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Are we in a mobile app glut? Report says most US phone owners aren’t downloading apps

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Did you download any apps to your smartphone this month? Chances are, you didn’t, says research firm ComScore. The company published a report showing that in the U.S., 65.5 percent of all smartphone owners aren’t adding any new apps to their phones these days.

Yet more than half of smartphone owners are using apps on their phone every single day, the data suggests. So what gives?

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Quartz’s Dan Frommer picked up on a key point in the ComScore data: A small percentage of smartphone owners in the U.S. account for a disproportionately high number of downloads. How much so? ComScore’s research says that nearly half of all app download activity is done by just seven percent of U.S. smartphone owners. These are the app addicts, if you will. The rest of us just use what we already have on our phones, for the most part.

At first, this scenario sounds odd. But when you think about it, it makes some sense. This is 2014, not 2008 when the mobile app economy was just starting to take off. When you start with a blank slate, there’s plenty of room for new apps to fill up your smartphone. These days, with more than a billion apps available from various mobile app stores, chances are that most of the new apps you see will give you a feeling of “been there, done that.”

iPhone apps / Mobile apps / mobile applications

Simply put, as the number of apps has grown exponentially, it has become more difficult for developers to create unique software that becomes a must-have download. Instead, the first-movers have traction, which is why you’ll see certain key apps on most people’s handsets: Think [company]Facebook[/company], Pandora, YouTube, [company]Google[/company] Maps and Instagram.

There’s still room in the mobile app stores for the “next big thing” but it has to be really big to get smartphone owners in the U.S. to download it.

13 Responses to “Are we in a mobile app glut? Report says most US phone owners aren’t downloading apps”

  1. A good app will make life easier or quicker. Or it will satisfy a need we didn’t quite know we had. An example of that is Instagram. Who knew we needed an easier platform to share pics.

    I will say I find the whole social media ecosystem very interesting. I have a 13 yo daughter. We had a rule or basically we followed FB’s rule that you had to be 13 to get a FB account for her. Well her friends all ended up with instagram accounts. I will be honest I don’t really remember downloading it for her. See I don’t give my kids the Apple ID password for downloads. So I control the money they spend and what they download. Although I will say I don’t remember getting her instagram. Well all the kids got instagrams mostly when they were 11 or 12 at least in her circle of friends. So when those kids turned 13 most of them don’t want a FB account because their parents have one. But if you find a group of 16-18 year olds they will have a FB account because their was no other choice except maybe twitter.

    Social media will become fragmented to a degree well at least until these kids hit like 17 or 18 and maybe then they will get a FB account. Although I think twitter may win out. It seems more popular with the older teens.

  2. slfisher

    I’d download more apps if I could stick them all in a playpen and have them not actually run until I had a chance to play with them. I had 500+ apps on my phone when it decided to zap itself, and I ended up reinstalling just the apps I actually use, and it works a lot better. I’m disappointed I didn’t get a chance to try out the other apps, though.

  3. John C. Senall

    This info is helpful I hope to a lot of companies. I believe that if we create apps that truly solve a problem or make our customers’ lives easier, they will download and use them. “Think before you app” is a basic premise. Avoid rushing to create a meaningless app just to have an app. Avoid an app that makes a process slower or less intuitive than an existing process or tool or in-store experience. Take your time to do the research, test a concept and if you create a winning idea based on careful preparation and testing, go for it. The best ideas are often not the jazziest or cool ones at all. Then be sure to communicate the major benefits of the download continuously and improve it over time with user feedback.

  4. I am not super knowledgable, but Facebook is not a first mover. It seems like the companies you listed are big companies, that have nothing to do with being a first mover and creating an app. The point has been obvious for a while, the article is just not very good.

  5. I have had an iphone since 11/09. Back then apps were small in memory and did not take up space. I am cheap and only get 16gb. I cleaned out the apps and notice I only use a handful. 3 social media. 2 bank apps. A handful of games. I did recently get the Wal-Mart app, but only because I can scan my receipt and it will tell me if something I bought was on sale someplace else and give me back my money. Now that is a good app. Simple and not much effort.

    I don’t need extra texting apps. I don’t edit my photos enough to get another app. I have one app to get sports scores. I don’t need 2.

    But I will say my little computer that is also a phone and also a music player and also a camera is a handy device.

  6. A perfect example of an industry that is in a distorted reality zone of its own creation. To them Smartphones are simply App Platforms and we all have these phones to do nothing but interact with Apps.

    To be fair, they are just trying to get on the gravy train that Apple took mainstream, but it just shows a disconnect between the way the industry perceives consumption and the realities of the marketplace.

  7. Warren Whitlock

    This #oldmedia bias leads people to the erroneous conclusion that everything that needs to be invented has been invented and there’s no room left for innovation.

    Let’s not close the patent office yet.

    Personally, I can’t find most of the apps I have download and have hundreds cluttering up my phone, but just last week, I came across 3 that were life changing “blow me away” good productivity tools. 2 of those 3 I’m now using daily.. though I had no idea such things could be done last month.

    An app developer doesn’t need a majority of smart phone users to download, a tiny tiny fraction of users is a huge market for anything. If you are really using your phone for productivity, the number of other users really doesn’t matter.

    I expect to see breakthroughs in how we define apps. Small apps that hook into existing programs and never need to be opened separately and apps that replace folders with a meta structure that sorts things out for us.

    Or, we’ll all just throw them out and use the dang things as phones. Who really knows?

  8. This just in:
    Not every small business is overly successful with millions of people flocking to shop there. They are one of a million other small businesses trying to compete with name brand products.

    Why the hell is this even a news article? It’s elementary economics.

  9. Even though they are not the same, I compare mobile to PC. How many “apps” do you use on your PC? Also, the security issues are worse because of the greater(?) social data component and location information.

    • Bob Cannell

      It is actually worse than that because the platform and input methods are VERY limited on mobile devices. So for example, I still do a lot of graphics and media editing on my desktop. In fact, outside of MS office, that is the majority of applications I do. You could never do those on a smartphone, nor would you want to.

  10. in the last year or a bit longer i have been seeing lots of people switching from basic/feature phones to smartphones without any specific goal as to what they want the smartphone for. many of these people will of still not logged into the app store months after making the purchase.

    on the one hand they do not want to be left out of what they see as the new normal but also have no specific desire for what they want their pone to do. interestingly i find many of these people who own but do not use smartphones to be above average users of the classic internet on PCs. not necessarily particularly knowledgeable and geeks/hobbyists but just heavy users. since they get everything they need on the classic web they no urge to get it mobile as well. i am also seeing people go to smartphones for single specific tasks for example replacing a feature phone with an iphone for the sole reason of facetime chatting with family members with iphones.

    • Nicholas Paredes

      The flip side is that many people who are long-time smartphone users have the services they need. New apps, such as Wink, arrive when the need exists or the opportunity presents itself. I am sure that we will continue to see blockbusters. Such products need to meet new needs and desires.

  11. JenniferDawn

    I think some marketers think mobile apps are like Pokemon – “gotta catch ’em all!”

    But really, cmon – it’s a tool, not a fashion statement.