Mobile Matures and Consolidates

comScore released its annual US mobile app report yesterday. The data comes from a large mobile panel of US smartphone users that comScore maintains.

The story is one of maturity and consolidation, themes we have visited a lot on AVC in the last few years.

This is the most interesting slide in my view:


If I am reading this chart correctly, digital media time spent across desktop web, mobile app, and mobile web only grew 2% in the last year. That is a significant slowdown from prior years when time spent spent was growing 20% per year or more driven by very large growth in mobile.

Again, this is US data only. The US is among the most saturated markets in the world. But even so, this is a pretty significant slowdown.

This is the second most interesting slide in my view:


Ten of the top twenty-five mobile apps (also ten out of the top twenty mobile apps) by UV are owned by Facebook, Google, and Apple. That’s not new news. The number was similar last year. But this level of consolidation in a maturing market is quite telling.

So is there a ray of hope anywhere in the comScore report? If there is, it is with Millennials who use all of these top apps frequently, but are also drawn to a different set up apps that are younger and less mainstream:


Snapchat is the poster child for an app (and a company) that has taken a different approach and built a lasting and defensible mobile franchise in the process. There are some other names on this list that I think are heading in a similar direction and three of them are USV portfolio companies (SoundCloud, Wattpad, and Kik).


Comments (Archived):

  1. Brad Lindenberg

    Fred congrats on having 3 apps on the list!I would like to know why they don’t rank Apple Mail, iMessage and Apple Calendar but they rank Gmail, FB Messenger etc. even though they are bundled with the phone I’d like to see where they rank, especially the calendar.

    1. Matt Zagaja

      I don’t spend tons of time in my calendar it just sends me alerts to tell me where to go. On my watch.

    2. Russell

      likely because their sample panel skews heavily to Android users. As an iPhone user i didn’t even know there was a google search app…

  2. Chimpwithcans

    Surprised how big Pandora Radio is in USA. SoundCloud can surely take them on.

    1. Ryan Frew

      Pandora has a massive arsenal of “mainstream” songs that can be listened to with ads. Soundcloud just offers 30 second previews from their biggest artists, unless the user has Premium.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        You are talking pop music, right? I’m totally in love with music, but I hate essentially all pop music. Do some people actually listen to that stuff? After about two seconds of hearing that stuff by accident, I rush to turn it off!

      2. Chimpwithcans

        Yep, I think SC needs to be careful not to try take on the other streaming services at their own game. SC truly differs in its focus on artists uploading, rather than consumers consuming.

    2. Susan Rubinsky

      Absolutely. LOVE SoundCloud. Pandora, Meh.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        Music on mobile? That leaves out a lot of Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Rossini, Puccini, Verdi, Rachmaninoff, etc., a lot from orchestras, organs, etc.!

        1. Chimpwithcans

          All those composers are available no? Are you talking sound quality?

          1. sigmaalgebra

            Yes, sound quality and, maybe also, bothering people nearby!E.g., as in…at the peak of passion of poor Quasi Modo lusting after the young Maureen O’harahttps://upload.wikimedia.or…Ah, some things are so good they can NEVER be improved on!In that performance, von Karajan has the cymbal crash, i.e., climax, muted! It must be a PG performance!GOD I HATE, HATE, HATE!!!!!!!!! pop music. Instead, so much really good music and so little time to listen to it, play it, etc.

          2. Chimpwithcans

            I hear you. Though I like pop music, I feel an anxiety over the amount of good music to immerse myself in, and the time I have left to do it!

        2. Susan Rubinsky

          I own a lot of classical. Jazz too. I’ve been ripping my Mom’s immense library of CDs, a few a week, for a couple of years now. I play it on my Sonos system but also have a copy of my complete music library in Google Play so I can listen anywhere.My son also owns a lot of music. He’s 19. He told me that he prefers to own it so he can make his own playlists and listen whenever, wherever he is. He also uses Spotify and SoundCloud. Not sure if he uses Pandora.

      2. Chimpwithcans

        I love it too. Other streaming services trade on nostalgia and the past, but I believe SoundCloud is focussed on the present and future. User experience could be easier for newbies as consumers on SC.

  3. Joe Lazarus

    I’m always surprised to see the Weather Channel on these lists. Of course weather is a common activity, but surprised a startup or big tech company hasn’t taken that category.

