There has been something of an App War in the UK. The App Store versus the Android Market, Windows Phone Marketplace. Each is turning to developers to offer more choice for consumers. As smartphones get faster, allowing a quicker transfer of data, integrating Augmented Reality along with fancy graphics we have developed a habit for downloading games, information or apps just to make our lives easier or just a little bit more fun. But how much do we really love our Apps?
New research suggests while we might rush to download the latest app and play with it for a few days, in fact our love runs cold quickly. The research focussed on users in the US. It showed that 68% of smartphone users only open five or fewer apps a week. 17% don’t use any apps and under half, 42% of Americans have a device that has apps.
They are, the researchers say, merely a novelty that wears off. We delete apps we get bored with, we stop using them and if you use an operating system that shows up the apps you use most frequently, you can scroll through the screens to show the ones that have fallen out of favour. The estimate is that around 80% of apps are eventually deleted, which is why the researchers of this report say measuring downloads of apps is a bad way to measure how popular they might actually be.
The importance for apps to smartphone launches has grown as it is a good way of showcasing a devices capability. Both EA and Gameloft released new apps and games to coincide with the iPhone 4S. Siri was an app itself originally, and the developers were taken over by Apple. But while there is big demand at the launch, users tend to whittle down the apps they use regularly, until there are just a core few they use. The Nokia Lumia 800, the first to use Windows Phone 7.5 Mango, made app integration even easier by adopting social networking platform friendliness, allowing users to see Twitter and Facebook updates as though they were messages. BBM, or Blackberry Messenger is much the same, a feature that has become so integrated into device practice that it is a social networking platform in its own right.
For app developers though, it is not great news. Apps do not make firms a huge amount of money, no matter how much of a push they might get on the AppStore. One UK based developer created a wide range of apps but still saw that arm of their business operate at a loss. A good profile raiser, but not a sound business model.
But is it so bad that we use and lose apps? One of the best things about our smartphones is the ability to mould them and personalise them. Keeping it fresh with new apps makes it easier for us to explore new games and new places. We might get excited about a tourism app while in a new city, but never use it again when we get home, but instead of seeing apps as a long term download, should we just see them as a short term fancy, a fling rather than a marriage? With so many millions of apps to choose from it would be impossible for anyone who sample even half over the course of a smartphone’s lifetime. More choice makes it easier for us to pick and choose, as difficult as that may before developers who want us to keep hold of them forever.