TechCrunch has an article this morning pointing at Pinch Media's analysis of iPhone app usage and it turns out that it drops considerably as days go by, with only 20% re-use the next day, 5% in 30 days, down to near 1% in 90 days. They extrapolate the numbers and suggest that only a small fraction of apps would benefit from advertising - since the re-use is so low.
This is great stuff to know, and as it fits with the overall history of mobiles, it makes me feel a little less nuts. I wrote a mea-culpa about the iPhone App Store a month ago after Apple announced 500M downloads as I didn't expect that level of success. It's interesting to see that even if iPhone users are downloading a shitload of new apps, they aren't re-using them really any more than any other downloadable service, and that games - as always - are the most popular and compelling.
The app that does get constant re-use? The App Store itself. All those new apps (30,000+) seemed to have created a never-ending supply of new stuff to try out, and users have responded accordingly and continued to try them out, making room for new apps by dumping old ones.
It leads to lots of interesting questions. Will an eventual slow-down of new iPhone apps spur users to start using their existing apps more, making advertising supported apps more viable? Or maybe tens of thousands of apps are good enough to keep anyone busy downloading for years - at least until the next version of the iPhone comes out. What sort of success are the competing app stores from Google, Nokia, etc. going to have? Will they (errr.. we) be able to create a mobile download experience that's as compelling and prone to re-use as Apple's?
And most importantly, what can be done to improve the re-use of apps? My answer to the last question is one word: Alerts. An application that reminds you periodically (at your request, of course) to use it, will get re-used. I've been saying this for years - it's all about getting your user to pull the phone out of their pocket and use your app (or website, actually). For social apps, alerts are easy - just look at what Facebook does to send messages and updates. For games, it could be as simple as high-score updates. For other apps, it could be reminders, news, etc.
Anyways, this year should be interesting to see where this is all headed. Will mobile apps be a fad that doesn't extend beyond Apple, or will it become something that every mobile platform must have to survive. Like I (also) always say, I've yet to see a killer mobile app beyond the basics of web and communications, so I'm honestly not sure of the answer.