Study: For Many, Apps Lack Staying Power on iPhone

onioiniphoneappsResults of a recent study by Pinch Media were released (and poked fun at by The Onion) and reveal that users of iPhone/iPod touch apps lose interest quickly. Our own Om Malik actually pointed this out just a month after the App Store launched, and it seemingly continues to hold true today. But how relevant are these findings? I submit that the study is more a commentary on the design of the App Store than the apps that people are loading their iPhones with.

The study says that people lose interest in free applications more often than paid. Well duh! I’ve got nothing vested in a free application, so if it doesn’t hit the mark for me, why continue using it? I’m much more likely to give an app I paid for the proverbial college try before abandoning it and feeling like I wasted money. This is all common sense so far.

The claim is also made that applications with the most staying power are Games, Social Media and Entertainment specific. I’ll agree with that for the most part — when I need to kill time, it’s Twitter, news, or some game. However, my morning ritual has me checking the likes of The Weather Channel, USA Today, Omni Focus, Ski Report, Chase, and Weightbot/Lose it. Some are free, some paid, but none exactly fit the the categorization — of course we’re all different.

I think it’s fair to say that many applications are purchased/downloaded with the idea of needing them one day. Open Table, Wikipanion, Amazon, and eBay all fill this void for me. I don’t need them on a daily basis, but when I do, it’s nice to have them available.

A metric that is not captured here is when people revisit an application down the road. There has been many an application that I’ve grabbed because of its potential and/or lower introductory price. I’ll download them, not touching them for weeks — possibly even deleting them temporarily — then decide to give them another look after some updates. Vocalia was one of these such instances. It was little more than a proof of concept when it launched and I bought it, and now it’s a solid voice dialer.

We’ve all heard (ad nauseum) about the runaway success of the fart apps and other silly gimmicks and gags. Some have made a lot of money (some are free), but it’s my guess that these apps especially fit the confines of Pinch Media’s study. Gimmicks usually offer little in the way of staying power.

So what makes an application for the iPhone or iPod touch have what it takes to remain in use? I think it’s a simple answer with a not-so-simple solution — whatever fits the needs of a particular user. Luckily each developer has a different vision which some cross-section of consumers is bound to be in line with. Perhaps some developers will find usefulness in these study results — though while everyone gets different utility from their apps, and user scenarios vary so greatly, it seems Pinch Media’s findings are sort of useless.

How accurately can your app usage practices be defined? Do you think they’re widely relevant for developers to create a killer app?

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