U.S. Mobile Users Spend The Most Time In Facebook And Instagram, Elsewhere Messaging Apps Dominate

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Messaging apps are becoming the most heavily-used type of app in a majority of key markets worldwide, based on both smartphone sessions and time spent in apps. However, according to new data from App Annie, the U.S. is an exception to that trend. Here, Facebook still dominates in terms of smartphone sessions, while both Facebook and Instagram led by time spent in apps.

The data collected was based on Android sessions in the first quarter of this year, so it’s not necessarily a full picture of the mobile application ecosystem or app usage – but it is sourced from one of the industry’s largest datasets on mobile data. In fact, App Annie’s dataset recently grew following its acquisition of  mobile measurement firm Mobidia last week. The firm is able to now detail app usage data from millions of users across 60 countries.

With Mobidia and App Annie’s data combined, the company put out its first-ever report examining usage-level trends regarding mobile applications, which looked, in particular, at countries like the U.S., U.K., Germany, Japan, and South Korea.

Not surprisingly, given that smartphones are primarily communication devices, the report found that within every key market, apps in the Communication and Social categories accounted for at least 40% of smartphone sessions on Android. And that trend was similar to how users spent time in apps, says App Annie.

In the U.S., Social remained the top category based on sessions per active user, thanks to Facebook’s prominent position here. But in the U.K., Germany, Japan, and South Korea, Communication was in the #1 position, referring to their preference for messaging apps.

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In many of these countries, the Communication and Social categories dominate app sessions. For example, in South Korea, the two categories accounted for around 60% of smartphone app sessions. And the U.S. and Germany were not far behind. (See chart below.)

That means users are launching these sorts of apps more often than any other category of app on their phones, including mobile games.

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Meanwhile, time spent in apps was also ruled by the Social and Communication categories. In both the U.S. and Germany again, the two accounted for approximately 60% of time spent in apps on Android smartphones. In South Korea and Japan, the time spent in the apps was slightly lower, but still accounted for 45% of total time spent in apps during Q1.

There are some differences about which apps are most popular in these countries, however, which speaks to regional differences and preferences for communication. For example, in the U.S., users seem to lean more towards one-to-many communication through social networks, while other countries appear to favor one-to-one communication.

To illustrate that point: Facebook saw the most smartphone sessions in the U.S., while Facebook and Instagram saw the most time spent in apps. In the other countries, messaging apps were more popular in both areas, including apps like WhatsApp, LINE, and KakaoTalk.

However, the Chrome browser app sees a ton of usage as well – it was the second highest app on Android by sessions per active users, and also in the top 3 in the U.K., Germany, and Japan.

What’s notable about its inclusion in these rankings is how it indicates the shift taking place as to where consumers spend their time as they move from desktop to mobile. On computers, the browser was the primary means of accessing the wider web and engaging with content. But on mobile, much of users’ time and web consumption is spent using social apps. That why recent moves like Facebook’s announcement that it will offer full news articles that open up right in the News Feed make sense – for many consumers, Facebook is the web when they’re on their phones.

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Though most of App Annie’s initial data is referencing the Android user base, the firm did point to similar findings on iOS as well. On Apple’s platform, messaging apps took the top spot among users in South Korea (KakaoTalk), Japan (LINE), and Germany (WhatsApp). And on iPhones in the U.S., direct communications apps (messaging and calls) were also among the most heavily used.

Also, the top five person-to-person communication apps by average monthly active U.S. iPhone users saw over 7 times as many average monthly sessions per active user as the leading game apps and the leading music streaming apps.

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The full report also dives into other trends from the year so far, including mobile gaming and data usage, an area where South Korea leads.