    1. Chris Phenner

      IBM owns The Weather Company now (a ‘big tech company’), FYI.

      1. Joe Lazarus

        Interesting. I didn’t know that. Surprising acquisition for IBM.I think there’s an opportunity for a startup to create a weather 2.0 app. Some have tried, but they all seem like partial solutions to me. I’m picturing a fun brand (like Poncho), useful notifications (like Dark Sky), maybe some social features (ex. highlight unusual weather your friends are experiencing) and a slick mobile interface.

  4. William Mougayar

    I’m surprised that the mobile Web has such a small share. I’m on my mobile browser way more than inside Apps.

    1. Matt Zagaja

      I wonder how much is actually apps versus web views in the apps. I can read lots of articles without leaving Tweetbot or Facebook. Though now also really enjoying the updated Apple News in iOS 10.

      1. Jess Bachman

        Yeah. Almost all of my app usage is really just app-versions of websites. Twitter and reddit. I hardly use any truly native apps.

        1. sigmaalgebra

          I was guessing that, and hoping for it. So, for my startup, it’s just a Web site although one that looks good in a window as narrow as 800 pixels and is still usable on a window as narrow as 300 pixels so should be fine for the mobile Web. Also, the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are all dirt simple, use only features right up to date as of about 10 years ago so should have at most meager compatibility problems. So, I’m not planning a special app.

          1. Jess Bachman

            I’m in the same boat with

    2. Susan Rubinsky

      I often send myself links to things I find through apps so I can go home and read/view it later on a bigger screen. Sometimes I chromecast to tv, sometimes I open on my computer, depending on content type.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        > on a bigger screenIs that permitted? Don’t you have to keep that secret from the Apple and Android Mobile Police?

        1. Susan Rubinsky

          LOL. Well, small screens get tiresome. Sometimes you want to read something, especially longer journalistic pieces or long reports, white papers, etc. on a larger screen. Just look at the screenshots Fred provided above. They are too small to see clearly. Sometimes you want to look deeply and also see the whole thing on your screen.

        2. Mark Essel


      2. creative group

        Susan Rubinsky:Do you use peripherals HDMI connectors from phone to TV. We seen a Bluetooth hardware solution but don’t know if it works with any TV or phone.Thanks in advance

        1. Susan Rubinsky

          I just use wi-fi and my phone to connect to Chromecast. Some content won’t display through Chromecast.

    3. Richard

      The chart could be explained away by the fact that it is measuring total use across all ages groups and heavy users are heavy because of Facebook

    4. Jared Anderson

      I always get tripped up on this stat as well but the key words are “time spent” not visits. Mobile web sessions exceed app sessions but consumers are in and out more frequently.

      1. William Mougayar

        Good point on time spent. But that still doesn’t tip the balance for me. Maybe for others who play games and stream inside Apps.Btw- those stats are more accurate directly from your smartphone via an App that tells you exactly how much time you spend & where.

  5. Sebastian Wain

    These graphics are interesting from a pure consumer/end-user perspective, but how about the usage of mobile phone apps for business? The stats will be completely different. Probably Slack and Google Docs would be at the top.

  6. William Mougayar

    An interesting chart on how Facebook affected publishers. The dichotomy in this is that we read those stories on Facebook instead of at the source. Facebook becomes that filter.

    1. awaldstein

      filter for most of the world william.

      1. William Mougayar

        It’s a significant filter I’ll admit, but not for everything as far as I’m concerned.

        1. awaldstein

          Of course. And of course you are so not the normal user my friend.

    2. LE

      Facebook is an addiction. In time it will be replaced by another addiction.

    3. Cam MacRae

      Facebook becomes that filter. censor.

