Much is made of the sheer size of each mobile platform’s library of third-party apps. iPhone and Android ring up totals in the hundreds of thousands. And certainly the size increases the likelihood that you’ll find some obscure app that captures your attention for five minutes.

But we actually spend a significant amount of time in very small percentage of the apps available to us, according to a Nielsen study released this past week. The top 10 Android apps account for 43 percent of the time that Android users spend using mobile apps, according to the data.

Although the research focused specifically on Android, I have a hunch it would hold true for mobile users in general, and it’s consistent with my own experience across a variety of devices.

Apart from the core email, text messaging, photo, browser and calendar apps on my iPhone, I could go for long stretches without using anything but Twitter, Facebook, an RSS reader, a music app and the occasional game.

The study is good news  for Microsoft, which has a mere 28,000 apps for Windows Phone but has covered essentially all of the basics, at least in my usage of the Microsoft platform.

Here’s the big question: If you could have only five apps on your phone (beyond the core utilities), what would they be? (Think of it like desert-island discs for mobile phones.)

More on the study, including time spent in mobile apps vs. the mobile web, in this Nielsen blog post.

Also see this post by Rachel King on ZDNet: Study proves app stores are basically useless.

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  • Guest

    It really bugs me how this study has been spun.  There’s the implication that only a handful of apps matter.

    What happened to the adoration for “niche?”

    Remember when YouTube sprang to life and it was like having thousands of new channels (in addition to our cable’s 700)?  The enthusiasm was because you could create a niche channel, satisfy that niche, and you were golden.  You didn’t have to get a network television deal.  You could roll your own.

    It seems as if we’re reverting to the mindset of “only blockbusters matter.”  Which is foolish.   Even if you only have a .001% share of the Android app market, that “share” position is growing in size daily as more devices are activated.  Your tiny little niche generates more money.  Cool.  I’d really like to see more emphasis on the niche developers, rather than seeing one more Angry Birds statistic.

  • Anonymous

    Of course!  Did you ever think any differently?  That’s why it is soooooo wrong to judge a platform by “number of apps.”  Microsoft “won” the PC business because of “all the applications” …. except they are all games!  So, basically, large corporations pick their business computers based on their ability to play games.  Same thing is happening with tablets.  It’s really the media’s fault.  Instead of actually learning about and reporting the pros and cons of each platform, you take the easy way out and report “number of apps.”

  • MarketingXD

    So the only apps that “really matter” are those that take a long time? Nonsense!

    Two examples: I use an app to download pictures from my phone – it’s very important but only takes a few seconds to use. And I installed a compass app in case I get lost somewhere with no signal, but I may never need to use it.

    I wonder what would happen to society in general if we equated time spent to importance? We could scrap the military for a start.

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