Most Apps Don't Get a Chance to Make a Second Impression

We all know that Apple recently announced its 10 billionth app download. But the larger question about apps goes to engagement and retention. How often are apps used and are they used more than once? Mobile app analytics provider Localytics just published data that shows "26% of Apps Downloaded in 2010 Were Used Just Once."

The data overall show between 20% and 30% of mobile subscribers only use apps a single time -- presumably deciding there's not enough there to make them come back. However 75% or so do return, though whether it's more than twice is not mentioned in the Localytics data.

 

Being discovered is increasingly tough, which is why lots of mobile advertising promotes app downloads. Retaining users it also tough. To my knowledge nobody yet has "normalized" app churn (downloads to regular users). Regardless of the apps heavy users are going to be in the minority vs. occasional users vs. all downloads. 

The above data impliedly argue that users should be educated about what the app is about before downloading (via news, PR, word of mouth) and that the app's value proposition must be very intuitive and self-evident. Games are arguably in a different category. 

The average number of smartphone apps (per Nielsen) is 37 for the iPhone and 22 for Android devices. Here are the most common app discovery methods:

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Accordingly word of mouth would appear to be a critical driver of app adoption. Thus the mundane advice is: build a great and useful (or fun) app and then promote the heck out of it through all available channels.