    4. sigmaalgebra

      Wow! Good to see much of the mainstream media bite the dust!I have next to nothing on Facebook, and connect to it likely less than once a month. And I have my Web browsers set to refuse cookies from Facebook (or any URL not on my small list of exceptions) in case they put a one pixel JPG file on screens from other Web sites as a way to get tracking data they can sell.I nearly never go to any of those news Web sites, either directly or via Facebook.E.g., I deeply, profoundly, bitterly, resent, hate, and despise the “deplorable”, disgusting, despicable, delusional, distorting, destructive, dangerous, manipulative propaganda arm of the DNC, the NYT. The NYT — a smelly, infected, open sore on NYC. DId I mention I HATE the NYT, nearly all they want, do, and all they intend to do? Psych-o, sick-o, wack-o NYT.NYT and global warming from human sources of CO2? All the way back to way before Medieval ugly, destructive superstitions, e.g., blame the cats for the plague when the cats were killing the rats with the fleas that were the real source of the plague. Sacrificing domestic animals, virgins, etc. That’s the NYT for you. Up-chuck. Gigantic failure in K-12 education.The Economist? Irritating. Pretentious. Incompetent. Disgusting. Next to pointless. Fills a much needed gap in the news. Apparently their pretense has given them an audience impressed by the pretense, and, thus, they keep up the pretense.But, right, there’s too much stuff on the Internet to go directly so need filters. So, I make a lot of use of Drudge. I’m eager enough for some other filters, with a wider range of content, but so far I don’t see any such filters.My guess is that we are at a great inflection point in civilization due to a total revolution in information from anything like news. The old ideas of how to run a newspaper are going, and the best of the new ideas will be much, much better for civilization.For each significant audience, there will be significant sources.In particular, some of the sources will go up, up, up, way, way up, nearly all the way up, astoundingly, even to common high school term paper writing standards, what a revolution, with good information, good evidence, complete quotes, with context, from primary sources, with rock solid references. Just think of that! Get the newsies all the way up to high school term paper writing standards!So, then, the newsies can no longer say that Trump insulted McCain by saying that McCain should not have been captured (just check the C-SPAN original materials and the history of the exchange back a week earlier to Trump’s Phoenix speech and McCain’s nasty response to see the lie), that Trump is racist, sexist, xenophobic, etc. without rock solid evidence of which I haven’t seen and so far don’t believe exists.That the NYT — totally in the tank for Hillary, no matter how nasty, how many really big lies, how many serious crimes, what she did to US national security, etc. — is down, down, down is some of the best news in years!

      1. pointsnfigures

        All The News That’s Fit to Twist—errr wait.

  7. awaldstein

    Corporate apps are a separate category as their numbers are smaller but the usage can be very strong as mandated items like wayfinding, proximity driven security access, snack bar usage and the like become standard.

    1. Jess Bachman

      Indeed, unique visitors is a poor proxy for value these days.

      1. awaldstein

        For consumer apps hard though to articulate a value unless there is a transactional piece that can work without it.And honestly, even with transactional, there is a market share piece that needs to be at some level to make sense.What are you thinking of?

        1. Jess Bachman

          Yeah, its nigh impossible to get a single benchmark. Apps so are so different. But I would take “daily opens” or “minutes per day” over “unique views. Of course comscore probably doesn’t have access to that data.

          1. awaldstein

            as in-engagement in some way.

  8. jason wright

    Peak mobile.”Ten of the top twenty-five mobile apps…” isn’t that the same multi branding defensive strategy we see in other markets? supermarket shelves stacked with washing powder brands made by the same company.”Millennials” – mass media speak.

  9. JimHirshfield

    I don’t have time to crunch all the numbers, but there’s a large cohort of internet users flying under the radar: users blocking all tracking. These users block Google Analytics, Omniture, Comscore, …all 3rd party tags. Probably on the order of 5M+ in the US alone. Granted that’s a small amount (1.7%) relative to 287M internet users in the US. But these users consume an outsized number of pageviews and time online (because their browsers load pages faster and they’re likely more tech savvy or tech workers).

    1. jason wright

      do you block tracking Jim?

      1. JimHirshfield

        Selectively, yes.

  10. Kurt Stangl

    Thanks for the head’s up!Definitely hitting the cap but the answer IMHO is good wages. All the people who have disposable income and time to use the device are. Growth now will be tied to rising income.

    1. Matt Zagaja

      I think you’re confusing good wages with shorter working hours. Tech is cheap enough that even lower income people can access it, and many have more free time to use it. My hypothesis is that much of the ceiling is getting the workaholics to be less so. Kind of like how the vacation industry lobbies once in a while for people to actually receive and take their paid time off.

      1. Kurt Stangl

        Thanks Matt, but no. I’m touching on two points.1) Tech is not cheap for a larger group of people than you might think. I find people who have never been to the other side of the tracks typically dont understand the poverty in our country. I do because I volunteer and work with people all the time.2) Those same underpaid people are working multiple jobs and don’t have time to play around with mobile devices.

