no secret most apps have a short shelf life as mobile users tend to be a fickle lot.
Just how long they last before falling out of favor is the focus of a new study by app analytics and
advertising firm Flurry. It found about 52% of apps lose half of their users within three months of reaching their peak number of monthly active users (MAU).
Those that don’t
have much longer lives. “The fourth month post-peak is a critical benchmark. From this point on, MAU decay continues, but at a much slower rate,” states the report, which looked at 26,176
apps that peaked in the first half of 2011, 2012 and 2013. Facebook is betting WhatsApp falls into the latter grouping of apps with greater longevity.
Apps in utilitarian categories
are more durable. News apps have the longest half-life—the point at which an app’s monthly users have dropped to 50% of their lifetime peak-- with a median of seven months. Health and
business and communication apps come in at six months each.
By contrast, games are the most ephemeral category, with a half-life of two months, followed by social apps, at three
months. Shopping, media, lifestyle and travel apps each have a half-life of four months.
When it comes to mobile operating systems, iOS apps typically reach their half-life a month
later than Android apps. And apps that peak at 10,000 MAU or more enjoy a half-life that’s two months longer than those that don’t reach that level.
The analysis by Mary
Ellen Gordon, Flurry’s research director, points out that developers should pay as much attention to managing their apps decline as its growth. That means focusing on retention and re-engagement
as the level of monthly users begins to plateau and fall off.
The study found that more than half (56%) of apps that hold onto more than half of their peak users for the first four
months after reaching their high, still have half of them 10 months after peaking. “That could have a sizeable revenue impact,” notes Mooney.
She gives the example of an
app that peaks at 100,000 monthly average users and has average revenue per user per month of $2.50. Keeping at least half of those users through month four means the app has a 56% chance of holding
them for another six months, and that translates into revenue of $750,000.
The study also suggests developers be mindful of the life cycles of apps for different categories to help
anticipate revenue streams. Assuming similar development costs and average revenue per month, for example, a game app would have to peak with many more users than a news app to have the same profit
potential since its life expectation is five months shorter."Smartphone User" photo from