera, motion sensors, GPS and identity authentication with a fingerprint (or facial recognition, as is the case with the upcoming iPhone X). Apps can be set to push notifications to smartphones, providing an additional direct channel to engage customers with promotions, coupons and other alerts. Notifications can be sent in response to users' actions on their devices, such as visiting a location that's near a store or a recent interaction with the app, App Annie said.
The challenge for app developers is getting noticed among the millions of apps that are in Apple's App Store or on Google Play. Apple last week released a newly design App Store as part of the rollout of iOS 11, which also provides key support for mobile apps that want to include augmented reality, the technology that overlays digital images on a real background through a smartphone camera.
Another challenge for app developers is keeping people inside an app instead of returning to the home screen to open another app. Major tech and media companies are vying for user attention in order to grab a greater share of ad spending. For that reason, companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Snap and Twitter are plowing billions of dollars into video content intended to keep people engaged with their own app ecosystem.
Facebook is dominant among developers who make apps for Android devices, with six of the top 10 most downloaded apps last month, according to a study by Piori Data, a competitor to App Annie. Facebook and its family of apps WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram were downloaded 264 million times on Android devices globally in August, the study found. The study didn't include Google apps, which are often preloaded on Android devices.