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After years of impressive increases, the number of mobile application sessions on a global basis may be reaching a plateau, according to data from Flurry, which tracks more than 1 million apps across 2.6 billion devices. The number of global mobile app sessions grew by just 6% year-over-year in 2017, down from what had already been a modest 11% increase in 2016. In the 3 years prior to that, session growth had ranged from 58%-115%.

Back then, mobile app sessions had been growing in lockstep across categories, but that’s certainly no longer the case.

According to Flurry’s latest analysis, just half of the 10 categories measured registered an increase in mobile app sessions last year.

The fastest-riser was the Shopping category, as app sessions were up by a strong 54%. This is further evidence of the shift to e-commerce and a growing comfort with mobile commerce, which now represents roughly 1 in 4 retail dollars spent online in the US.

Also recording strong mobile app session growth last year was the Music, Media & Entertainment category, which enjoyed a 43% rise. No wonder that entertainment apps such as Netflix, Pandora, Tencent Video, and HBO NOW figured among the top non-gaming apps by worldwide revenue, per Sensor Tower data.

Globally, mobile users also recorded more sessions in Business & Finance (+33%), Utilities & Productivity (+20%) and News & Magazine (+20%) apps, according to Flurry’s report.

By contrast, the number of Lifestyle app sessions had the biggest slide, down by 40% year-over-year. Gaming app sessions also declined by double-digits, down 16%, though Flurry cites prior data showing that gaming app users have upped their time and money spent in these apps.

Separately, Flurry reports that phablets continue to gain share of the mobile device market. These devices finished 2017 with a majority (55%) share of device distribution worldwide, up considerably from 41% at the end of 2016.

Phablets are gaining at the expense of medium phones, whose share of the mobile device market fell from 44% to 35% during that time period. Mobile users are also opting less for tablets, it seems, which dropped from 14% to 10% of devices tracked by Flurry.

One way to demonstrate these trends is to show how device activations change over the week leading up to Christmas. In 2017, Flurry reveals that phablets represented 53% of holiday device activation, up from 37% of holiday activations in 2016.

App Downloads Up Again

While mobile app session growth may be slowing, that doesn’t mean the app economy is at a standstill. In a separate report, App Annie revealed that the number of app downloads globally exceeded 175 billion last year, representing 60% growth over 2015.

Consumer spending on apps – at $86 billion – also saw strong growth, more than doubling from 2015.

While App Annie didn’t reveal the exact year-over-year growth figures, their charts indicate that these increases weren’t limited to the 2015-2016 period, but rather in some cases accelerated in 2017 (particularly in China).

Finally, a previous report from Sensor Tower noted a 35% increase in global mobile app revenue in 2017 and a 13.5% increase in downloads. These figures are more muted than App Annie’s as they do not include third-party Android stores (which offer visibility into China), as reported here by TechCrunch.

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