Most Engaging Phone Apps: Top Picks May Surprise You

You’ll see some awfully familiar names in some new research on the most popular apps on U.S. smartphones: think YouTube (s goog), Facebook, QuickOffice and other highly recognizable names such as Angry Birds and Amazon (s amzn). 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 (s aapl), Google, Microsoft (s msft), HP (s hpq), Nokia (s nok) and Research In Motion (s rimm). 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.