September 23, 2015

How the Power of Habit Drives Mobile App Usage


Senior Vice President, Marketing & Insights

Earlier this week comScore released our 2015 U.S. Mobile App Report, which is full of interesting new findings on the importance of apps to the digital landscape and how consumers are engaging with them. Through our thorough investigation of how people use apps, one of the most common themes that cropped up was just how important the power of habit was in driving app usage.

We spend more time than ever before using our mobile devices, but particularly our smartphones. What’s become clear is that much of how we use our smartphones occurs on a very habitual, almost unconscious basis. Here are some of the highlight findings from this report illustrating just how ingrained our behaviors have become:

1. Americans Spend 2+ Hours/Day on Smartphone Apps; for Millennials it’s 3+ Hours
If any stat from this report underscores Americans’ collective addiction to their smartphones, it’s how much time they are spending within their apps each day. Among all U.S. adults for the month of June 2015, it was 68 hours per user and among Millennials it was a staggering 91 hours per user – or more than 3 hours per day. While tablet app usage is also an important piece of overall engagement, it falls far below smartphone usage – and interestingly sees more of a skew toward older adults as opposed to Millennials.

2. 50% of All App Time is Concentrated Within Our #1 App, and 88% is Within the Top 5
Considering the outrageous amount of time we are spending within our apps, one of the more astounding findings from the report is how much of that activity is concentrated within the small handful of a user’s most-frequented apps. An almost unbelievable 50% of all time spent on smartphone apps occurs just within a user’s #1 most used app. And nearly 8 out of every 9 minutes occurs within that user’s top five apps.

3. The Apps Appearing on our Home Screen are Also the Most Likely to be Used
Now first, let’s qualify this finding. An app is likely to appear on one’s home screen because it is a user’s favorite, but it is also likely to get used more because it’s on the home screen. While the correlation of this behavior is pretty clear, we can’t say definitively how much of this relationship is causal. Nevertheless, it would be hard to argue that home screen real estate isn’t supremely valuable for an app. Below we can see that Facebook is at the head of the pack in terms of app usage, and it also jumps to the top of the list in its likelihood of being positioned on the home screen – which is true for nearly 50% of smartphone users. Many of the other most-used apps like YouTube, Google Maps and Google Search are also among the most likely to occupy that valuable home screen real estate.

Which Individual Apps are Succeeding by Tapping into the Power of Habit?
So it’s clear that the power of habit is very important in driving app usage, and given the scarcity of people’s attention, digital media companies are really challenged to figure out ways to tap into these habits if they want their apps to get used. There are several great examples of publishers and retailers who have figured out unique ways to leverage these behaviors to achieve massive success, which I will share in a follow-up blog post.

To get your complimentary copy of The 2015 U.S. Mobile App Report, please visit this link.

Related Products

Mobile Metrix

comScore Mobile Metrix® captures total mobile audience behavior on browsers and apps across smartphones and tablets. With Mobile Metrix, publishers can demonstrate the value...
Learn More