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Mobile Apps Have a Short Half Life; Use Falls Sharply After First Six Months

Smartphone apps tend to see half their use in the first five or six months -- and even that is skewed by the few enduring hits. Many are opened just once.


A new app is so cool when it is first downloaded onto your phone. But, as with other shiny objects, its appeal quickly fades as another new thing comes along.

A study from Adobe finds that, on average, mobile apps achieve half their lifetime usage in the first six months.

And that’s factoring in all the apps that do really well. Roughly a quarter of apps are opened just a single time, according to both the Adobe research and previous studies.

“As if getting a mobile app developed and installed isn’t hard enough, keeping users engaged with it may be the biggest challenge of all,” Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst for Adobe Digital Index told Re/code. “It’s a very crowded space and brands are vying for consumers that are becoming increasingly more selective.”

The growing app fatigue is of key concern to those who make mobile programs and has spawned a whole new industry of retargeting ads that aim to get mobile users to open apps they already have, rather than just download new ones. Gaffney said techniques such as using notifications or tapping hardware features like the fingerprint reader can also boost long-term usage.


The Adobe study also had some other interesting data points worth chewing on.

  • Smartphones account for 82 percent of app launches, as compared to 17 percent from tablets; a year ago, smartphones made up 78 percent of mobile app launches.
  • Smartphones account for a quarter of visits to U.S. shopping websites, but only 9 percent of total revenue. Tablets, meanwhile, account for 11 percent of revenue and 11 percent of visits.
  • Chrome had been narrowing the gap on mobile Safari in terms of browser share until the Sept. 2014 iPhone 6 launch. Apple’s market share has been widening ever since. Combined, the two browsers account for 95 percent of mobile share, with BlackBerry, Firefox, Opera and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer fighting for table scraps.

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