App Diet or App A.D.D.?

New research reveals that consumers are spending less time on apps, but feel more engaged by them. In a trend that is similar to some diets, the average person has begun to use apps in smaller portions, and with greater frequency. The question is, does that reflect a decline in the attention span of American culture, or an increase in the quality and efficiency of information delivery through mobile applications? Or is it a deceptive statistic?

Have you ever downloaded an app, used it once, and then left it on your phone or tablet indefinitely? According to Localytics, who conducted the study, 22 percent of apps are forgotten or abandoned after a single use. I counted ten of those on my iPhone, plus five “get it and forget it” apps that I’ve never used, still marked with the blue “New” ribbon. Unless an app is very useful or very interesting, it’s liable to become invisible to me. The ones that I use either save me time, like mobile check-cashing, or help me kill time in small quantities, like Angry Ornithologists. Otherwise, they’re just distractions.

“This is your final warning. I’d better not catch you
playing Angry Birds again, Mom.”

If you’re anything like me (and studies suggest that you are), then you’re probably hoarding a number of neglected apps while relying on a select few to get you through the day. Think about the ones you use: are they quick fixes or long drags? Do they take time or make time?

“The whole goal of mobile is to get people the information they need as quickly as possible,” says Raj Aggarwal, the CEO of Localytics. The company tracked usage of over 500 apps across 100 million smartphones—iOS, Android, and Windows—from July 2012 to July 2013. They discovered a decrease of 26% in the time that users spent in-app, but a 39% increase in how frequently they used the apps. That adds up to an almost 3% overall increase in app interaction—we’re using apps more, not less.

App developers understand that “bite-size” beats “family-size” when it comes to mobile applications. It’s not about how long they can keep you in the app for a single session, but whether they can get you to come back for the next one. Localytics observed that participants in the study averaged about 25 uses of an app per month, mostly due to social media apps. Those alone averaged 45 uses monthly, the kind of action that developers dream of. For numbers like that, they’ll continue to condense, optimize, and personalize mobile information delivery until you can just glance at the icon and find the information you need (and it will collect all the information about you that it needs).

photo credit: gerlos via photopin cc


Brent Urmey is an avid reader and writer on a variety of subjects, including social media, SEO, the Wireless industry, and life in Lancaster County, PA. He is a graduate of Drexel University and a survivor of the 2012 Mayan Apocalypse. You can connect with Brent on Google +.