Are You Using Your iPhone Apps?

Confession 1: Soon as the App Store opened, I started downloading. Free apps mainly, but I bought more than I thought I would as well.

Confession 2: I don't use most of them regularly. I mean, I use the built-in apps all the time, daily if not near-constantly in the case of Phone, Mail, and Safari. But the App Store stuff? Eh.... A couple have become regulars but most are occasional at best and some I no longer even bother to store on the iPhone (i.e. they've been relegated to iTunes purgatory.)

60 million downloads, 30 million in sales, and Steve Jobs thinks it could be a billion dollar business. So somebody must be using them, right?

Om Malik consulted Greg Yardley of Pinch Media (which tracks user behavior and provides statics based on that behavior for iPhone Apps) who says that, based on their sampling (which they themselves say currently consists of only a few developers), less than 20% of users return to an App at least once a day, and of them, the average time spent on an App is 5 minutes.

By way of contrast, however, Casey already posted some pretty staggering numbers from the big players like Facebook and Loopt who are seeing tons of usage.

UPDATE: Greg Yardley, in the comments below, points out that Facebook numbers are not necessarily inconsistent with Pinch Media's.

Hmmm... Could it be that the App Store is still in its honeymoon, right smack in the middle of a little developer gold rush, where for every Apple Remote there's a dozen (okay, 3 dozen) "I am Rich" / Flashlight applications? Since there's no demo or beta, its easy to download free apps and moderately easy to take risks on under $10 apps, and come up less than thrilled.

All usage numbers tell us for now is that there aren't -- yet -- enough really killer apps, but at the same time so many developers and companies are becoming involved, the odds of another -- and another -- killer app coming are getting better and better.

So, no I'm not using my iPhone Apps a lot, but I expect better apps to come along that demand I use them a lot more.

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

More Posts



← Previously

Lenovo Olympics App -- Brought to you by Microsoft (sort of, not really)

Next up →

BREAKING: Fire at Apple Cupertino Campus

Reader comments

Are You Using Your iPhone Apps?


I was just noticing this today. I looked at the majority of my downloaded apps and realized that I hardly ever use most of them. I'm not sure if it is because I have mostly free apps or what. Many of the "Lite" versions of the games I have are not that impressive which has made me leery of paying $10 for other games.
I've been trying to avoid paying for too many apps while the sting of my first $100 monthly phone bill wears off. Maybe those are better?

Trism is totally addictive, I play it a lot. I use NetNewsWire all the time. Yelp, a bit maybe here and there. Enigmo turned out to be too hard for me. I've ended up trashing erything that was basically a wrapper for online content (the Bloomberg or New York Times apps, for example). I still prefer excellent web apps like the Twitter client Hahlo to full apps like Twitteriffic.
But yes, 90% of the apps so far do seem completely stupid. There are a lot of apps that just do one dumb thing that would have been better as a web app. Hardly anything uses the accelerometer, gestures, or location in compelling ways yet.
I think this is temporary, though. Hopefully once the NDA is lifted and a real development community appears, at least the games will get better.

While I like to play games, the apps I buy are all centered around my need for mobile information and access. I like PC2Me to access my desktop, though it is a bit slow. I just purchased Datacase, and though it took a while to figure out how to use it, I now have the docs that I need loaded on my Iphone. I really (!!!) like the Airme app so that I can instantly (and seamlessly) upload pictures for my family to Flikr.
If they come out with Doom for non-jailbroken phones I'd get it in a heartbeat. I'm not ready to void my warranty yet.

Actually i don't know i may have to disagree with a lot of people. I use about 15-20 apps a today, Not even stretching that #. That's why i got a smart phone.... i need these mobile apps.
However i would really really really like to see PUSH get put into our features.

