Study proves app store counts are basically worthless

Study proves app store counts are basically worthless

Summary: A new study from Nielsen shows that most mobile device owners spend the majority of their time on a limited number of apps.

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TOPICS: Mobility
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Many mobile app store providers, namely Apple and Google, go back and forth trying to boast the most number of mobile apps available possible. Although Apple usually wins, perhaps it doesn't matter in the end.

See also: Android owners hit the web hard, with only a few apps

A new survey from Nielsen reveals that "despite the hundreds of thousands of apps available for Android" (and this can likely be applied to iOS), only "a very small proportion of apps make up the vast majority of time spent."

Looking at the graph below, mobile device owners spent nearly half of their time on their top 10 favorite apps, leaving very little time available for anything else they have.

The Nielsen survey also found that the average Android user in the U.S. spends approximately one hour per day using the mobile web and apps, but roughly 40 minutes of that time is on mobile apps themselves. Thus, it's no surprise why we're seeing Apple and Google go the app route even on the desktop with the Mac App Store and Chrome Apps respectively -- this is obviously something that consumers are interested in.

Although Nielsen didn't specify which apps were the most common, based on my own experience, I'm willing to venture that most mobile device owners frequently check email apps, Facebook, Twitter, possibly Foursquare and other location-based check-in programs, and then a handful of their favorite news apps.

Also using my own iPhone as an example, I have nearly 75 apps installed on my smartphone. Many of them are apps that have been useful for at least one period of time in the past (i.e. public transit apps for navigating the Metro in Paris or a Lonely Planet travel guide app for Mexico City), but I don't use them again after that.

One lesson that can be derived from this survey is that although we might end up purchasing and downloading lots of apps (even those we might not really need), we're only going to use a few for the majority of the time.

Thus, using the amount of apps that a particular app store retains as a selling point is rather worthless at this point -- at least for Apple and Google, and possibly Amazon at this point. We know they have lots of apps, and that's great. These platforms are so established already that we don't have to worry about not finding relevant apps when purchasing mobile devices.

Now, if you purchased a webOS device lately, the story might be different...

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Topic: Mobility

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29 comments
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  • RE: Study proves app store counts are basically worthless

    In other news, new study proves sun comes up in the east and sets in the west.
    strukhoff
    • RE: Study proves app store counts are basically worthless

      @strukhoff LOL That's basically what I was thinking when I saw this. Next, they'll have a study which says desktop users spend the majority of their time using only 3 or 4 applications. Well, duh.

      The argument could also be made that without a wide variety of choices, we would not have eventually arrived at those few we use the majority of the time. I've personally gone through half a dozen apps just to find one I like for checking the weather. I went through a dozen to find a couple I like for editing phone photos. Maybe we need these clown-college rejects to do a study that shows choice is good.
      BillDem
      • RE: Study proves app store counts are basically worthless

        @BillDem Was going to make the same point about desktop programs as well. As you said this can be applied to so many different things that it makes the survey pointless in my opinion. Do they think that Mac or Snapon don't care which has the best variety of tools available even if only 10% are used on a regular basis?
        non-biased
  • RE: Study proves app store counts are basically worthless

    Well, just because you dont spend a lot of time in an app doesn't make it not useful.
    The apps I use most are news readers and games. However, these are mainly used to pass the time, they are not very 'useful'.
    The ones I would miss the most are simple ones which i just need to quickly start have a brief check and then close. Such as a real-time bus time table (the best app on my phone), gmaps, ebay app and even a sports score checker.
    But it is ones like the bus app which will not be found on every app store but I find the most useful. So although we might spend most of time in a few apps, its it the rest of the apps which can vastly improve the user experience on the smart phone.
    Will T
  • uhh, no it can not be applied to iOS

    -------- (and this can likely be applied to iOS) -------------<br><br>uhh, no it can not be applied to iOS.... that is what you don't get about this... NO ONE is making money on Android but a handful... <br><br>where there are BILLIONS being made by iOS developers.... try taking the BILLIONS that iOS developers are making and dived that by 50 apps... and tell us WHICH 50 APPS ARE MAKING THE BILLIONS... duhhh.... not even Angry Birds, <br><br>ANDroid there is only a few million to go around....
    honkj
    • RE: Study proves app store counts are basically worthless

      @honkj This is about app USAGE not app sales so yes it CAN be applied to iOS as well as Android and WP7... read the article rather than give a knee jerk reaction to a perceived attack on iOS.

