The proliferation of smartphones have expanded the use of mobile apps. But new research from NPD Group suggests that apps are increasing use of smartphones. Specifically, apps are getting people to spend more time on their phones.
According to the research firm’s Connected Intelligence SmartMeter, Android users spent nearly one-fifth more time on their smartphones daily in August compared to a year ago -- 247 minutes, or more than four hours compared to 210 minutes, or 3.5 hours. (NPD expects to have corresponding data for iOS devices later this year.)
Apps accounted for more than 120 minutes of daily usage in August 2012 compared to fewer than 100 in the year-earlier period. With apps accounting for more than half of the time spent, messaging and voice represented 35% and Web browsing less than 15%.
"At a high level, applications, messaging, and to a lesser extent Web browsing usage, all contributed to the growth, whereas voice has clearly become far less dominant and central to the smartphone experience," wrote Linda Barrabee, research director for NPD’s Connected Intelligence service, in a blog post.
What’s driving the embrace of apps? The “Angry Birds” games? Tetris? While gaming drives a significant portion of time spent in relation to apps (25.8%), that share has been flat over the last year.
“Gaming is a mature category, with reach trending down since March 2012, and consumers are clearly allocating more of their smartphone time to a myriad of other application experiences,” noted Barrabee.
She pointed out that while video gets a much smaller slice of time than games, it’s growing quickly. Daily usage was up 87% from four to seven minutes in the last year, with the expansion of 4G networks and 4G phones by consumers.
NPD found people are also spending time with more time in music, weather, search/navigation and social networking apps. Social apps share of daily usage, for instance, increased to 18.1% from 14.5% a year ago. The majority of time, however, goes to the mysterious “other” category of apps, which NPD says includes coupons, shopping, imaging and eBooks, among others.
That catch-all group accounts for 55.1% of app use, up from 34.6% a year ago. That trend suggests people are engaging with a growing diversity of apps beyond games. To the extent that shopping and coupon-related apps are gaining traction, it’s a positive sign for m-commerce.