According to Nielson, smartphone users spend 87% of their time with apps, and just 13% of time with the mobile web. Last quarter, 41% of Facebook’s revenue came from their mobile user base.

What are you waiting for, you need a mobile app. Right now.


You are asking the wrong question. As marketers, collectively, our perspective on mobile apps versus mobile web has had the wrong focus.

Before you continue, the question you need to answer is this: “What kind of app should I focus on first?”

To help answer that question, we need to dive beyond the popular mobile headlines.

Key Statistics About Mobile Apps

If you use an iPhone or Android, you have plenty of apps to choose from. More than 800,000. (source)

In 2012, Nielson reported that the average smartphone had 41 installed apps, a 28 increase from the year before. (source)

Flurry’s data shows that the average user launched 7.9 apps per day in Q4 of 2012. (source)

App Statistics From a Different Angle

Now let’s look at these stats a bit differently.

  • The average smartphone has 41 apps installed. Or approximately 0.005% of the available apps.
  • Less than 8 of those applications are actually launched on any given day. The average person is not using 99.999% of apps.

If you think click rates on banner ads are bad, this should be a wakeup call. Someone is 20 times more likely to click the banner ad in front of them right now than they are to install your app, ever.

What Apps Do People Actually Use?

According to ComScore, these were the top 10 apps in use in 2012. (source)

  • Facebook (with an estimated reach of 76% of US smartphone users)
  • Google Maps (65.9%)
  • Google Play (54.3%)
  • Google Search (53.5%)
  • Gmail (47.6%)
  • YouTube (46.4%)
  • Pandora Radio (42%)
  • Apple iTunes (41%)
  • Cooliris (38%)
  • Yahoo! Messenger (32%)

One thing is immediately clear reading this list: every application here delivers a core service of a company or product. Not a single one was created primarily in support of an organization’s marketing efforts.

Your App Solution: Other People’s Apps

Consider how people may actually come across your business on their mobile device:

  1. Your business will be tagged on Google Maps. Just one tap for an overview of your business, reviews, hours and contact information. Monitor and maintain this information.
  2. A potential customer will search by category on Yelp and find your listing. Is your address accurate? Are your hours up to date? How are the reviews they will see?
  3. Customers will check in on Foursquare. What does your profile page say about you? Is the information accurate? Complete?
  4. People will find you through friends on Facebook. Hopefully it isn’t a ghost town.
  5. Don’t forget search, and the continuing importance it places on your mobile website.

The solution should be clear by now. You already have a significant potential presence in apps. Instead of creating your own, you need to identify when your business will appear (and should appear) in other people’s apps and optimize your presence there. Then, maybe, you can ask about building your own mobile app again.

Your Turn

The comments are yours. Share your reaction here or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).