The Rise and Fall of the Mobile App

Tim Butler Picture

by Tim Butler | Last Updated: Oct 26, 2016

How many times have we all heard: "There's an app for that"? It’s a phrase that is still used to this day, especially with the new "App Economy". But personally, I think it is getting a bit old. Sure, when looking for information or productivity tools, the app store used to be my first stop. Maybe I did it for the novelty to see what apps I could find, but after the first year or so, the novelty wore off. After numerous times finding an app, to only discover that it did not help me achieve my desired outcome, I was finding myself heading to the app store less often.

"There's an app for that"….but is there really?

The novelty wear-off was just the beginning. Alas, as I kept using my good ‘ol iPhone 4, I found myself constantly deleting other items on my phone in order to make room for a new app. The cycle continued, and it felt like an endless loop of that new Google commercial. After one too many rounds of find an app, delete an app, repeat, I found myself going straight to my internet browser and just using the search bar. Nowadays, I realize that many of those times I was in "the now" and just needed information to help me at that specific moment, I no longer needed the “there’s an app for that” experience that the app market had built itself on at the dawn of the smartphone era. In my moment of need, I didn’t have time to wait for the download. I didn’t want to use the last of that iTunes gift card I got for Christmas to pay for it. I didn’t want to give up one of my apps just to make room for another. It was official: apps had warmed out their welcome on my phone. As an engineer, I began to question: Do others have app fatigue or is it just me?

Do we have "App Fatigue"?

This was a question I began asking myself. I wanted to find out if others were feeling the same way, so I did my research and found that there is definitely a change going on in the world of mobile, particularly with the usage of apps versus mobile focused web content. Over the past couple of years, ComScore reports that the year-over-year growth of app usage has declined by more than 10% per year, with the last apparent growth in Q4 of 2014. This leads me to believe that perhaps we are closely approaching peak app usage, with fatigue setting in a bit.

Graphic and Information Source: comScore Mobile Metric, U.S., Age 18+

I decided to dive in even deeper to my personal app usage habits. Every trend I saw in my usage habits was matched by cold, hard facts: I hardly download apps anymore, and over the past year, 49% of smartphone users download less than two apps per year; In the moment of need, I typically turn to an internet search instead of an app, which 91% of mobile users tend to do as well. It appears that over course of the past year, the amount of unique visitors to mobile websites has increased by 36%, which is considerable when comparing against the whopping 7% growth experienced by mobile apps over the same time. All of the sudden, my phone usage and how I interact with content on my phone seemed to be deemed the norm, not the outlier. People may not have experienced full-blown app fatigue, but it is evident that the last thing people are saying today is "There's an app for that".

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