As the Mobile Revolution Rolls On, There May Be No Room for New Apps

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

With over a million apps each in the Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Play Store and Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) App Store, it’s clear that the number of apps available is exponentially higher than the number of apps that can actually become popular. According to new data, users aren’t interacting with increasing numbers of apps as more and more become available. Instead, the number of apps that the average user interacts with in a month hasn’t changed much over the past few years.

A Nielsen study found that while we spend much more time using mobile apps than we did two years ago, the number of apps that we use hasn’t changed significantly. Nielsen’s data shows that Android and iPhone users spend 65 percent more time in mobile apps than they did two years ago. In the fourth-quarter of 2013, they spent 30 hours and 15 minutes interacting with apps each month, up significantly from the average of 18 hours and 18 minutes in the fourth-quarter of 2011.

However, the number of apps that users interact with hasn’t increased nearly as sharply. In the fourth-quarter of 2011, users interacted with an average of 23.2 apps in a month. That count rose to 26.5 in the fourth-quarter of 2012, to 26.8 in the fourth-quarter of 2013. Nielsen posits that, “This shows that while there may be an upper limit to the total number of apps users are willing to access within a given month, the amount of time they are spending on those apps is showing no signs of slowing down.”

That upper limit won’t affect the apps that are most users’ everyday necessities — like Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Google, or the default email, messaging, and weather apps. However, it may pose a significant barrier to entrance for new apps trying to gain footing and build a user base. Nielsen also breaks out the number of apps and time spent with those apps by the age of the user. Smartphone owners ages 25 through 44 use the greatest number of apps per month (an average of 29) while users ages 18 through 24 spend the most time with those apps (averaging 37 hours and 6 minutes.)

Social media and search apps dominate the time that users spend in mobile apps, with the two categories accounting for an average of 11 hours of the time that users spend with apps each month. Entertainment, which includes video, audio, and gaming apps, saw growth of 71 percent over last year, as did each of the top app categories between 2012 and 2013. The photography category saw the biggest increase in time spent, with a 34-minute jump.