      And before you go on some sort of rant about ME being an Android fanboy I am a die hard iOS advocate but unlike most I'm not turning my liking for iOS into some sort of religion. I just call it as I see it.
      athynz
      • A SALE is a SALE even when the item is never used

        @athynz Just because the buyer uses the app ONCE, it does not mean that the PURCHASE doesn't count. The real value is counted in $$$ not in usage.

        Also, there are plenty of useful apps (iOS and Android) that are used every few weeks or just a couple of times a year. The fact that they are use a few times, does not mean that they are not valuable to the user. In fact, they may be more valuable than any app they use daily.
        wackoae
      • RE: Study proves app store counts are basically worthless

        @wackoae: Well, apps that's expensive but only are used once might not get so good reviews (probably lots of "not worth the money"), so even if sold it's probably not gonna b sold that much.
        Natanael_L
    • RE: Study proves app store counts are basically worthless

      @honkj http://m.blogs.computerworld.com/17941/android_ios_app_profit

      This didn't even take long to find. On the first page when searching for (exactly) this: "developer profits android iphone"
      Natanael_L
  • App store counts are not worthless at all

    They make for great advertising and great slides during a Jobs presentation.

    Other than that? Yup, worthless.
    toddybottom
  • RE: Study proves app store counts are basically worthless

    So...is anybody shocked that the most used apps are...well, the most used? It's like having a headline reading "Most ZDNet visitors are reading ZDNet".
    Aerowind
    • RE: Study proves app store counts are basically worthless

      @Aerowind LMAO :D
      MrElectrifyer
  • RE: Study proves app store counts are basically worthless

    Yes and no. The advantage of thick-client devices, including both Android- and iOS-based devices, are their ability to run local apps. The referenced survey by Nielsen looked at the local apps that were used in tandem with the web.

    This is distinct from local apps that run independently from the web (i.e., an alarm clock app, iWork). A follow-on study of local apps used independently from the web is in order. I do suspect, however, that the results will still show that boasting of 200,000 apps is gross overkill for most users.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Get in on the ground floor

    Based on this study, I'm starting a new cable TV company. I will offer only twelve channels, because those are the only ones the majority of people watch. If you think this is a good idea, please send money so I can get started.
    Robert Hahn
    • Sure...

      @Robert Hahn
      ...if you can actually get it into people's homes at prices less than what they're paying now and still make enough money to justify the investment.

      But be warned that there are good reasons why cable operations are usually franchise monopolies (it doesn't do at all to have 2, 3 or more companies laying cable in the same area.
      John L. Ries
  • Duh!

    The question is not how many applications are available, but whether applications that do what one wants at prices one is willing to pay are available. If the latter is the case, it doesn't really matter if the total number of apps available is 100,000 or 1000.
    John L. Ries
  • Long tail?

    The long tail turned out to be pivotal for Amazon's success - but a book is typically only read once.

    Is software the exact opposite? Is the general trend towards eliminating the long tail by consolidating function into an App with steadily increasing functionality?

    It would be interesting to see the chart of App diversity usage over time. Does it point to a distant future of a world with a single all-functional "Uber App"?

    Movies had Alien vs. Predator. Next is it SkyNet versus the Matrix? In a Cage Fight - which App wins?
    gillammi
  • RE: Study proves app store counts are basically worthless

    The conclusion that the number of apps available is irrelevant since most people only use a few all the time is incorrect. The study just shows that most people only use a few apps often. But a larger selection of apps available to the user is still a draw to a particular device. Maybe both Android and iOS have enough apps available to keep that alone from being a factor in deciding which platform to move to, but if a new platform came out that only had 10 apps available, that would be a factor in someone's decision on purchasing that device.
    rdubub
    • RE: Study proves app store counts are basically worthless

      @rdubub So if I say I have a million apps, is that better than 100000? What about 10 mill, or 100 mill? Do you always shop at the store with the most items for sale? Does quality not enter into it?
      This app count nonsense was promulgated by Apple advertising, and after a "reasonable" number are reaced (you call it? it no longer matters.
      Lets get real here.
      radleym
    • RE: Study proves app store counts are basically worthless

      @rdubub This survey might carry more weight if it found people used the same apps but it doesn't. If you survey 10,000 people and they are all have 10 apps that they use on a regular basis but it's a different 10 then the app store having 100K or more apps is very important versus having 50K apps.
      non-biased