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Mobile app usage - Statistics & Facts

Mobile applications, commonly referred to as apps, are software developed for use on wireless mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Apps are designed with the limitations and features of mobile devices in mind. For example, a game could make use of a smartphone’s accelerometer, or a drawing pad app could make use of a tablet’s stylus. As compared to integrated software systems on computers, each mobile app typically offers a specific functionality. As of the third quarter of 2020, the most popular app categories worldwide were chat apps and social media apps, with a usage reach of 91 percent and 88 percent, respectively.

While some devices have apps pre-installed, users can select apps through applications stores such as the Google Play store for Android, the Apple App Store for iOS, or third-party providers like the Amazon Appstore. When comparing the platforms, Google Play generates the largest amount of worldwide app downloads. In the third quarter of 2021, users downloaded 27.6 billion apps from Google Play. However, the Apple app store dominates the market in terms of app revenues, accumulating 21.5 billion U.S. dollars in consumer spending on apps in the third quarter of 2021. By 2025, mobile apps are projected to generate over 613 billion U.S. dollars in revenues.

User engagement and retention rates worldwide

With the global number of mobile phone users growing steadily, the number of app downloads is also projected to increase. As of the first quarter of 2021, there are close to 3.5 million apps available on the Google Play Store, and 2.2 million apps on the Apple App Store. Retention rates, however, have not seen a corresponding upward trend. The global app retention rate at 30 days from install stood at 6.83 percent at the beginning of 2020, before plunging to 6.28 percent in March of the same year. However, if considering the global increase in app usage caused by the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, the decrease in app retention rates are a proportionate occurrence to the surge of app downloads during the lockdown months.

Social and communication apps

In the first half of 2021, social media apps recorded a small decline in time spent by users compared to 2020. Trends for social media apps and mobile-first social platforms in 2021 saw users engage with video social media platforms and video social content, with TikTok being one of the most downloaded social apps by iPhone and Android users alike . While social media apps will try to emphasize their social side, chances are that messaging and communication apps will become increasingly more used even in professional and business contexts. According to a survey of global smartphone users, as of the beginning of 2021 e-mails were still the preferred messaging media for business communication, but 25 percent of respondents indicated preferring WhatsApp even in professional contexts.

Gaming as part of the mobile experience

According to a survey of smartphone users worldwide, mobile gaming was among the most popular app activity in 2020, with 68 percent of the global users interviewed reporting they used mobile gaming apps. In 2020, gaming apps were also the app categories reporting the longest session lengths per user, with users spending more than 22 minutes on sports games apps, compared to the 20 minutes spent on average on all app verticals.

Spotlight: COVID-19 impact

Due to the global outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, major app categories are projected to have a CAGR between 20 and 60 percent between 2017 and 2021. Excluded from the picture are travel apps, which are expected to go back to pre-COVID usage levels in the future but are currently still suffering due to the direct disruption of the travel industry by the virus.

The impact of the global CPOVID-19 pandemic on app usage has brought about an unprecedented surge in usage. However, the pandemic might have just accelerated adoption trends while kickstarting mobile usage for activities traditionally on laptops or other digital devices.


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