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September 22, 2016

If your business is digitally driven, hopefully you took a look through comScore's 2016 US Mobile App Report, which was released this week. While the growth of media time spent in-app comes as no surprise to anyone with a smartphone, it's helpful to have comScore's industry-leading view of consumer patterns. It's also satisfying to verify many of the things that we make assumptions about based on our own media use.

In-App Time Is on the Rise
Mobile apps now definitively dominate consumer time on smartphones, at 75 percent of consumers' mobile media time. According to eMarketer, time spent in mobile apps has increased by over 7 minutes this year. Even older age groups are shifting their media consumption to apps, with adults aged 55–64 increasing their in-app time by 37 percent this year alone. In fact, smartphone app time now accounts for 49 percent of total digital usage, something that might seem surprising when you consider how much streaming media is now available for viewing on larger screens in our homes.

Mobile Web vs. Mobile App Usage
The difference between how users interact with mobile apps and mobile web is an interesting phenomenon: mobile web usage is actually higher than mobile app use (the top 1000 mobile web properties have three times the audience of the top 1000 apps). However, mobile web use is "a mile high and an inch deep," as users just parachute in to view pages, whereas time spent in-app is sustained. In fact, 87 percent of time on mobile is now spent in-app. Apps are where deep consumer engagement happens, so mobile properties with web pages and apps would do well to think of ways to easily convert these casual visitors.

As mobile time has become more heavily dominated by app use, apps are segmented into "heavily" and "less frequently" used. It may not be surprising to hear that millennials spend about half of their in-app time in just 10 apps, but folks aged 55+ spend a third of theirs in their top 10.

App Organization Trends
The prioritization of apps has made organizing app placement on one's smartphone more common. Seventy-five percent of smartphone users have actively moved their favorite app to their main screen, and the use of folders to organize apps has increased. Interestingly, users among all age groups, including nearly half of adults 55+, consider "thumb reach" when positioning their top apps on-screen.

Is There Still Room for Growth?
So, have we reached "peak" app use? Although growth has slowed, comScore doesn't think so.

Their research shows that 50 percent of respondents continue to download at least one new app each month, with a portion of them (13 percent) downloading 5+ apps per month, with the discovery mechanism changing over time. App store placement as a driver is declining in importance, while marketing and word of mouth seem to be gaining influence. Even if you think this number isn't correct—TUNE thinks that there are generally about 1.5 apps downloaded per person each month—it's vital that we think through what the comScore report signals to app companies and the businesses that work with them.

Waze is happy to be an app with a large and growing audience; however, as users become more and more attuned to spending time in apps, we can't rest on our laurels.

We need to continue to find ways to constantly delight our users with features and improvements that will keep us in a prime spot on their home screens. App-builders and marketers would do well to think through how they'll stay in users' hearts and within "thumb reach."
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