With another interesting year in digital media in the books, we can now begin our retrospective view of what happened in 2012 in order help bring the digital future into focus. There is little doubt that the Brave New Digital World is upon us and more than ever before we’re seeing the existing norms of the PC-centric web being disrupted by mobile channels.
While tablets are gaining steam at a rapid clip, smartphone apps remain the key drivers of media consumption in the post-PC paradigm with the majority of mobile Internet access occurring from smartphones and 4 out of every 5 minutes on smartphones spent on apps. The app space is highly competitive and it’s getting more and more important every day for media brands to ensure they are carving out that valuable real estate on consumers’ screens.
The latest Comscore Mobile Metrix ranking of the top mobile apps by audience shows that Facebook finished the year strong to capture the #1 position from Google Maps. Of course Apple’s decision to replace Google Maps with Apple Maps on iOS 6 also caused a decline in Google Maps usage in October, which is largely responsible for the position swap. Meanwhile, Google Maps has been clawing its way back the past few months after getting reinstated on iOS 6, so look for the competition for the #1 spot to heat up as we head into 2013.
Despite losing the top position, Google maintains a strong leadership position in the app market with five of the top six ranked apps. Given the ubiquity of various Google services in addition to many being native apps on both iOS and Android, its strength should perhaps not come as a surprise. Other apps rounding out the ranking include Pandora, iTunes, Cooliris and Yahoo! Messenger.
In addition to owning the top app audience ranking, Facebook has consistently ranked #1 in terms of mobile app engagement. Their app currently accounts for 23% of time spent on apps, while sister app Instagram owns another 3% of the market. Various Google apps combine to account for 10% of time spent, with Gmail owning the highest individual share at 3%. These two leading web companies combine for more than 1 out of every 3 minutes spent on mobile apps.
2013 will present an interesting dynamic as Google and Facebook wrestle for app supremacy, while other media properties look to carve out a niche or establish a more prominent position. Will Twitter, Amazon or eBay find their way into the top 10 apps this year? Will engagement on the Netflix app skyrocket as people become more comfortable viewing video on their phones? What will be the next Instagram to come out of nowhere to build an audience of tens of millions in a few short months?
If there is one thing we can all bet on, it’s that the market will look very different a year from now. And may the best apps win.