Mobile Apps Abandoned after one use by nearly 1 in 4 iOS and Android Users

June 1, 2016

There are millions of mobile apps available to those who use iOS and Android devices. Among those apps and mobile device users, there appears to be a decently sized percentage of users that only utilize a new mobile app one time and never go back to it.

According to data from the analytics firm Localytics, among their user base of 37,000 applications, user retention is hovering around 38% with a slight increase from last year of 34%. What this means is that mobile app users, about 62% of them, are utilizing mobile apps less than 11 times. Additionally, what is probably the most startling aspect of Localytics' recent findings, is that about 23% of mobile app users will launch the app one time and then discontinue use of the app. Compared to 2014's data, about 20% of users were abandoning use of mobile apps after one use.

There are over 1.5 million iOS apps on the Apple iTunes App Store and the Google PlayStore hosts over 2 million mobile apps. Among those apps, only a small base of them are installed and used on consumer devices. Sure, you may have your group of favorite apps that you use often. However, we're willing to bet that you have a group of apps that you have not touched since you installed them, further vilifying Localytics' findings.

The chart in figure 1 below shows the App Abandonment percentages based on Localytics' data from 2012 to 2016's current data. On the front of how many users launch an app 11 or more times, the chart in figure 2 below draws some contrast with much higher percentages.

Figure 1. App Abandonment percentages chart from 2012 to 2016 – source: Localytics

Figure 2. App Retention percentages chart from 2012 to 2016 – source: Localytics

App developers will clearly state that they have a challenge of garnering the attention of mobile app users. Even more so, app developers will often see middle stage growth spurts especially in cases where they add additional functions, such as the ability to user push notifications, in-app messages, email functions, and remarking. With such functions, app users are in a way forced to utilize the mobile app as it has an impact on everyday usability and an inherent need to launch the app due to its "connections" with everyday life. As an example, the chart in figure 3 below is an App User Retention Rate that compares apps with in-app messaging and those without. Clearly, there is a contrast where apps that utilize in-app messaging are used 10% more than those with the feature during the 11th time of use.

Figure 3. App User Retention Rate for In-App Messaging feature – source: Localytics

Today, app developers have a difficult road ahead as they must continually make improvements to gain notoriety for their mobile apps. Not only that but app developers find Localytics' data troubling when they have no plans or needs to add features that support the notion of high retention or usage rates. To add insult to injury, investors are starting to sway away from app companies somewhat due to the fact of apps being abandoned by nearly 1 in 4 users.

While many contributing factors play into the low usage and use retention rates for mobile apps of today, the lessons learned are being taken to heart, and some developers are overhauling certain aspects of mobile apps. For instance, Google is considering changing the installation process and implementing an “instant app” idea that will allow users to launch apps almost immediately by clicking a URL. On the side of iOS apps, Apple may be pushed to consider new methods from building platforms to winning the interest of users once again.

There is also a convolution of mobile apps that is adding to the overall issue where 1 in 4 users are abandoning user of mobile apps after one use. In this, you have overlapping apps that all provide the same functionality. For every app that does a specific function, there are nearly 10 to 100 others that do the same thing.

To conclude, pricing of apps hasn't had much of an impact on their usage rate or retention. Developers still have the struggle to make money with apps that are abandoned after the first use, while app users continue to have their grievances about apps that may only cost $0.99 or are free. It's all a balancing act that must be looked at closely, or mobile apps could go the way of Windows applications where we have more than we will ever need.

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