Most Popular Smartphone Apps: Games Win

Don’t tell IT: Smartphone users download more games than productivity applications.

Ed Hansberry, Contributor

July 10, 2011

3 Min Read

Smartphones allow employees to stay on top of what is going on through email, and they may be able to open some files right on their device like Excel spreadsheets or Adobe PDF files. The top downloads, though, aren't for being even more productive. Games lead the category by a 3-to-1 margin over productivity apps.

Nielsen's latest smartphone app survey shows that in the second quarter of 2011, games led with 64% of users downloading one in the past 30 days. Fully 93% of them are willing to pay for one if they like it. On average, iPhone users play games about 14.7 hours each month and Android users about 9.3 hours.

That doesn't mean that is all people do on their devices of course. The biggest app for companies is email, and all smartphones come with an email app preloaded on the device. Devices like Windows Phone 7 skew the game numbers a bit more as none of them have to download any kind of Office file viewers.

If your employees use an iPhone or Android and need office apps, they can be downloaded. That is contributing to the 21% of people who downloaded some sort of productivity tool. Productivity apps tend to have a high purchase rate as well, with 84% of users willing to pay for good apps.

What are the other big categories? Weather apps rank high, with 60% downloading them. Users are obviously wanting something with a bit more features than the iPhone's "Sunny and 73" app. While not directly linked to productivity, weather apps help people know how to dress for the day, whether or not it will rain and cause traffic delays, or determine what to pack for that next business trip.

The third largest category is social networking, with 56% of users downloading them. For the most part, this is people just goofing off. But some of your staff may have a legitimate reason to be on social networking sites. I expect this percentage to decline though, not because social networking popularity is waning, but because more devices have social networking features built in. iOS 5 will include Twitter and Facebook integration right out of the box. Windows Phone 7 already supports basic Facebook functionality through its People hub, and the Mango release this fall will include Twitter integration and beefed up Facebook support.

With the lines of work life and personal life blurring more each day, you have to cut some slack to people downloading games and other non-work related apps. They are usually taking care of a few emails in the evening or on weekends, so what difference does it make if they have a few games on the device? For that matter, letting them blow off a little steam right in the middle of the work day with a quick round of Angry Birds is probably a good idea.

The key is to know who is and who isn't getting their job done. Just don't kid yourself though. That device you gave them to keep in touch via email and voice isn't being used for just that purpose.

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