As the Mobile Market Matures, What’s the Outlook for Consumer Tech?

Flurry-Mobile-App-Usage-Growth-in-2015-Jan2016Mobile application usage – defined as the number of mobile application sessions, where a user opens an app and records a session – increased by 58% in 2015, reports Flurry in its latest annual report on app usage. While that represents solid growth for a maturing market, it’s down from a 76% increase in 2014 and after more than doubling in 2013.

Looking at the various app categories, personalization apps (such as Android lock-screens and Emoji keyboards) were by far the fastest-growing, with sessions up 332% year-over-year. The news and magazines category, which had seen below-average growth in 2014, rebounded with a strong 135% gain last year. And next in line, utilities and productivity apps maintained solid growth, up 125% year-over-year after a 121% increase in 2014.

All in all, time spent on mobile grew by 117% year-over-year, led by phablets (+334%), which Flurry separately reported to account for an impressive 27% of new device activations in the week leading up to Christmas, up from 13% share in 2014.

One of the notable takeaways from Flurry’s report is that a sizable share of 2015’s growth in app sessions – an estimated 40% – came from existing rather than new app users. That aligns with prior Flurry research showing an increase in “mobile addicts” – users who launch apps at least 60 times per day.

Growth in mobile app usage seems unlikely to come from new smartphone owners. Indeed, a new study from Accenture [pdf] suggests that the smartphone market has reached maturity. Based on a survey of 28,000 consumers in 28 markets, Accenture found a dip in smartphone purchase intent: 48% of consumers plan to purchase a smartphone in the next year, down from 54% last year. Within the US, only 38% plan to buy a smartphone, unchanged from last year. In fact, smartphone penetration growth in the US stalled in 2015, hovering at about 77% of the mobile market throughout the first three quarters of the year.

Meanwhile, Accenture reports that it’s not just the smartphone market that is stalling – traditional devices such as tablets (-9% points), TVs (-8% points) and laptops (-6% points) are also seeing a decline in purchase intent. For now, the Internet of Things (IoT) doesn’t seem to be picking up the slack: there’s been virtually no uptick in purchase intent for smartwatches, fitness monitors, connected home surveillance cameras, smart home thermostats and personal drones, each of which see purchase intent of 13% or fewer respondents worldwide. (See here for a look at the demographics of smart home tech owners.)

The Accenture study points the finger at cost and privacy issues for the lack of growth in IoT adoption. For example, 62% of respondents believe that the devices are too expensive, while 47% say that privacy and security issues are a barrier. Moreover, more than 2 in 3 consumers surveyed were aware of recent security breaches such as hacker attacks. Among those aware of hacker attacks and owning or planning to own IoT devices in the next 5 years, 18% decided to quit using the devices until assured of their safety, and another 24% decided to postpone buying an IoT device.

For its part, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) has a brighter outlook for the industry in the US, forecasting a new peak of $287 billion in retail revenues this year, driven by… IoT.

Indeed, while the CTA sees declining or slowing growth in unit sales for more mature categories such as tablets (-9%), TVs (-1%), and laptops (+2%) – with smartphone shipments projected to grow by 5% – it is more optimistic about the growth prospects for IoT devices including:

  • Smart TVs (+13% in unit sales);
  • Blue-tooth/Airplay-capable speakers (+40% increase);
  • Wireless headphones (+30%);
  • Smart home technology such as smart thermostats and smart home systems (+21%); and
  • Smart watches (+22%).

About the Data: The Accenture Digital Consumer Thought Leadership program for communications, media and technology companies is based on a survey which was conducted online between October and November 2015, with 28,000 consumers in 28 countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The sample in each country is representative of the online population, with respondents ranging in age from 14 to 55 plus.