        1. Matt Zagaja

          50% of those making <$30K/year own a smartphone according to Pew Global (… 2015, up from 43% in 2013. The US Census time user survey notes those in lower income brackets are working less than they used to while those in higher brackets work more hours (see…. I don’t doubt the veracity of your experience, but it is important to take a step back and confirm whether that experience is the average experience or at the outside of the distribution with data.

          1. Kurt Stangl

            Data is always better 🙂 I would argue that your numbers prove my point and matches the ComCast report. The market is saturated.

          2. Lawrence Brass

            I would like to see the same curve superimposed and correlated with ad-blockers usage growth or other factors such as phone sales. The decline is too sharp for natural saturation in my opinion.

          3. Kurt Stangl

            I agree. I’d love to see those numbers

      2. Susan Rubinsky

        Do you have any idea of little free time poor people have? That’s a mighty assessment that has no base in reality.

  11. TeddyBeingTeddy

    What do you think were the top pivitol decisions made by snapchst, yik yak etc to enable them to compete with the big boys early on?

    1. Jess Bachman

      Probably that they were decidedly NOT the big boys. Kids like stuff their parents “dont understand”. This is not a new thing.FYI, yikyak is on its way out.

  12. JaredMermey

    if I understand the last chart, it shows apps that – of their users – have a concentration of millennials as opposed to showing the top apps that millennials use. I guess the 1.5MM user threshold gives this a floor but not sure it 100% makes your point. My guess is if you had this same chart for people 40+ that it would be a list of apps that are fairly different than Top 25 visited apps too..

  13. Eric

    I’m curious what happened with the desktop in 2015?

  14. sigmaalgebra

    Nice. Nice data collection, manipulation, presentation.Conclusions? Hmm.First cut, it sounds like the situation is static, that is, there will be few or no more big changes.I don’t really believe “static”. Net, it’s too soon to conclude static.Resource UsageThe ComScore data is talking about people looking at screens, that is, at the uses of screens. So, let’s see some of how resources get used:What about copper? Humans worked with copper back to the bronze age and before. So, likely year by year, there was not much change. Then we got telephones and, boom, the world needed lots of copper wire.What about iron? The Iron Age went way back. Iron was used for tools, weapons, fasteners, etc. But overall steel was better, and iron went down.What about steel? Compared with iron, we got better tools, weapons, and fasteners but also steam engines. Then we put steel wheels on those engines and steel rails under the wheels and got trains. We put the steam engines in steel ships. We put up some steel bridges and buildings. Then maybe for a while the steel situation looked static, and then a guy in Detroit built the Model T, and soon the Great Lakes were busy with ships carrying iron ore, coal, and steel. We used a lot more steel.Lesson 1: For some resource, say, copper, iron, steel, its usage can rise and later fall, can come and go.So, for the ComScore data, we have the minutes people spend looking at screens, and we have to suspect that the screens are a resource with usages and/or applications that can come and go.Ups and DownsSo, let’s look a little more clearly at examples of resource usage ups and downs with four examples:(1) Iron went up, but steel was often better, and iron went down.(2) Copper went up, but electronic communications needed something much better, and we got GaAlAs heterojunction solid state lasers and optical fibers and wireless, and likely copper went down some.(3) Steam engines went up, but gasoline, Diesel, and electric motors are better in major ways, and steam engines went down.(4) For crossing the Atlantic, steam ships went up, but the Boeing 707 jet was better in many ways, and steam ships went down.LifetimesFor the resources in (1)-(4) that went up and then down, for each resource its lifetime was some decades.Lesson 2: A popular resource tends to have a lifetime of some decades.Time IntervalsEach decade we see only a few, such big changes in the major resources and their applications.So, looking at a time interval of just a few years, typically we don’t see many big, new things come or go.Lesson 3: Yes, the ComScore data from a time interval of just a few years makes the use of computer screens now look static, but that doesn’t mean that the situation really is static. Instead, from history, to see big things come/go, we need to look at longer intervals, a decade or two.Lesson 4: To change the situation described by ComScore, just need some good, new applications, in simple terms, just some good, new reasons for people to look at the screens.A Little MoreSo, what the heck is mobile?First, mobile was for portable telephones. For a lot of people, portable phones were from fun and convenient up to important.Second, people used desktop computers for e-mail, news, weather, blogs, checking Facebook, etc., but with mobile they could do much the same away from their desktop computers.Third, there are some mobile applications, e.g., Uber, that make good use of the mobility.Fourth, the smartphones make amazing audio recorders, cameras, and video recorders.So, so far, the uses of mobility via smartphones, tablets, etc., are mostly relatively simple variations on what people did with desktop computers.Lesson 5: Mobile has, except just for the mobility, not brought us a lot that is really new in computing for the end user. Compared with a desktop or laptop, a mobile device has a poor keyboard, poor mouse, small screen, restricted range of applications software, and some new, severe computer management and security problems.E.g., apparently as US Secretary of State, Hillary was checking her e-mail on her home-brew, DIY, home basement e-mail server by walking out on an open balcony of the State Department building and using her wireless Blackberry with no encryption. So, in the neighborhood there were hackers with equipment for receiving the wireless signals and, thus, getting Hillary’s e-mail URL, login name, and password that they promptly used via the Internet to download all of Hillary’s e-mail including the parts classified higher than Top Secret?Astounding — Boom!Mobile devices are an astounding application of microelectronics. Just astounding.So, with that electronics, people can talk and check e-mail and Facebook while they walk!And in the third world, it was easier to install the infrastructure for wireless than for land-line, and that meant nearly all new third world phones were smartphones.Boom! A lot of smartphones got sold.SummarySo, what about Mobile Matures and Consolidates Well, the initial explosive growth from the astounding microelectronics is over, but, basically, for powerful computing, as a client side device smartphones are mostly inferior to larger devices, laptops and desktops.Uh, “powerful computing”? Sure, I have an implicit assumption that the main point about computing is that it will continue to become more and more powerful, much more powerful than now.Lesson 6: In the growth of computing, mobile has been a blip as a new client side device, better in some ways, less good in others, but more broadly the growth of computing continues without maturing or consolidating.

