August 23, 2011

Games, News Apps Top iPad User Engagement Categories

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iPad users spend the longest periods of time reading news, listening to music, and accessing health and fitness apps, according to a new study from mobile app analytics company Localytics. Based on data from apps subscribing to the firm’s analytics platform, users spend over two and a half times as much time on news apps than on apps in general.

To determine this, Localytics analyzed the average session length – that is, the average time a user spends between opening an app and finishing and closing it – and compared it across categories. Compared with the overall average session length for iPad users, apps in the “news” category clocked in with sessions two and a half times longer, followed by music apps (228% of the average), health and fitness apps (210%), and reference apps (162%).

Average session length of various iPad application categories

Interestingly, it appears that iPad users spend shorter-than-expected periods of time playing games and interacting with their entertainment apps. Localytics has some theories based on the data, including:

  • Getting a news app onto an iPad user’s device seems to generate extremely long interactions between app and user
  • iPad users appear to be playing short, more casual games, rather than in-depth time-consuming ones
  • Sports apps may be used more to check scores than to truly delve into sports stories and news
  • iPads and tablets appear to be very conducive to deeper, more information-packed experiences, such as reference and health apps

These levels of interaction do have an important message to app marketers: know your audience, and pick the right type of app to generate the most engagement possible. While a business tool may be a very useful app to create for your clients, an engaging news app can generate up to three times the engagement per session.

App Usage Frequency

Moving further into the engagement metrics does provide some interesting depth to the vertical impact discussion. Localytics also looked at data on sessions per app per month, separated by app vertical, to see which type of app receives the largest number of user interactions per month.

Analytics breakdown of app engagement frequency by mobile app category

While news apps still rank near the top of the average sessions list, Games apps dominate in an impressive fashion. With Games, News and Music apps rounding out the top of the frequency engagement list, another view of the most engaging apps appears.

Some observations:

  • Sports and entertainment apps remain relatively poor at generating user engagement
  • Despite long user sessions, reference apps appear to be rarely used
  • The iPad’s reputation as a reading and gaming device appears well deserved

Improving Your App’s User Engagement

So as an app marketer, you have many potential ways of improving your user interaction rates. Looking at both metrics, News apps are by far and away the most effective at grabbing a user’s attention, but Games apps are by far and away used the most often. So, depending on what your app does, this presents opportunities perhaps to increase usage frequency by adding a game, or to increase engagement length by adding a solid news section.

In the meantime, remember that Localytics mobile app analytics will be there every step of the way with important insights and metrics into the effectiveness of your mobile app strategy.

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