updated 08:30 pm EST, Mon January 13, 2014
Messaging, social applications drove growth, tripling from 2012
"More and more smartphone owners are discovering that mobile apps can perform many of the functions previously requiring a home computer" would seem to be the conclusion reached in analytic firm Flurry's latest survey of app usage growth in 2013. The study found that mobile app usage grew 115 percent overall in 2013, largely driven by increased engagement with social and messaging apps.
By itself, the "messaging and social networking" category grew 203 percent in the past year, far outpacing the overall growth of smartphone ownership, with applications like SnapChat, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and similar apps display the largest increase in user engagement. "We are fascinated by the growth, the retention rate, the reach and the frequency for this category," said Flurry in a statement on its company blog. "For the past five years, we have watched mobile disrupt every industry, in every country, and continue to break its own records year after year. 2013 did not disappoint."
Other categories also posted significant gains in app usage, promoting the concept that users are ever more frequently using mobile devices as a substitute for traditional PCs. Once dismissed for their small screens as unable to be used as serious productivity tools, 2013 saw the "Utilities and Productivity" category climb in usage by 149 percent, driving largely by cloud services such as Evernote and Dropbox. Music and media and other general entertainment apps were used 78 percent more often, lifestyle and shopping apps saw a 77 percent uptick and even gaming grew 66 percent in 2013. Fitness and health apps (49 percent) and news or magazines (31 percent) rounded out the top seven broad app categories.
In all, the company tracked some 1.126 trillion "app sessions" (defined as an instance where a user opens an app and uses it for a period of time). The Christmas gift-giving season saw its usual spike of activations, app downloading and usage spikes. The last day of 2013 saw a record-breaking 4.7 billion sessions by itself, and the company had previously noted that activations of Apple devices was up 2.3 times its rest-of-year average. Amazon, which seems to sell the vast majority of its Kindle devices solely as gifts to other people, saw a 24x increase in activations over Christmas compared to normal.