You probably have an idea of which apps you use the most, but do you know how your habits stack up against bigger trends in the apps that are most popular among Android and iOS users? If you’re guessing that your tendency to scroll through Facebook or your affinity for sending messages on Snapchat might be part of a larger trend, you’re right. A report from App Annie, drawing on some of the industry’s largest datasets on app usage on iOS and Android, characterizes communication as the “core of smartphone app usage.”
In the United States, “Social” apps are the top app categories by sessions per active user, as measured on Android smartphones in the first quarter of 2015. In the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, and South Korea, “Communication” apps represented the top category. In South Korea, the communication and social categories accounted for approximately 60% of all Android app sessions, and the levels in Germany and the U.S. weren’t far behind that level. In the United States and the United Kingdom, social apps represented the top app category by time spent per active user. In Germany, Japan, and South Korea, communication was the top category of apps by time spent.
The report notes that there can be considerable overlap in functionality between the social and communication categories, “especially among the top apps where social networks and messaging apps dominate.” But the top apps across the categories reveal “some small but key differences in app use between different countries.”
App Annie combined the data for the social and communication categories to find the top apps by sessions per active user. In the United States, the top apps were Facebook, Chrome Browser, and Snapchat, while in both the United Kingdom and Germany, WhatsApp Messenger, Facebook, and Chrome Browser were the top apps. In Japan, Line, Chrome Browser, and Twitter were the top apps, and in South Korea, the top apps were KakaoTalk, CashSlide, and Facebook.
It’s notable that Facebook dominated in the United States, while in all of the other countries analyzed, messaging apps that users traditionally use to communicate one-to-one were more popular. When apps were ranked by time spent per active user, Facebook, Chrome, and Instagram were the top apps in the United States. The report added, “It appears that US Android smartphone users lean more towards one-to-many communication through social networks, whereas app usage in other markets (particularly Germany, Japan and South Korea) is weighted slightly more towards direct one-to-one (or one-to-few) communication.” App Annie notes that it’s also “interesting to note that US Android smartphone users appear to have a preference for the image-focused messaging of Snapchat.”
Though most of App Annie’s data references the Android user base, the report did note that messaging apps took the top spot among iOS users in South Korea with KakaoTalk, Japan with LINE, and Germany with WhatsApp. On iPhones in the United States, direct communication apps for messaging and calls were among the most heavily-used apps, and the top five person-to-person communication apps saw more than seven times as many average monthly sessions per active user as the leading games and music streaming apps. But session length tended to be shorter for communication apps than music streaming apps, since music streaming apps often run in the background while engagement with communication apps is more active.
Sarah Perez reports for TechCrunch that the rankings are indicative of how the shift from desktop to mobile is taking place. On computers, the browser is the primary means of accessing the web and interacting with content. But on mobile, users spend much of their time in social apps. That makes recent moves, like Facebook’s rollout of full news articles that open directly in users’ News Feeds, make more sense. As Perez notes, “for many consumers, Facebook is the web when they’re on their phones.”
The report noted that the significant difference between the western and Asian app markets was also reflected in the amount of time that users spent playing mobile games. App Annie found that Android smartphone users in Japan activated three times as many gaming sessions per month than their counterparts in the United States and 7.5 times more than those in the United Kingdom.
“Games ranked as the second highest category by time spent per Android smartphone users in Japan and South Korea in Q1 2015, behind only the Communication category,” the report explained. “In Japan, Android smartphone users spent around 4x as much time per month as users in the United States playing mobile games in Q1 2015. In contrast, Android smartphone users in Europe and the United States tended to spend more time in apps from the Social and Media & Video categories than in games.”