Demand for smartphone apps is waning, as users become more conservative about what they download
Smartphone owners’ appetite for new apps is waning, with the average number of apps downloaded per user per month declining considerably over the past year.
Almost one in three (31 per cent) of smartphone users in the UK do not download any apps on their device in a typical month, according to a report by Deloitte – a steep increase from less than one in five in 2013.
Of those that do, the average number of apps downloaded per month has fallen from 2.32 to 1.82.
The report also found that almost nine in ten people never spend money on apps or other smartphone content, suggesting that demand for paid apps is even lower.
However, this does not mean the size of the app market itself is shrinking. Deloitte claims that the decline in the rate of downloads per user is due to an increase in the number of smartphone owners over 50, who have less interest in using their phone as a data device.
“The new adopters of smartphones use them mostly for text messaging,” Paul Lee, head of research for technology, media and telecommunications at Deloitte, told The Telegraph.
“When you look at who uses IM (instant messaging) services like WhatsApp and WeChat, it tends to be younger age groups and it declines very steeply with age.”
Another reason for the decline is that people who have owned smartphones for several months tend to have a preferred set of apps, according to Lee, and this is largely influenced by what their friends are using.
“The more friends you have on one network, the less likely you are to move, so inertia sets in and it becomes increasingly hard for a new player to come and dislodge the other player,” he said.
“It’s pretty easy to create an app but it’s very hard to get it downloaded, which is why there is quite a big market in app recommendation.”
Deloitte’s findings come amid growing concern about the financial health of the app economy, with some independent developers complaining that a handful of software companies account for the majority of app downloads and profits.
Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram for $1 billion (£630m) in 2012, and of WhatsApp for $19 billion (£11bn) earlier this year, have done nothing to appease these concerns.
However, recent research commissioned by Google claimed that the app development industry in Britain is in fine fettle, and is forecast to be worth over £30 billion to the UK economy by 2025.
Meanwhile, research by Vision Mobile published earlier this month found that the app economy directly accounts for 670,000 jobs in Europe in 2014, representing an increase of 26 per cent compared to 2013
“The ‘if in doubt download it’ attitude to consumer apps is clearly on the decline,” said Phil Barnett, VP and general manager EMEA at Good Technology, responding to Deloitte’s report.
“Developers and businesses building in-house app stores need to learn from the consumer downturn and ensure they focus on usability. If not, they will end up in the trash can with the rest of the app one hit wonders.”