I downloaded many more apps then I use or expected to use. Some I'm finding a way to get usage out of while others are still waiting for me to activate my account. The ones I use a lot are Twitterific (actually got me more hooked on Twitter than I was before), Things (my GTD/to do app) and a few games (Sudoku and Enigmo).
I'll likely keep the apps on my iPhone for now. After all, I had a lot more stuff on my Palm than I ever used and most of them came free. I still fully expect that in the coming months there will be more killer apps, most which will be tied to a web service that will make the platform what is envisioned. Until then, I'll just play a few games and listen to music and a few podcasts.

Look, the apps ALL just now became available. Not the normal release here, release there. And many are wonderfully free. So of course we don't use them all. Yet! But I find myself using more as I actually find time to delve into them. Bus ride. Plane delay. Line at bank. Ah, the wonders of the iPhone. Give it time. It was a huge app Christmas in July for us app lovers!

I agree, it's still very early. But I suppose all the ADD-afflicted early adopters that breathlessly downloaded 148 apps are now bored?
I use the 10 or 12 apps I downloaded all the time, and my friends are telling me the same. Things like news (I like NowLocal), weather (WeatherBug), vSnax (videos while waiting in the airport), and especially the myLite flashlight/strobe app at night, clubbing, concerts, etc.

I find I'm using most of the apps I've downloaded. I use Pandora, Tuner, Todo, Sol Free, Koi Pond, Radius, Splashmoney and eReader the most, but I've been getting use out of the rest. So far I have about 40 apps and I find I use 'em all here and there, just some more than most.

Good article, Rene, but why the quotes around 'analytics'? Our library does for an iPhone SDK application most of what Google Analytics does for the web, so for single applications I think we offer quite strong analytics. And we certainly don't hide the fact that we're measuring only a few percent of the total AppStore directly, and that this sample size currently has limited statistical significance.
By the way, back when Facebook was publishing daily active user stats for their Facebook for iPhone application (they recently switched to monthly active users and got rid of the percentage figures), they were seeing 45% daily active users. This has likely gone down - every application sees its daily actives go down as the people that install it but don't like it use it just once and then remove it from the phone. Even at 20% daily active users, the average we see, Facebook would still be driving a ton of usage - I don't necessarily think our numbers are incompatible with the general excitement around the iPhone platform as a whole.

The app I use the most (not including apple pre-loaded apps) is Palringo 2nd is iNetworkTest.
I tend to disagree on 90% of the apps in that app store are junk i more like 93%

I use my paid apps for productivity just about everyday. Some of my fav's are Day Bank, eWallet and Recorder. Some of my free ones I use everyday as well. Palringo (where's my notifications!!!!????), iScopes, iProcrastinate, Facebook and Rotary Dialer (sorry it is just too cool).
I have 5 panels filled with apps. Of course Im not going to use each one everyday. I just like to have them on the phone to mess around with when Im bored. Ive always had more stuff on my smartphones than needed. You never know when you want to bust out Phonesaber or More Cowbell. Maybe you need to ask the magic 8 ball a life changing question (hey, I read the horoscopes haha!). I cant imagine taking my morning deuce (at work of course) and not playing a game of labyrinth or Hanoi.
As far as news apps go I leave them alone. I personally dont see the use when Safari is so good.
And let's not forget the other reason we waited in line and shelled out the cash.... 3G!!!! iFlipr is an awesome flashcard web app that I couldn't imagine having to use on EDGE. I never had a 2g but Im sure web apps are 100 times better now.
I guess I say all that to say that you dont have to constantly use an app for it to be "useful". I just cant wait until a better PIM comes out for the iPhone.

Just because I don't use an app every day doesn't mean I don't value it. TouchRPN is a great calculator, when I need it. A Level is useful, when I need it. The New York Times is useful when I'm away from my laptop. Same with many of the other apps I downloaded.

I have about 14 apps, four of them games, one of which I play daily. I probably use AIM daily or close to it. I use Shazam a few times a week. And I use Pandora probably a couple of times a week.

