App Usage Statistics: 2015 Roundup

Artyom Dogtiev

In App Stats

December 14, 2015

We measure and log our lives with how much time we spend on various activities. Quite often we complain about not having enough time for doing something we would love to. Mobile apps have become part and parcel of a daily life for hundreds of millions all over the globe. How much time do people spend on mobile apps? On what devices do they spend more time watching movies, listening music, communicating with their friends and family? What categories of apps dominate their smartphone and tablet screen? These are the questions we’re going to answer in this article to help you to understand better the current state of the app ecosystem.

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Key App Usage Statistics:

  • The time spent per user with digital media on mobile in US daily in 2015 – 2.8 hours
  • The total number of iOS app downloads in 2015 – 25 billions
  • The total number of Android app downloads in 2015 – 50 billions
  • The app category people spend time the most – Social Networking (29% of users)
  • The Mobile app Millennials use the most – Facebook (21% of users)
  • The age group that spends the most time on apps monthly – 18-24 (90.6 hrs on smartphone apps, 34.7 hrs. on tablet apps)
  • The Top number of apps people use the most – 3 (78% of smartphone app users, 77% of tablet app users)
  • The major age group of uses that operate a smartphone with two hands – 55+ (34% of users)

One of the key components of a solid app go-to-market strategy is knowing an actual demand for specific categories of apps. To be able to know this kind of insight you need to have lots of data, in this article we presented an aggregated picture for app usage statistics, based on the data from several survey and analytics companies. The first graph demonstrates the evolution of a digital media consumption for the last 7 years.

In 2008, when the iTunes App Store was launched, mobile presented just a fraction of the devices to consume media. Thanks to the iPad introduction in January of 2010, we can see a spike on the graph during 2010-2011, it was the first tablet computer that really took off and was adopted by millions of consumers. The iPad as a portable device, that was easier to operate on-the-go than a laptop, and yet with a bigger screen than a smartphone had, fueled media consumption on mobile devices on a great scale. Starting 2013 we see a slow down at the media consumption growth on mobile device because of a tablet computer, and iPad in particular, longer replacement cycle. People began to buy upgrade their iPads less frequent because they continued to be satisfied with their current iPad model. The iPad 3 model got a high resolution Retina display that delivered the best in a class reading experience and starting this model and on certain percentage of the iPad user base felt it was good enough to skip the later iPad models.

But yet we see mobile devices media consumption continues to outpace desktop and other connected devices. This trend can be explained by the wide adoption of LTE mobile communications standard on one side and growing number of phablets introduction (iPhone 6+ and iPhone 6S+ in particular) on the other. The upcoming 5G mobile communications standard introduction, Android driven smartphone adoption in Asia and South America, as well as overall switch from featured phones to smartphones will continue to power mobile media consumption.

Time Spent per Adult User per Day with Digital Media, USA, 2008-2015


Source: SmartInsights 

Thanks to a great number of OEM that adopted Android as an operating system to drive their mobile devices, starting 2012 we see Android outpacing iOS.  In 2015 both Apple and Google released their figures for the total number of downloads for iOS and Android respectively. Android apps were downloaded 50 billion times and iOS only 25. Because Google didn’t provide figures for the Android OS app downloads since summer 2013, we can only compare both platforms, as it was done by Benedict Evans, on the graph below. But even with this limited data we can see that Android continues to outpace iOS in a number of apps being downloaded.

Each year, either during its quarter financial conference calls or summer worldwide developers conference, Apple announces the number of iOS apps downloads. The graph demonstrates an exponential iOS app ecosystem growth, which was supported by continues iPhone and iPad models annual upgrade cycle.

Android vs. iOS App Downloads 2012-2015

Source: Benedict Evans

This year Apple Watch introduction most likely will become the third driving force behind the iOS platform growth. Even though the iPad sales figures continue to demonstrate a decline, the iPad Pro, the latest iPad model, has a potential to change this trend but its success will depends on the device business adoption, which remains to be seen.

Cumulative Number of iOS Apps Downloaded, 2008-2015


Source: Statista 

A graph from this year comScore 2015 US Mobile App Report demonstrates what percentage of a time people spend on apps belong to certain app categories. More than a half of a time people devote to apps on their smartphones and tables is dedicated to Social Networking, Radio and Games. This skew to apps that essentially represent entertaining can be explained by phycological pressure people experience in their busy lives. In a nutshell, apps that help to stay connected with people we care about, listen to music and play games help us to overcome our daily hardships. It’s interesting to see Music category to have only 4%, in a constant with Radio, which has 15%, it’s yet another demonstration of the music streaming model wide adoption.

