We don't really use many apps on our smartphones. Do you?

Apple iTunes and Google Play each have more than a million and a half apps available for download on our smartphones. Amazon and Windows are working their way towards half a million smartphone apps. You would expect that all our smartphones are jam-packed with apps because, you know, someone must be using them. When we look at average users of smartphones, we find a different reality. Does your app usage profile fit with the average? Read on to find out.

From music to applications : millions of options and billions of downloads

Apple managed to transform the music industry with its iTunes online store. In 2002, Steve Jobs convinced the executives from all 5 major record labels to sign up for iTunes and offer a legal alternative to the Wild West of Napster, Kazaa and BitTorrent, that dominated the distribution of music on the Internet. Apple created a retail space with tight controls and a friendly design that allowed everybody to download and listen to music regardless of their computer knowledge. Consumers received the new store with enthusiasm. After only one year iTunes was selling 70% of all legal music online.

A few years later, in 2008, Apple repeated this approach with the world of applications. The distribution of applications mirrored the lack of online retail organization like the music industry before. Apps were distributed online directly by each producer and you had to enter your payment details at each one of them when you decided to download an app. Building on the huge success of its iPhone launch in 2007, Apple came up with its App Store, that created an online retail space for apps. Apple imposed tight controls on what apps can or cannot do on its devices and ensured a unified payment system for which it retained a hefty commission.

Consumers once again responded well to the simple, easy to use App Store and the developers, in turn, warmed up quickly to the potential of quickly reaching a large number of clients. In January 2011, the App Store recorded the 10 billionth download of an app.

Google joined the app store race in 2008. In a twisted order, they added the option to purchase and download music for Android afterwards, in order to mirror completely Apple’s model. Microsoft and Amazon joined the same model a couple of years later. Notably Microsoft brought the app store to the majority of desktops in the world, when Windows Store was launched as part of Windows 8.

In the world of smartphones, app stores dominate the distribution of apps to consumers. The millions of apps available in the online stores and the billions of downloads would make us believe that every smartphone is full of apps. But are they?

We are simple people when it comes to smartphone apps

iPhone has been a smashing success when it launched, although it had only a few apps that came preloaded together with the operating system. After 7 years and millions of applications being created for it, how do our smartphones look today?

Here are a few findings based on surveys ran this year, by Localytics, Research Now and Pew Research Center:

  • The majority of people have only a few apps on their smartphones. 62% of people with a smartphone have at most 20 apps on their smartphones. For 30% of smartphone users, you will find at most 10 apps. Most people do not install many apps on their smartphones.
  • The actual use of the apps is even lower. 81% of smartphone owners, use maximum 10 apps per week. 46% of people use maximum 5 apps.
  • Promise made, promise not fulfilled. These huge app stores must be the promised land. Are they? It turns out that we give them a shot and we try many apps, but the overwhelming majority prove to be disappointments. After only one day of use, two-thirds of Android users and three quarters of iOS users, uninstall the apps they just downloaded on their smartphone. Check one month later and only a little over 3% of these apps are still installed.

It is time for spring cleaning on your smartphone

Here is my take on this: verify each app on your smartphone and ask yourself when did you use it last time and when do you think you will use it next. Be merciless and uninstall the “sleepers” on your smartphone. Many of these apps run background processes that take away active memory, storage on your smartphone, processing power and data from your monthly carrier allocation. The average profile of the smartphone user tells us that we can do without at least half of the apps we have on our smartphones.

How many apps do you have installed? Which apps do you use most frequently? Are you trying out frequently new apps or do you prefer to let others take the plunge? Let’s discuss using the comments form below.

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