MTV Networks' Mobile Apps Study Reveals the Life Cycle of an App: From Discovered to Discarded

New Research Finds That 73% of Consumers Discover Apps via Personal Recommendations or User Reviews

Jun 07, 2011, 10:30 ET from MTV Networks

NEW YORK, June 7, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- MTV Networks (MTVN), a division of Viacom (NYSE: VIA, VIA.B), today revealed the results from its "Love 'Em or Leave 'Em: Adoption, Abandonment and the App-Addled Consumer" study. The research takes a groundbreaking look at the life cycle of apps, from how they're found to why they're ultimately cherished or deleted.

Drawing on a quantitative survey of more than 1,300 self-reported daily mobile app users, as well as qualitative, in-depth interviews with dedicated app consumers, MTVN found that apps are changing the lives of users by acting as a digital extension of their physical selves. Apps provide more pleasure, more free time and more new worlds to discover:

  • 91% said apps expose them to new things.
  • 87% said apps let them have fun no matter where they are or what they're doing.
  • 77% said apps are their personal assistant.
  • 75% said apps give them time to relax.
  • 73% said apps allow time to connect and interact with family and friends.
  • 70% said apps make the rest of life better.

One participant went so far as to say that "apps are like Xanax in a phone" and overall, 83% of people in the study said they were addicted to apps. As part of a deprivation experiment, MTVN asked several study participants to spend three days without using an app. After the time expired, they were asked what would happen if they were withheld for two weeks.

"I don't think you'd find me alive after the second week," said one young woman. Others offered to give up newspapers, skateboards, sports, hairdryers and even food.

When asked in the quantitative portion of the study what they would rather go a year without than their favorite app, 69% of men said their favorite news source, while 68% said coffee. For women, 68% would rather go a year without soda and 63% said their favorite reality show.

But not all apps lead to this strong of a reaction. So to breakdown the process of how apps are ultimately devoured or discarded, MTVN found four stages in the app life cycle:

1. Discovery

Discovery is driven almost exclusively by the recommendation culture. Out of those surveyed, 53% said that personal recommendations are important in deciding which apps to download, while 52% relied on user reviews and 42% said seeing a friend use a particular app was a critical component. Additionally, 47% discovered apps via app stores from Apple and Android.

2. Adoption

Recommendations also play an important role in the decision to actually download an app, but users look for a higher degree of certainty when they buy an app, as opposed to downloading one for free.

  • For free apps, a higher number of positive ratings drives most consumers (50%) to download. The second most-important factor (43%) is personal recommendation.
  • For a paid app, however, price (63%), followed by whether there is a free or lite preview version of the app (49%) are the biggest factors in whether or not to download.

"Our brands live and die on buzz," said Colleen Fahey Rush, Executive Vice President and Chief Research Officer, MTV Networks. "But app discovery and adoption is just as driven by buzz as any other content that we create."

3. Trial

TV and movie apps can have a shelf life of just a few weeks (38% are deleted in the first three weeks after download), but they do offer multiple chances to engage consumers, as two-thirds of them (66%) are checked at least once a day.

When users find an entertainment app that they love, they're often hooked. Two-thirds check their favorite TV or Movie app at least once a day, with nearly half (44%) checking it several times a day. And for each time it's open, 45% spend more than 10 minutes with their favorite TV or Movie app.

For gaming apps, the grace period is a little longer. Fewer than 20% of gaming apps are deleted in the first three weeks of ownership. As further proof of the power of app addiction, nearly half (49%) of gaming app users check their apps at least several times a day.

4. Abandonment or Long-Term Usage

While the early stages of the app life cycle are often based on recommendations, the final stages are more personal. Only 37% of entertainment apps and 39% of gaming apps continue to be used because friends use the same apps.

For TV and movie apps, ease of use (79%) and new content (55%) are the biggest reasons consumers will use an app for the long term. Whereas better alternatives (55%) and lack of new content (42%) will drive a consumer to delete an app.

Gamers look for apps that are challenging (75%) and easy to use (73%). With gaming apps, more than three-fourths (77%) of consumers say they'll delete an app simply after they lose interest.

"Ultimately, the long-term success of an app is tied to fun and function," said Fahey Rush. "App users are looking for experiences that will make them feel smarter, more empowered or more entertained."

Three-fourths (75%) of consumers said it's very important that an app is "entertaining or fun to use," while 62% said it's very important that an app "feels good" in terms of its touch screen feel. Speaking to the importance of utility, half of the survey participants said it's very important that an app "constantly has new things for me to see, read or do." More than eight in 10 (83%) said they are "often surprised at how useful an app can become even if I don't initially think this is something I need."

About MTV Networks

MTV Networks, a division of Viacom (NYSE: VIA, VIA.B), is one of the world's leading creators of entertainment content, with brands that engage and connect diverse audiences across television, online, mobile, games, virtual worlds and consumer products.  The company's portfolio spans more than 150 television channels and 400 digital media properties worldwide, and includes MTV, VH1, CMT, Logo, Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, Nick Jr., TeenNick, AddictingGames, Shockwave, Neopets, COMEDY CENTRAL, SPIKE, TV Land, Atom, and GameTrailers.