Global app store results for Q1 2018 are in, and the mobile app ecosystem continues to meet and exceed expectations.
And by exceed, I mean shatter.
According to a recent report by the experts at App Annie, Q1 2018 produced record-breaking numbers for both total app downloads, and worldwide consumer app spend. In posting another quarter of astounding double-digit growth, consumer spend (Global iOS and Google Play combined) produced $18.4 billion with year-over-year growth of 22%. Further, combined downloads (again, Global iOS and Google Play) grew to 27.5 billion. According to the report, this 27.5 billion not only reflects a growth of 10% year-over-year, but it is also the highest of any quarter… ever.
As is often the case when reviewing quarterly results, the totality of these staggering numbers, on its own, fails to paint a clear picture of what exactly is transpiring within the mobile app ecosystem.
By diving only slightly deeper into the numbers, we can quickly identify some early drivers of consumer value in 2018. M-commerce, for instance, showed significant year-over-year growth, indicating that consumers are continuing to exhibit a preference for streamlined mobile shopping apps. Given the intimate and individual (that is, personal) nature of the mobile retail app experience, we should only continue to expect m-commerce to drive future growth in the mobile app ecosystem (as aptly predicted by App Annie in late 2017).
A second clear trend, one that fueled Google Play’s record growth in consumer spend in Q1 2018 (25% growth year-over-year), is the continuing popularity of Music, Audio, and Entertainment apps.
In the age of all things streaming, from Netflix to Roku, Spotify to everything else in-between, mobile apps are driving the global transition to on-demand mobile content. According to Nielsen (as reported by TechCrunch), this has resulted in a lack of brand loyalty – in the extreme. A stunning 60% of Millennials, the second-largest generation group in the United States (and the one with the most disposable income), can now be counted on to have multiple apps and subscription services for streaming and on-demand entertainment. This statistic speaks (as succinctly stated by App Annie) to the influential tendency of consumers “to sign-up and pay for music streaming and video streaming subscriptions in apps.” Future trends in consumer spend are likely to be dictated by these “quick, frictionless, and secure” app experiences.
App Usage on the Rise
For all the hyperbole and rhetoric surrounding the “record-breaking” numbers of Q1 2018, the most explicit take-away from the App Annie report is the confirmation that mobile apps are more popular than ever. With records shattered, Q1 2018 merely confirms what we already knew/suspected in 2017 – overall app usage is trending up.
Flurry Analytics, in their 2017 State of Mobile Report, indicated that U.S. consumers were continuing to spend more and more time “glued” to their mobile devices. Data showed that mobile consumers were spending an average of 5 hours a day on their mobile devices, with browser share accounting for only 8% of total mobile time. It was noted then (and subsequently confirmed by Q1 2018) that mobile users were increasingly spending traditionally passive downtime (i.e., TV time) engaged in the use of streaming apps and entertainment services (roughly 15% of total app time) – again further evidence that Q1 2018 was no fluke.
While the confirmation of increased mobile usage in the early beginnings of 2018 is certainly impressive, App Annie’s Q1 2018 data appears to confirm another 2017 trend that is especially important to note:
Increased app usage.
In May, 2017, App Annie’s 2016 Retrospective report highlighted the fact that mobile users were spending more time in apps than previously thought, with the average mobile user accessing over 30 apps per month (roughly one-third of an average mobile users’ installed apps). Of these 30 apps, mobile users typically employed around nine apps per day – what we now know as the 30:10 rule.
Moving from the cumulative number of apps used daily, to app usage as measured by time, an eMarketer report from April, 2017, predicted total app usage to top out at just about 20% of total media time for 2017 (the definition of “media” including mobile, desktop, TV, radio, and other mediums). According to the data, this 20% equated to around 2 hours and 25 minutes per day of mobile app usage, compared to just 26 minutes of usage for mobile browsers. Put another way, eMarketer expected mobile internet users to dedicate around 84% of their total daily mobile time to app usage in 2017, the majority of which would focus on five core activities: music, social media, gaming, video streaming, and messaging.
Again, if the benefit of hindsight is clarity, then Q1 2018 makes it increasingly clear that mobile app usage, particularly streaming, will only continue to increase for the foreseeable future.
Impact on the Internet of Things
Although the raw data from Q1 2018 suggests that the recent increase in mobile app usage is directly linked to the popularity of streaming services, there is another important factor that we cannot ignore:
The apps of 2018 and beyond are increasingly adapting to today’s multitasking, time-sensitive mobile users (the “I-want-to-know, I’m-on-the-go” demographic). The wants and needs of these individuals have spurred radical changes across a wide spectrum of industries, changes that have forever altered the way we think of retail, banking, fitness, and entertainment (just to name a few).
As app usage continues to increase, the way in which we organize, integrate, and use our apps within the Internet of Things is surely to evolve as well. A primary area of focus for 2018 and beyond will be the intersection of voice-activated technology with daily life. As a staple of 2018’s most popular smartphones, we have all undoubtedly had our fair share of recent interactions with voice-activated technology (“Hey Siri…” or “OK Google…”). From scheduling reminders and sending text messages, to setting alarms and making phone calls, smartphone voice-activated technology has proven useful, if somewhat limited, in its current form. And yet, with its continued evolution and advancement, voice-activated technology, in general, appears primed to positively impact many new and exciting aspects of our daily lives.
Take the connected home, for example.
Once a luxury traditionally reserved for the Bill Gates’s of the world, the smart home is fast becoming the status quo of the digital age. With 35.6 million Americans employing voice-enabled home speakers in 2017 (mostly the Amazon Echo and Google Home), the market for voice-activated assistants experienced a stunning growth of 130% year-over-year. With a wide range of third-party smart-device support (including wifi enabled GE appliances), we should very soon expect AI-powered virtual assistants to be the primary interface for cooking appliances, sound systems, alarm systems, and many other staples of the modern home.
While it is true that there is still a ways to go until virtual assistant technology reaches its full potential, the expectation of increased adoption (in 55% of U.S. homes by 2022), should go a long way in stimulating rapid advancements. Smart screens, emotionally intelligent responses, and connected cars are all in the works for both Amazon and Google.
With Q1 2018 shattering both records and our highest expectations, there is no reason to lower our hopes for the rest of 2018. App usage and total downloads are both likely to trend up, confirming what we already knew and expected as early as 2017.