Mobile usage trumps desktop usage, but we’re only using a handful of apps

by: Andrew GrushAugust 22, 2014

google play store nexus 5 2

It’s 2014 and most of us have traded our focus away from the PC and towards mobile devices. In the latest report from ComScore, we learn that the majority of all digital media time now occurs on mobile apps, with desktop taking a backseat.

Of course, we all saw this shift coming, as more folks having been purchasing smartphones and tablets over the last few years. In March of 2013, the desktop was still the primary source of our digital life, however, with the average user spending 53 percent of their time on a computer and only 47 percent of the time on mobile. Now mobile devices take up 60 percent of our time, with the desktop dropping down to just 40 percent. What a difference a year makes.


It probably won’t surprise you that most of us spend the majority of our smartphone time using apps as opposed to the mobile browser. But what might shock you is that Comscore’s data indicates that most of us are only using a handful of apps, with only 35% of smartphone users downloading any apps on an average month. This means that in a world where there are well over a million apps to choose from, most of us are simply sticking to a few ‘favorite’ apps and only downloading new ones on a rare occasion.


Further expanding on this notion, Comscore reveals that while 57 percent of smartphone users access apps every single day and 26% of tablet users do the same, 42% of this app time is spent with a user’s single most used app. In fact, nearly three out of four minutes of app usage involves one of the user’s top 4 apps.

As for what kind of apps people are using, Comscore reports that social networking and gaming lead the pack with 25% and 16% of activity respectively. As you can imagine, some of the most popular apps include Facebook, YouTube, Google Play, Google Search, Pandora and Google Maps.


The Comscore report also delves into various demographics dealing with age, platform of choice, income and so forth. For a more detailed look, you can request a copy of the report directly from ComScore.


So what’s the big takeaway here?

The biggest hitters within the report center around the fact that PC usage is continuing to decline, and mobile app usage is on the rise, even though most of us aren’t downloading that many apps.

In an age where we have so many options, why aren’t folks discovering more apps? It could be that we simply know what we want, and therefore we don’t deviate from our preferred apps all that often. It’s also possible that, with so many choices, the average consumer finds it hard to discover new apps and instead relies on “top app” lists within Google Play and other storefronts as opposed to diving in and exploring. If this is the case, that means if Google, Apple and other store owners want to see more folks downloading apps, they’ll need to think of creative ways to improve app discovery.

Of course, just because most of us aren’t regularly trying out new apps, doesn’t mean app usage is down. As smartphone and tablet sales continue to increase, there’s a large pool of app users out there and as the number of users increase, opportunities only get better for app developers. In fact, app download numbers are at an all time high, even if the average user doesn’t download that many apps after initial setup of their mobile device.

What do you think, would you download more apps if there were ‘smarter’ app discovery and suggestion systems built into stores like Google Play? How many apps do you download each month on average?

  • MasterMuffin

    Out of the 1 000 000+ apps out there, I’d say over 900 000 are pretty much garbage. I’ve stopped surfing apps on Google Play because I really don’t find anything good that way. I find better apps more easily from Reddit, XDA, friends and AA!

    • It’s still fun to browse through pages and pages of apps, even if you don’t find something you’ll use 24/7 you can find something worth while imo.

      • MasterMuffin

        You and I have a different opinion on what’s fun :D

        • Adrian

          The thing is, we don’t NEED more apps. Letting me discover games is useless if I don’t play games and if I’m not a music fan pushing music apps on me is no good.

          We mail, we chat we internet, listen to music, take pictures and all the normal things we do on our phones but we don’t NEED to do more.

    • Navin Govindani

      You should give PlayBoard a try, they have the best app channels!

  • shah

    Whoever made this survey got something against whatsapp.

    • gommer strike

      And it’s only showing US. What about other parts of the world

    • nereus

      whatsapp scuks..

  • Sal

    Well maybe because despite the million apps the majority are crappy while some are worth noticing for.

  • Lilith_Black

    I don’t really go searching for apps: I have what satisfy my needs (I search download and use apps to do what I want and that’s it.)
    I do find that play store seriously needs a stricter design standards: a lot of apps are extremely crappy.

  • netanil

    People use a desktop differently than a smartphone.

    A desktop has a ton of room for applications and everything else whereas a smartphone doesn’t. Plus, you keep reading articles about ways to save space, save battery life and just keep things running smoothly on a smartphone so there’s a tendency not to load up a smartphone with stuff you don’t really need. Stuff that can maybe mess things up and maybe use more battery. Nearly everyone with a smartphone wishes they had more battery life.

    When they make a smartphone that can handle everything more like a desktop, things may change. In the meantime, a lot of people simply don’t want to have to deal with all those apps out there, especially if they are not all that good in the first place and make the smartphone experience worse.

  • Mike Reid

    >as the number of users increase, opportunities only get better for app developers

    As an app dev: Umm, no, not really.

    The “First world” is saturated with mobile devices. These are the people who buy apps at decent prices, and more-so on iOS than Android.

    “Emerging markets” are where the growth in mobile devices is. And these markets don’t provide first world levels of app buying.

    Competition among devs in popular areas is fierce. Some companies and indie devs have been “re-focusing” due to this.

  • Edwin Chua

    I rely on AA to introduce great apps to me. :)

  • Albin

    How do they know how much the listed apps are used? They know because these are locally installed websites. They don’t know when I use my OSMAnd map instead of Google Maps, because it’s offline. They don’t know when I use Vignette instead of Instagram because it’s offline. And they don’t know if I use GrooveShark instead of for music, because it is a very nice HTML5 mobile optimized website, not an app.

    I wish most of the listed apps above were not apps but were browser pages because apps are a nuisance. I don’t add new apps most months but do get a dozen or more nuisance, time wasting updates to install every month (I want to review changes so don’t permit automatic updating) I would much prefer it if those local internet pages were all replaced with nicely optimized HTML5 browser pages that the developers would work on in the cloud instead of bugging me with yet another update whenever they get a new idea.

  • Brian Samuel

    I’m not one of those who are looking for new apps all the time. I just think it’s unnecessary.

  • nereus

    anyway what should people download for their smartphone? Maybe new games.. people don’t use android to work, coding, compiling or whatelse.. come on..