Heavy app downloaders may be prone to smartphone fatigue
Smartphone users download a high number of apps—especially free ones—but that download spree may not last forever. According to a July study by ABI Research, smartphone users worldwide were expected to download about 36 billion apps in 2012. That figure translates to 37 app downloads per smartphone user this year, a 6% rise from the 35 native apps downloaded per user in 2011.
Despite the year-over-year growth, ABI Research predicted app downloads would drop off in the long run, due to several factors. The next wave of smartphone subscribers, which is likely to include older US consumers as well as consumers in Western Europe and parts of Asia, are not expected to experiment with smartphone apps as heavily as the first wave of early adopters did.
Also, as the mobile web becomes more sophisticated across the board, consumers might find that its functionality mirrors apps in some cases. ABI Research expected this to occur especially in categories such as news and entertainment. Moreover, as more marketers and developers bet on HTML5, the mobile web is expected to evolve.
The proposed decline of smartphone apps goes against many data sources pointing to the growth of mobile apps. Nielsen, for example, showed that from 2011 to 2012, app usage by US smartphone users cut into the time they spent with the mobile web. In May 2012, US smartphone users spent 81% of their time with smartphone apps—up 9 percentage points from May 2011.
Only time will tell whether smartphone users will continue to prefer apps or if they will get more behind the mobile web. It’s possible that smartphone users will develop app fatigue and begin to turn to the web when multitasking. eMarketer predicts that by 2016, 74% of all mobile phone users in the US will be smartphone users.
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