clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The app boom is over

Your phone is full of apps, and you're done downloading new ones — unless they're Snapchat or Uber.

Eric Feferberg / Getty
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

The mobile app boom kicked off in July 2008, when Apple introduced the App Store. Now it is over.

People are still making plenty of apps, of course. And many people are still downloading them. But the go-go growth days are gone.

If you are an independent app developer or publisher, you have probably known this for a while, because you have found it very difficult to get people to download your app — the average American smartphone user downloads zero apps per month.

But now even the very biggest app publishers are seeing their growth slow down or stop altogether. Most people have all the apps they want and/or need. They're not looking for new ones.

Last month, the top 15 app publishers saw downloads drop an average of 20 percent in the U.S., according to research from Nomura, which relies on data from app tracker SensorTower.

Globally, the mobile phone market is still growing, so the app market is as well. But not by much.

Outside the U.S., the top 15 apps grew by 3 percent last month.

You'll note that the big exceptions here are Snapchat and Uber, which continue to grow at an astonishing clip.

In May 2015, users downloaded Evan Spiegel's messaging app 13 million times; in May 2016 that number had doubled to 27 million. Uber's growth rate is also above 100 percent.

And in the U.S., Snapchat's download rate has now eclipsed Facebook.

So you can still break through the saturated app market, if you are very very very lucky, and good. But the odds are stacked against you.

Download rates don't give you a full picture of an app publisher's business, of course. Facebook, for instance, is killing it even as its install numbers slow — once you get to 1.65 billion users, it gets harder to find new ones.

And the fact that it's harder for app publishers to find users is good news for Facebook's app install ad business, which is aimed at app publishers who need to find users.

Mary Meeker on the state of the Internet

This article originally appeared on