U.S. Mobile Users Opt for Facebook, Instagram

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Communication and social networking apps are most popular with mobile users in major markets around the world, according to a new report from the app intelligence  platform App Annie. However, App Annie's "Insights into App Engagement: Q1 2015" finds that users in different regions show "subtle but important variations" in which apps they prefer. 

Android smartphone users in the U.S., for example, spend the most communication/social sessions with Facebook, according to the report. In the U.K. and Germany, on the other hand, the top communication/social app by number of sessions is WhatsApp Messenger. 

Mobile gaming apps, meanwhile, are more heavily used in Asia than anywhere else in the world. Compared to mobile gamers in the U.S., for instance, active users in Japan spend four times as much time in playing sessions.

Messaging 'the Center of Mobile Life'

App Annie's first-ever spotlight on app usage looks at data  from January through March of this year about habits in five key markets: the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Japan and South Korea. The data covers both Android and iOS mobile device users. 

"For app publishers looking to make the most of the opportunities available in the app economy, understanding the way the users interact with apps on their devices is a key component of forming an effective app strategy," the company said in its report. 

For users across the five key markets, social and communication apps lead the way, App Annie found. "Their position as the center of mobile life is highlighted by recent developments such as Facebook Messenger's transition to a full messaging platform," according to the report.

Gaming 'Huge' in Asia

Android users in the U.S. and Germany spend about 60 percent of their app time in social and communication apps, the report noted. For users in South Korea and Japan, that figure is around 45 percent. 

"(I)t is notable that the United States saw Facebook dominate Android smartphone sessions, whereas the other markets all saw more sessions from messaging apps," the report said. "Likewise, by time spent in apps, the social networks Facebook and Instagram led in the United States whereas messaging apps were more prominent in other markets." 

The report noted, "It appears that U.S. Android smartphone users lean more towards one-­to­-many communication through social networks, whereas app usage in other markets (particularly Germany, Japan and South Korea) is weighted slightly more towards direct one­-to­-one (or one­-to­-few communication)." 

Meanwhile, mobile gaming in Asian markets is "huge," the report found. "Although games provide the majority of app store revenue in all markets, the extent of the dominance reflected time spent in games per user. In Japan and South Korea, over 90 percent of iOS and Google Play app store revenue comes from games, whereas games accounted for approximately 70 percent of app store revenue in the United Kingdom and around 80 percent in the United States in Q1 2015." 

App Revenue Growth 'Remarkable'

We asked Jake Ward, Co-Founder of the Application Developers Alliance, about the findings of the App Annie report. "I think some may find it surprising that games did not represent a bigger block of usage in the U.S., given the popularity of and staggering revenue numbers from mobile game companies like King and SuperCell, and because it is easy to overlook the utility and ubiquity of apps like Facebook and Twitter," he told us.

Ward also said, "Short of a report citing a shrinking app market or reductions in app generated revenue, almost nothing would surprise in the current environment. The staggering revenue growth trend is remarkable, to say the least, but most indicators would point toward that type of growth for the foreseeable future. "

When asked what the report's findings suggest about future trends, Ward told us that predictions in this market are a dime a dozen and worth even less in the long-run. 

"But I'll place a bet -- as the app user market continues to mature internationally (as it has done in the U.S.) there will be a continued move toward communications and utility/professional tool app use in Asia and Latin America," he told us. "There will, of course, always be a gaming market globally, but older users use apps for different reasons and publishers will respond by building more and better apps."