As mobile continues to dominate on a global scale (66% of people are smartphone users) and shows no signs of stopping, it’s important to remember that quantity is only half the battle. The other half is creating engaging messaging that reaches users on a personal level. However, there are some countries where this value has not quite reached maturity.

Quality > Quantity

According to estimates from eMarketer, around 62.8% of people and 88.3% of 18-24 year-olds in China are smartphone users. However, China has some of the lowest app engagement in the world, with 38% of people abandoning an app after one use and only 14% of users continuing to use an app for 11 or more sessions:


This degree of abandonment may be surprising, but not if you know the back story. The primary reason for this lack of engagement is China’s restrictions on Google. Most Android devices in China are not officially supported by the Google Play Experience, so opting in to push notifications is not an option for those devices.

iOS devices are less restricted in China and as a result, we see the positive lift in mobile app retention. Fifty percent of Chinese users who opt-in to push continue to use the app for 11 or more sessions, while only 2% will abandon the app after one use:


Keep in mind that, while the majority of devices in China are Android, most with push activated are on iOS, whose apps are not allowed to automatically opt users in to push on their first session. Many users will have to visit an app twice to be considered “opted-in.” However, the data still shows that quality > quantity and users who enjoy notifications will stay around much longer.

Consumers in the U.S. and New Zealand are spending the most time in apps

Examining the average monthly time in app reveals more insight into global app engagement. The United States and New Zealand have some of the highest time in app numbers of any country. Americans’ reputation for being addicted to their phones is 100% supported by hard data. Americans spend 45 minutes in apps, Kiwis (nickname for people from New Zealand) spend 37, and Chinese users spend 24 in the average month. The global average is around 29 minutes.


This means that Kiwis spend 38% more time in apps than the global average while Americans spend 67% more time in apps. Also, China spends 30% less time than the global average. China’s abysmal time in app can be explained by a few factors:


  • The reliance on a few select apps such as TenCent WeChat and Weibo. Such reliance means that other apps will lose out on Chinese users who would rather spend time in their favorite social apps.
  • China’s general wariness towards Google and their need to develop their own operating systems to replace Android. China-specific smartphone brands are already hugely popular.
  • The difficulty in pushing past the Great Firewall for marketers who want to communicate with Chinese users.
  • The issue of data access in rural areas outside the eastern seaboard. China’s population density looks like this, and any rural Chinese smartphone user is probably only using the device for emergencies or limited periods of time, much less slicing virtual fruit or launching sullen birds at swine-filled structures.


TL;DR: it is difficult to reach users in China through the mobile channel. Only time will tell if cultural attitudes shift to be more welcoming of Western influence, but it’s worth keeping an eye on the country simply because of its potential.

North America wins most engaged of 2018 (so far)

Taking into account time in app, abandonment, and retention reveals that a few global regions dominate the rest in terms of app user engagement. North America tops the list with a monthly average time in app of over 41 minutes, 19% of users abandoning apps after one use, and 40% of users continuing to use an app for eleven or more sessions.

Rank REgion Monthly Time In App Abandonment retention (11+)

1 North America 41:32 19% 40%
2 South America 30:49 20% 38%
3 Africa 30:35 19% 38%
4 Europe 26:50 23% 44%
5 Central America 28:59 23% 34%
6 Oceania 37:35 26% 30%
7 Asia 26:56 27% 26%
8 Middle East 25:17 27% 26%
Global Average 30:54 22% 38%


The Middle East barely keeps up with the pack, with 25 minutes and 17 seconds, 27% abandonment, and 26% retention. Although Europe shows below average time in app, the region exhibits particularly great retention. On the other hand, citizens of Oceania spend a good deal of time in app but are unlikely to continue using that app. It’s clear that North America is the most engaged for 2018 as of now, but there’s still lots of time left.

Developing countries offer a wealth of new market opportunities

It’s important to consider location when reaching out to users, as factors such as local demand and timing can make or break an in-app experience. Certain high-growth markets such as Latin America and Africa are worth exploring as mobile becomes a bigger way of life in those regions. As nations develop, marketers will uncover more and more opportunities to become a part of the mobile zeitgeist.


Localytics is the leading mobile engagement platform across more than 2.7 billion devices and 37,000 mobile and web apps. Localytics processes 120 billion data points monthly. For this study, Localytics looked at apps that have integrated push messaging to see which countries are most engaged. Time in app is defined as the number of app launches multiplied by the length of a session that the average user completes. App abandonment is defined as the percent of users who use an app only once, while retention is the percent of users who use an app eleven or more times. The countries in this study were those with more than 1,000 monthly active users. “North America” is made up of only the United States and Canada. The timeframe for this study was January 1, 2018 through May 31, 2018.