App usage overtakes web & voice on smartphones

According to a report released last week by Zokem and GSMA, app usage is the second most common smartphone activity, trailing only messaging.

I have a few issues with these findings, but it still contains a useful message.

I take issue with two points of this report. First, they report usage in terms of "minutes", not "data transfered", "number of uses", or any measure of the utility of the medium. Considering how slowly most people type on smartphones, saying that I spend 30% more time on email than voice calls is not very meaningful.

Also, the dividing lines between these categories are very fuzzy. Many of the apps I use are essentially single-purpose web browsers, and many apps replace functionality I would normally get from a browser as well. So if I can check email using the iPhone's native capabilities (categorized as "Messaging"), from a dedicated app, or via my web browser, how does my time get labeled? What if I make a phone call using an app, such as Skype?

Despite these concerns, there is still an important message. When there are multiple tools available to accomplish a given task, people prefer to use a dedicated app -- especially for tasks they perform on a regular basis.

In other words, if I am looking for information on a company's product, and it is a one time only purchase, I will use my web browser. If I use that company's products regularly, I will use their app.

For marketers, this means there are two situations where you should look at developing an app:

1. There is a specific task related to your product for which you can create a tool (ie, a brick cost estimator app), or

2. You anticipate customers frequently accessing your catalog, guide specs, etc.

If either of those fit your needs, consider creating an app. If not, your app will probably be perceived more as a vanity/marketing project and is less likely to be downloaded or used.