Are smartphone users losing their appetite for new apps?

Are smartphone users losing their appetite for new apps?

Summary: We're downloading fewer apps than we used to, and most of us have never paid for an app, ever.


Just under a third of us — 31 percent — have not downloaded a new app for our mobile phone in the past month and if we have almost certainly did not pay for it. The same research says that almost all of us — 90 percent — have never paid for a mobile app.

The research, conducted by the management consultantcy firm Deloitte, makes grim reading for app developers. The research suggests that even those customers who still want to explore Apple's App Store or Google Play are losing interest: the number of downloads a month per active user has fallen by a quarter, from an average of 2.32 in 2013 to just 1.82 in 2014.

Deloitte believes there are two reasons why this is happening. The first is the increasing proportion of older users, and the second is a belief that the apps that people are using now are good enough already and don't need upgrading or improving. That news is, of course, anathema to companies who have built their business model on the ritual of continuous, expensive upgrading.

Lee believes that one of the biggest factors is the changing mobile population which splits into two — the older and younger populations. When you look at who uses instant messaging services such as WhatsApp and WeChat, it tends to be younger age groups, and declines rapidly with age.

Deloitte's full 2014 Mobile Consumer Survey is due out on 4 September.

Further reading

Topics: Mobility, Android, Apple, iOS, Mobile OS, Software Development, Windows Phone


Colin Barker is based in London and is Senior Reporter for ZDNet. He has been writing about the IT business for some 30-plus years. He still enjoys it.

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  • Apps stores = greedy corporations who want a cut when I buy something!

    I'm sure the store owners want you to buy from them, but these stores were always a flawed model anyway. Its why Apple lock you in to their store, they KNOW you would go elsewhere otherwise.

    I have all the apps I want anyway, my tablet gets almost no use these days, my phone is only used as a phone and to get email, thats it. Don't need a lot of useless apps clogging it up.

    When I want to do some computing, I go to my desktop, where I have a full function, easy to use, computer, complete with proper keyboard, mouse and monitors, and decent sound systems. Even for multimedia my preference is my desktop.
    • App stores replicate what used to happen with boxed software

      Wal-Mart and Best Buy and the wholesale distributors used to take more than a 30% cut of the software title you purchased.... if you bought it online, Digital River, took a 30% cut.

      I don't understand why online app stores are due any special vilification. They provide the software development with free (or inexpensive) development tools, all kinds of help developing for their platform, and a free e-commerce platform to sell from.

      Yes they want 30%. But they've earned that!
      • Big difference

        Walmart has about 4% profit margin while Apple has a 20-22%
        Buster Friendly
        • No

          Boxed software vendor/wholesaler/retail splits take out about 30%. That's consistent across the board.... I've been in the business a long time, and I've never seen much variance from that.
          • No what?

            Those margins are from their financial reports.
            Buster Friendly
          • Not really relevant

            I'm talking about markup in the software business... you're talking about unrelated quasi-macro-economic data.

            The markup is the markup is the markup. Wal-Mart retails software titles with similar markup as the rest of the industry. So they don't do that for socks and groceries... not really relevant.
        • don't compare

          Don't compare a box retailer with a manufacturer/retailer, they are very different business models.
    • they are in business to make money

      these are businesses that are in business for one reason to make money. that does not make them greedy. If you don't like don't spend your money. It is completely your choice
      • "they are in business to make money"

        No-one else ever noticed that.

        The point being made is that if they overcharge, people don't buy, they therefore don't make much profit.

        The 'greed' is in overcharging. Not rocket science, really. But well done for spotting that they are in business to make money - no-one else ever got that. Kudos.
  • I think it's boredom

    I think it's all about the novelty wearing off with phone games.
    Buster Friendly
    • zynga has a similar problem

      Remember when everyone was doing farmvile and fishville and this vile and that ville - it would just fill up my homepage with all the posts of leveling up people needing this and that.

      Now, even though lots of my friends were active players - the activity is almost gone. I can't recall the last time I saw a "ville" request.

      On the phone I played games and downloaded all sorts of neeto apps - many used once - look I can get the barometric pressure on my phone! But once you see some of this stuff once and show your friends once - you never use it again. I don't often download apps any more. After the first 6 months with my phone I found everything I need and am bored with the games.
  • Users are learning ...

    ...the difference between an app and a gimmick.

    So many apps are scams, adverts, or simply a waste of time, that users are probably actually thinking forst before downloading.

    I've never paid for an app, but, on the other hand, I've never considered a paid-for app that didn't have a 'free' alternative that seemed to be just as good. Maybe tomorrow.

    The app market, as whole, was always a 'get-rich-quick' scam, and I'd be surprised if younger users weren't seeing through the BS just as much as old gits like me.

    And BS is a big issue; marketing is fast using up all the superlatives the language can provide, and most are exaggerations or just plain lies.
  • Once you've found... app you like for a particular category (note taking, stocks, calendar, etc), it's over. I don't play mobile games so I hardly ever download a new app.
  • Apps are a nuisance

    To the extent many apps are nothing but locally installed web sites, that require internet access to work, and could more conveniently be maintained out of sight and mind in the cloud and accessed on a browser. I will always look for a well-designed mobile optimized browser page in preference to an app, and there are quite a few of them, often not publicized. I'm looking for innovation in small-screen browsers themselves, which are space clogging knockoffs of desktop software with more navigation and other marginal features interfering with display. Despite its Play store, Google's Chrome is moving toward this, Firefox OS may move the technology as well. Goodbye and good riddance to locally installed internet dependent apps.
    • ZDNet's app works offline

      and I rather appreciate that!
    • You hit the nail on the head

      I have a consumer website and some users have been asking for a mobile app, but why would I build 4 separate "apps" for four separate mobile eco systems when I can build a single mobile version of my website that doesn't need to be downloaded and is much easier to build and just as functional as any app could be?

      In many cases, apps don't really make sense and add no value.
    • " that require internet access to work"

      wifi; that's what you need.

      Just sayin'
      • So you can't use your cellular modem?

        No, I think they meant Internet Access, regardless of method used.
        Be it, Wifi, your telecom provider, etc...
  • apps are for the first 2-3 months

    After installing apps for the first 2-3 months, you slowly see that anyway you have no time to use them, or they are not so interesting, or (for the children) they are unusable, since they show ads always even if you have already paid.
  • Cutting back on smartphone apps

    After nearly 2 years with my Motorola Droid Razr Maxx, I found that many of the apps I downloaded were not very useful and were just slowing down my phone. A big problem of too many apps is that they decide to update at the most inconvenient times, slowing everything to a crawl or crashing altogether. I know the apps are to blame because I put the phone in safe mode, shutting down all downloaded apps and the phone runs like new. Just because an app is free or cheap and sounds cool doesn't mean its useful day-to-day. Those of you with new Iphones, S4s. 5s, etc. will find the same hit on performance, app killers notwithstanding.