In the ever-evolving digital world, a whopping 98% of smartphone users (approximately 255.8 million people) are projected to dive into the world of apps this year according to Insider Intelligence’s Mobile App Users 2023 report. Yet, there’s an intriguing shift occurring – the average user is downloading fewer apps and sticking to their preferred ones across various categories.
Most new app users aren’t tech-savvy wizards; they’re simply new to smartphones. We’re witnessing around 4 million fresh faces entering the world of smartphone apps annually. But these newcomers aren’t the ones who’ve held out on apps; they’re a result of the growing number of people embracing smartphones.
In a twist, users are bucking the trend of app exploration. Even though the app universe keeps expanding, users are actually downloading and trying out fewer apps with each passing year. In 2023, a typical smartphone user will have 18.5 apps on their device, which is 2.5 fewer than in 2020. This trend can be chalked up to users finding their favorite apps and sticking with them.
The reason users open fewer apps is that modern apps are doing more. They’re becoming like “super-apps,” a concept popularized by Asian apps such as WeChat, AliPay, and Grab. These apps pack a variety of services into one, making life simpler. X, formerly known as Twitter, is actively working towards its goal of becoming a “super-app” or, as they refer to it, an “everything app.” While this approach works wonders in places with limited infrastructure, in the West, where apps are aplenty, it’s leading to users having fewer apps on their devices.
Interestingly, 15 out of 17 app categories are on track to outgrow the number of new app users. Between 2023 and 2026, the overall number of smartphone app users is expected to grow by about 1.54% each year. Most app categories are set to outpace this rate, meaning that the average smartphone user is gradually exploring more app categories.
As the app landscape transforms, users are leaning into their favorite apps and shying away from exploration. A recent report that indicates revenue soared despite a decline in app downloads in the US App Store serves as a good example of this situation.