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Summary:

A recent survey of 10,000 U.S. smartphone users shows a surprisingly limited amount of time spent on some mobile activities such as calendar use, weather and even taking photos. App developers would be wise to take note, since user engagement can boost revenues.

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You’ll see some awfully familiar names in some new research on the most popular apps on U.S. smartphones: think YouTube, Facebook, QuickOffice and other highly recognizable names such as Angry Birds and Amazon. But while the top-tiered applications aren’t surprising, the other smartphone uses identified in a recent Zokem study of 10,000 participants are. Zokem’s data covers not only the types of applications and uses of smartphones, but also the frequency of engagement for different types of activities.

As a long-time smartphone user, I’m definitely an outlier for many of these activities. Some interesting observations based on the Zokem research:

  • While most smartphone users take advantage of the native or a third-party calendar application on the handset, most already have a good handle on their personal schedule and only check their calendar once every few days. In my case, if something isn’t on my calendar, it doesn’t exist in my world.
  • Not even half the respondents use the smartphone for locally-stored music and even fewer, roughly 25 percent, are streaming music to their smartphone. Costs of bandwidth and subscriptions likely eat into the streaming audience, but I expected far more smartphone owners to carry music and listen to it on their device.
  • Location-based services are used relatively often, at more than 15 days per month, but not by many. Fewer than 10 percent of survey participants use LBS apps or activities.
  • Even fewer smartphone users are hitting adult entertainment on the go, although such activities are as engaging as checking the weather.
  • Speaking of weather, the Zokem survey panelists get outside far more often than I do. They only check the weather about seven days out of the month. As an avid runner with limited offline time, I’m checking the hourly forecasts multiple times per day for just the right window of running opportunity.
  • Instant messaging use appears extremely low, with about a third of the survey respondents taking part in the activity on a handset — and only for a limited amount of time. The likely reason is the high reported use of text messaging; something that ought to make carriers happy considering messaging plans are nearly pure profit.
  • While every smartphone comes with a camera (or two) these days, consumers aren’t hitting the shutter button that often. However, around 70 percent report using the camera at least a few times per month.

Engagement studies are extremely useful to developers, both third-party programmers and creators of native apps at Apple, Google, Microsoft, HP, Nokia and Research In Motion. Finding ways to raise engagement, and not just software installations, is the next frontier in mobile applications. The more time end-users spend with an app, for example, could diminish the time spent in competing software, which increases loyalty and opens up possibilities for additional lucrative in-app purchases and advertising revenues.

Image courtesy of Flickr user yourdon.

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  1. I guess some people would like “engaging” apps that suck up time, but unless it is a time killing app, like Angry Birds, isn’t it better for it to be as quick and streamlined as possible. Many people spend hours in front of a computer at work or at home so do they also need to do so when on the go?

  2. “…roughly 25 percent, are streaming music to their smartphone. Costs of bandwidth and subscriptions likely eat into the streaming audience, but I expected far more smartphone owners to carry music and listen to it on their device.”

    I would disagree with this. Using streaming music services all day would not only eat up bandwidth but your battery as well. Though I’d like to see some statistics on how often users charge their phones, I know I’m conscious of my battery at all times.

    If I know I’m leaving the house with about 70% remaining, I’ll have to be a bit more conservative with my usage. I might check the phone as often. I might have to resist checking my email more than I should etc. Maybe handset users are becoming more aware of battery usage as well?

    Then again, I like to charge my phone only when it’s absolutely necessary because I’m a cycle-freak like that.


    http://www.techviva.com

  3. As an outlier as well, I tend to look at the behaviors for clues as to what people want. Weather for me is about understanding your environment, and sense date is going to be huge. Weather and health are not that far apart. Social networking, ditto in that everybody is looking for the next version that eliminates my continual checking of Facebook and engages seamlessly.

    I am interested in the music behavior, since I use both on device and streaming services. But, I tend to look at streaming as a sub-standard experience in general.

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