App Downloads Have Slowed Down and We Need to Think What’s Next

Users are downloading less and less apps, what do we do next?

Cat plays with smartphone

Cat plays with smartphone

Paying closer attention to my own smartphone application use, it is interesting how I only use a small number of all the ones installed every day. These apps are the same ones I download first when setting up a new device –  my must haves.

The iPhone App Store launched in July of 2008 with just 552 apps (both paid and free) available for download. Google follow up with the Android Market – now Google Play – in October of the same year. In just those few years that followed, the app market has gone through tremendous growth benefiting the developers while propelling the individual (Android and iOS) platforms forward.

At the IO16 developer conference keynote, Google noted that more than 65-billion apps had been installed through Google Play in past year. And not to be left behind at the WWDC 2016 Apple reported that over 2-million apps were available in their App Store with over 130 billion downloads of those apps (this is compared to over 100-billion downloads as per WWDC 2015 making the yearly downloads about 30-billion.)


While these numbers are impressive, in the more mature smartphone markets, a slow down/drop in app downloads has been reported. This eventuality has made it hard for individual (indie) app developers to continue business with only a handful of big companies dominating application usage. Of the free applications available in the Google Playstore, those that have been downloaded over a billion times are either from Google or Facebook;

  • Google Apps: Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube, Hangouts, Search, Google+, Text-to-Speech, Play Books, Chrome, Play Games, Play Music, Drive)
  • Facebook: Facebook app, Whatsapp Messenger, Facebook Messenger)

And as per my personal use case noted at the beginning, users seem to have all the applications they want/need and are not looking for new ones. Daily interactions are with only a small number of applications. There are even reports that users download zero applications per month.

All this can be collaborated by new research from Nomura showing that last month the top 15 application publishers saw downloads drop an average of 20% in the US. In this part of the world where smartphone adoption numbers are still low and growing, it is expected that the app market continues upwards as well but not by much.

Noteable from this research is how two applications registered increased downloads while everyone else’s slowed and dropped – Uber and Snapchat.

It will be interesting to see how the App Stores change in the coming years to cater for these slow downs.


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By day, James is a techie for an intergovernmental organisation in Nairobi. His passion for technology and all things mobile goes beyond the work place though and as an observer of the space likes to write about the findings.


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