  15. PhilipSugar

    What would be interesting to me is to see the Top 100 corporate apps for consumers.I.e. Hilton, American Air, etc.So many companies say they have to have an app, but I wonder what their usage is.

    1. awaldstein

      I use a few-like AA, Starwood and others but honestly for my own work the quality that I can get with responsive design in most instances does the trick.

      1. Wyatt Brown

        My AA app has been a buggy junk-app for me (3 years in). Do you find it useful and stable?

    2. Wyatt Brown

      The apps you mention are mainly intelligence gathering and marketing tools. This is something that HTML5/mobile sites cannot do well, because the website does ‘live’ on the user’s device. Maybe the ROI is in the intel and the user-touch that the app offers? Do you use any ‘corporate’ apps that you love?

  16. Richard

    Why is graph 1 surprising, it shows mobile web and app to be up 16% year over year?

    1. Salt Shaker

      +10%, no?(125MM+864MM/118MM+779MM=10%)

      1. Richard

        No, the intra-segment growth would be the metric of importance. What Fred overlooks (it hasn’t been his high energy week) is that the aggregate growth of 2% is skewed because so much of the lag time to jump from desktop to mobile.

        1. Salt Shaker

          true, but it’s up 16pp, not 16%

          1. Richard

            11% mobile app, 5% mobile web

          2. Salt Shaker

            There off of 2 diff bases. You have to recalculate per my comment above. It’s a 16 percentage point gain (11+5) but the combined growth rate in minutes is 10%.

  17. Lawrence Brass

    Fred, do you think the slowdown may have a recessive component too? I ask you this because 26%, 21%, 5% don’t seems natural, the decline is too sharp in my op.

  18. Salt Shaker

    U.S. pop mobile penetration is 81%, and within that base approx 80% own a smartphone. Stated a diff way, 19% of U.S. pop doesn’t own a mobile phone and 20% that do don’t own a smartphone. Still plenty of opportunity for mobile hardware growth and upgrades to drive consumption/usage. May be a tad premature to characterize mobile as mature. Slowing, yes perhaps, mature not so sure.

  19. marcoliver

    What would be relevant is to see what apps in what area, time and frequency.

  20. ShanaC

    I’m sort of amazed at the staying power of Mint – more than one company has tried to replace it on mobile but that doesn’t appear to be happeningThe other question: why are there no true productivity tools outside of Drive and Email? What’s up with that