The 101 most addictive apps on mobile

By Mike Sonders

In this post, we’re using app engagement insights from SurveyMonkey Intelligence to reveal the most addictive apps on iOS and Android in the U.S. as of mid-2016, measured by the average number of days per week people use these apps.

Following the rankings, you can find a summary of the patterns and trends in the app market revealed by this list of super-engaging apps. App developers might be interested to see the rarely-reported sub-category of app that appears among these addictive apps (including at the top spot).

Surprise! Facebook is not the most addictive app

In a surprising development, Facebook surrenders the top spot to an app you may never have heard of. Slidejoy–a Google Play app that rewards its users with cash and gift cards for interacting with ads that appear on the phone’s lock screen–gets an impressive 6-days-per-week of engagement on average versus the average 5.6 days per week that users spend engaging with the Facebook app.

Not bad for an app that would need around 3,100% more monthly active users to be on par with the Facebook app’s number of active users (according to our data).

You might be surprised to find the list isn’t full of the apps that top the app store charts. But there’s a reason for that: Just because an app gets millions of downloads or drives a bunch of revenue doesn’t mean smartphone users actually engage with the app on a frequent basis.

For example, the AirBnB app is among the top travel apps in terms of downloads, but estimates from SurveyMonkey Intelligence indicate that AirBnB users only engage with the app less than four days per month, on average. (And that’s not very surprising given the typical app engagement metrics for travel apps in general.)

So what do these highly-engaging apps have in common?

App developers: Here’s what we learned from the most addictive apps

Here are some of the patterns that emerge when we review the list:

People love to make and/or save money

Ok, this isn’t something we actually learned just now. But it is news that deal and coupon apps that help people make or save money appear throughout the rankings, with three of these apps claiming spots in the top 10: Slidejoy (#1), Unlock & Win (#3), and CheckPoints #1 Rewards App (#8). Many others of these apps appear throughout the rest of the list, including Swagbucks, Weekly Ads, Grabpoints, Shopular Coupons, Ibotta, RetailMeNot, and Find&Save.

App developers who can help smartphone users make or save money in a fun (or at least frictionless) way are sure to enjoy high days-per-week engagement rates. Slidejoy–the most engaging app in the list–made the very clever move of surfacing its promotions on the lock screen of the phone, the most-viewed screen of the device. (Talk about frictionless!)

Many of the most addictive apps–like personal trackers–are strong on daily utility

The list is littered with apps that provide daily utility. Users frequently use Power Battery and 360 Security to keep their Android phones in shape. They use weather apps like NOAA Weather Radar, Yahoo Weather, The Weather Channel Max, and MyRadar NOAA Weather Radar to check outdoor conditions. You can also find fitness, calorie, sleep, and mileage trackers throughout the list.

Many addictive apps provide fresh content every day

Facebook’s news feed is always changing, even minute-to-minute. Timehop gives you just 24 hours to view the photos from your past; if you snooze, you loose. Snapchat messages can get stale fast, and new deals load in daily on coupon and deal apps. Fresh content spurs more usage.

Many of these most-used apps are popular with teens

Teens use their phones all the time. Teen usage help apps like Snapchat, musical.ly, Neko Atsume, iFunny, Covet Fashion, Whisper, Kik and Instagram land spots on the list list.

Developers looking for high rates of engagement could do worse that build an app that provides consistently-fresh content to teenagers.

Big messaging apps drive high engagement

Apps like Snapchat, WhatsApp, GroupMe, Kik, Line, and Facebook Messenger see very high usage. The messaging app market is a competitive one that’s difficult to crack, but the winners enjoy a highly-engaged audience.

Turn-based, ultra-casual, and Supercell games are the most addictive

It seems that the social pressure of playing your turn is enough to make Words with Friends and Yahtzee with Buddies the #1 and #3 most-addictive games, respectively. Unless you take your turn in these games, your friend can’t continue playing with you.

Meanwhile, some solitary-player casual games populate several spots on the list. These are the kinds of games that don’t require a lot of time-per-session investment to enjoy; that you could play to kill some time when you’re waiting in line or riding the subway: Wizard of Oz Casino Slots, Spider Solitaire Free, Daily Celebrity Crossword, Solitaire, and DoubleU Casino.

In terms of game publishers, Supercell has three games on the list, while Scopely, Zynga, and Mobilityware each own two “most addictive” games. Game developers looking to increase their games’ engagement rates would do well to learn from Supercell’s mega-hits like Boom Beach, Hay Day, and Clash Royale.

Dating apps keep users hooked

Anyone who’s tried swiping on Tinder–which fell just short of making the list, with around 3.5 days-per-week engagement–knows how addictive it can be. Dating apps like Grinder, Plenty of Fish, and MeetMe are also clearly doing something right.

This post originally appeared on September 8, 2016 on the blog of SurveyMonkey Intelligence, a provider of competitive intelligence for the mobile app industry.

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