Share of Mobile App Category Time Spent


Source: comScore 

Now let’s look at what apps Millennials, the age group that is defined by people of age 18-34, prefer. Unsurprisingly Facebook holds the crown of being number one, with its famous billion+ user base and the active pursue to acquire even more users. Pandora Radio holds the second place on the popularity chart, which means Apple Music team still has a long way to go to gain the same level of adoption. YouTube closes the top 3 of the most popular apps among Millennials and in this light the Alhabet’s (Google) step with launching paid subscription service on YouTube looks quite logical. What we don’t see in this pie is equally interesting, in particular we don’t see any games, even thought Millennials may play games on Facebook.

Millennials Top Apps by Mobile App Category Time Spent


Source: comScore

As you can see on the graph people of different age spend different amount of time on apps. On average, all age groups combined spend more than twice as much on smartphone apps than on tablet ones. People have more chances to interact with a smartphone, essentially anywhere where a single-hand-operation mode is possible, but because of the form factor a table computer provides less variety of situations to use apps. Among all groups, the 18-24 age one demonstrates the greatest time spent. In this age people aren’t generally married yet and not really busy with their career, they are on the peek of their social life, so, naturally, they have plenty of time to spend on apps.

In the Age 25-34 group people are focused on their career and hence less time for media content consumption apps, also they get married and have kids, all these factors combined decrease amount of time they can devote to apps. This tendency continues for the rest of the age groups with an interesting twist for time spend on tablet apps. Starting Age 35-44 amount of time people spend on iPad and other tablet computer apps increase, partly because of people’s sight is getting worse gradually and tablets provide a better reading experience than smartphone do, partly because they spend time with their kids, using tablets for education and entertainment.

Average Monthly Hours per App Visitor by Age


Source: comScore

Even though the number of apps people have on their smartphones and tables are in dozens, a busy lifestyle they have dictates how many apps they can and wish to use daily. The following graph demonstrates this trend clearly. The novelty of mobile apps as the latest Big Thing has gone long time ago and was replaced by a strictly practical approach to what apps should do. This trend has lead to the situation when people use only a handful of apps, in fact 78% use three or less smartphone and 77% tablet apps respectively. It is one of the most sobering findings for mobile app developers – not only they have to compete with other similar apps but to fight for a mobile app user time as well.

Share of Time Spent on Apps Across Ranks


Source: comScore

One of the smartphone competitive advantages over other mobile devices is that it can be operated with one hand. A four inch screen is virtually the upper limit for a screen size that can be managed easily with thumb taps, five and more inch screen phablets operating requires two hands. As you can see on the graph, the biggest jump at switching from a single to two-hands operation mode emerges at 55+ age group. I think we can attribute this jump to the lifestyle change. When you’re young and your life is full of commutes, business trips, taking care of your kids, there are much more situations when you are forced to operate your smartphone with just one hand, like when you need to do something at home or work. Once you retire, you aren’t in a rush anymore and you switch to more convenient two-hands operation mode. Last but not least it’s a matter of how confident smartphone users with their gear, naturally younger generation has a higher level of confidence.

% of Smartphone Users by Age Segment Who Only Operate Phone with Two Hands


Source: comScore

Final Thoughts

The takeaway from the presented data would be this. People spend more time consuming digital media on mobile devices than on a desktop and this trend will definitely continue. Social networking, listening music, watching videos and playing games represent the bulk of what people do with their smartphones and tables. Essentially it’s about communication and entertainment, two things that help people to cope with the level of stress in today’s world.

Age 18-24 is the age group that spends the greatest amount of time on mobile apps. It goes to show you how important are mobile apps for people when they live a really active social life. Tablet apps are more important for people of age over 45 because of changes in their lifestyle and issues with their sight. Because time is one of the most precious commodities people have, they try to spend it wisely. People focus the time they spend on apps on the most important ones, hence about 80% of people use up to 3 apps most frequently. Even though smartphone is designed to be operated primarily with one hand, as people get older, more of more of them begin to use it with both.