@Greg: Apologies, instead of the quotes, I should have just clarified what type of data surfacing Pinch Media was using, and what that meant with regards to Malik's post.
Thanks for the insight!

I would love to use more of them, but they just wind up quitting and crashing my iPhone.

i actually use the downloaded apps more than some of the apple ones. for example, i have no use for the stock app. and i check the apps store pretty regularly for new stuff.

I think you are correct to point out that most of the applications are neglected soon after download. This is probably due to the fact that people are curious, but also due to the fact that most of the applications (save the ones built on pre-existing networks - Facebook, etc), are fairly simple, and are not developed on an established pre-existing architecture. I suspect that as the Apps begin to evolve, perhaps following the lead of the "successful" apps, the usage of those apps will similarly increase. For instance, if there was an app that simplified vBulletin forums like the WordPress app does for blogs, I would use it every single day, as I'm sure a lot of other people would.

Guess it's the still very narrow sandbox that Apple provides to the coders which leads to the fact that there are almost only useless gimmicks in the shop. It would be interesting to see apps to improve vibra length/pattern, repeat sms/calendar/etc. alarms until confirmed, save power at night (by switching to flight mode), automatically launch vpn on WiFi connect, and other small productivity helpers. You can get already some of these apps (asvibra/w, Kate), but only via the unofficial jailbreak/cydia/installer way because they need access to system functions which Apple does not grant them. Same for more hardware intensive stuff like a video recorder and camera improvements. A real pity...

I use a handful of apps, but I wasn't expecting that many useful apps within the first month. The thing that stops me from trying out apps is when you have to create an account to use an app. I'm tired of creating accounts, so I don't bother most of the time. At least allow using OpenID if you're going to require a login.

I use NetNewsWire all of the time, and I play Trism and Cubes a whole lot. Some of the other apps I've downloaded would be more useful if I traveled all the time. A lot of people travel all the time, but I don't; I'm either at work, at home, or at the grocery store.
Oh, I use Todo all the time for my grocery list as well (I use RememberTheMilk to manage it from PCs.)
I would use AIM more, but it only works while I'm running it. Perhaps once Push Notification Service comes out...
As someone who used to have a Palm Treo 650 and a Cingular 8525, I would rather avoid the "oh my god, I can make my phone's indicator light blink SOS!" kind of application. While that sort of thing is cool, in my experience it can hose the phone.
N has a really good point about OpenID, too.

the problem with the apps so far is that they have not made the phone better. sure games are nice, and some allow quick access to certain things, but what about fixing some of the short comings?? a mms app for instance?? better mapping?? I mean, just how many different copies of the bible do we need?? most of what I have seen are basiclly time wasters. maybe apple clamps the screws down on ones that would do something that THEY should have done in the first place. the phone is a blank canvas and it seems like so much more could be done. I also wish they were broken down into groups. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that better is coming......

Think about how many times you think to yourself, it is only $2.00, if I don't like it, I am only out $2.00. Multiply that by the millions of people that are doing the exact same thing. There is your billion dollar business.

Apps I use daily:
Sol Free
If an App requires registration it gets trashed from my iPhone and iTunes.
Interesting free apps that arouse my curiosity are downloaded, played with and trashed if they are not likely to be used again.

I read an article recently about Loopt.
Will iPhone users find this app helpful or useful?

If you're looking forward more practical apps, I suggest Munch, OneTap Movies, AirYell and PowerGraph (if you're a student). A lot of apps are dumb, but these ones come in handy when everyone is trying to decide where to eat or what movie to go to. AirYell is just a really good directory app, like the Yellow Pages. And PowerGraph, if you're like me, comes in handy when you forgot your overly priced graphing calculator for class.
Apps are fun; and yes, dumb sometimes. But definitely fun.

Yo!. Definitely loved your post. It was especially educational and useful. I hope you do not mind me blogging regarding this article on my personal website. Will definitely link back to you. My blog is:index of games