Apple’s iTunes App Store is home to over 1.5 million apps and Google Play is home to over 2 million, but the number of apps that are actually installed and used on consumer devices is still quite low. We already knew that people only interacted with a small handful of third-party apps on a regular basis, and now, depending on a new study on the use of mobile applications, we learn that about one in four mobile users only use an app once.
Based on data from analytics firm Localytics and its user base of 37,000 apps, user retention has seen a slight increase year over year from 34% in 2015 to 38% in 2016.
However, just because that number has recovered a bit doesn’t mean the numbers are good. Instead, this indicates that 62% of users will use an app less than 11 times.
According to the report, “this is not a sustainable business model”.
Today, 23% launch an app just once – an improvement over last year, but only slightly. By comparison, only 20% of users abandoned apps in 2014.
On iOS, user retention has seen slight improvements. The percentage of those who only opened apps once fell to 24% from 26% last year, and those who returned to apps 11 or more times fell to 36% from 32% in 2015.
In particular, apps in the midst of their growth (between 15,000 and 50,000 monthly active users) saw the largest increase with retention and abandonment, the report also noted. This is attributed to the use by these apps of push notifications, in-app messages, emails and notes. While push notifications have historically been cited as a way to retain users, in-app messages also have a noticeable impact – these messages improve user retention to 46%, according to the study.
17% will only use the app once if they see an in-app message, but those who don’t use messages see 26% of users abandon the app after a session.
While there have been some minor improvements, the data overall is troubling as that is what it means to be an app developer today. It also follows a series of reports on the pitfalls of the app economy, the saga detailing the slowdown for one of the best app developers, Pixite, which saw its income drop by a third last year, a more detailed analysis of the reasons why the application economy is down, citing issues like discovery, lack of disk space, installation process, etc.
Even investors avoid app companies. Like Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures wrote at the end of last year, “It’s not an easy time to build consumer-centric mobile businesses. It’s not an easy time to invest in it either. “
The good news – if there is any here – is that the problem with apps has led to new ideas about how apps should work.
Google, for example, is considering redesigning the entire installation process with its “instant apps” debut, announced at its I / O event earlier this month. Instead of forcing users to find, download, and install apps, Instant Apps will allow users to launch apps almost immediately, just by clicking on a URL.
But given that Google is only half the duopoly of the smartphone ecosystem, Apple must also consider new approaches or risk losing developer interest in creating for its platforms. (So far it has solved the issue of outputting new guides and tutorials for developers, and launching application development centers in Europe and India, for example.)
There are a few early suggestions that slowing down apps might already be having an impact – another new report now says The developers weren’t as interested in writing apps for Apple Watch or tvOS, noting that for 1,000 iOS apps, 10 tvOS apps and 1 Watch app are released.
Of course, these numbers are also within the reach of the Watch and Apple TV platforms respectively. But the App Store gold rush of the previous days is just not present, as it is harder to make money with apps and the cost of acquiring loyal users went from around $ 1.50 to $ 2.25 in 2014 to $ 2.50 and sometimes even as high as $ 4.00 last year.