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The Fastest Growing App Categories – and How to Succeed in Them

someone holds their phone up while sitting in a coffee shopPeople are spending an average of 3 hours and 23 minutes a day on mobile phones apps in 2017.

But, before you jump headfirst into building your next app, take a moment to “read the room” (or, read the app store, in this case) and get an understanding of which apps are hitting it big in the current market — and more importantly, why. We’re in the business of watching and analyzing app trends, and we’re here to help you stay on top of the app game.

In this list, we’ll cover the fastest growing app categories for this year, and the highly desirable features that drive successful apps in each category. If you’re trying to decide what type of app to focus on for your business, some of these categories definitely warrant a closer look.

Messaging & Social Apps

Growth: With a usage increase of 44%, social apps experienced the highest year-over-year growth from 2015 to 2016, according to Flurry Analytics. This category is booming, especially among younger generations who are constantly seeking new and exciting ways to create social connections with their friends.

The Features You Need to Succeed:

  • Comprehensive Modes of Communication: When it comes to their social lives, consumers are looking for as much as they can get in one app. Moving away from the one-app-for-one-purpose model, users are increasingly turning to messaging apps that also provide voice and video calling capabilities. Google Hangouts and Facebook Messenger are good examples of social media apps that have expanded to meet the growing need for comprehensive communication.
  • Communitainment: This term describes communication apps for the sole purpose of entertainment. Apps like Snapchat,,, and Twitch allow users to stream mobile videos and create content to share with their friends. Consumers don’t just want to connect with their friends, they also want to be entertained and delighted while doing it.
  • Streaming Capabilities: Users, particularly younger ones, are turning to messaging and social apps for live streaming. Periscope, for example, allows users to set up a live stream in front of audiences. This meets an audience need for sharing their lives with others in real-time.

Business & Finance Apps

Growth: Usage increased a respectable 30% from 2015 to 2016, according to Flurry Analytics. These apps are rising steadily and reliably, as more convenient and enjoyable sources of information than traditional business news channels.

The Features You Need to Succeed:

  • Real-time Information: No business and finance app will survive in today’s market without real-time data capabilities for stock prices and business news. Consumers want information instantaneously, and if an app doesn’t give you a leg up on getting news fast, what’s the point or using it? Real-time data is the bedrock for leading apps in this space, such as Bloomberg and CNBC Business.
  • Analysis: The latest news is only part of the puzzle for business professionals. These apps must also provide users with analysis and commentary, as well as actionable steps to act on that analysis. The capabilities for analysis and data-driven recommendations is where these apps can truly shine.

Shopping Apps

Growth: Flurry Analytics reports that app usage increased 25% from 2015 to 2016. Shopping apps have become quite a threat to brick-and-mortar retail stores, as they have the digital edge of convenience, especially when capturing impulse purchases via mobile.

The Features You Need to Succeed:

  • Fast Loading Time: As more and more users turn to mobile shopping, they’ve come to expect fast loading mobile sites and apps. In fact, a 1-second delay can result in a 7% drop in conversion (purchase) rate.
  • Aesthetics: People judge the credibility of sites based on aesthetics, and can determine credibility in less than four seconds. This is more important for shopping apps, where people will be entering in personal payment information. Apps like Canopy are particularly known for their simple, refined look, giving off an instant impression of credibility and trust.

Personalized Shopping: The greatest disadvantage of online shopping is the inability to try on clothing. Apps like JackThreads have gotten around this by giving users a trial period, where they can receive, try on, and return clothing. Shoppers only pay for what they keep.

Health & Fitness

Growth: Flurry’s data shows health and fitness app usage increased 18% from 2015 to 2016. For consumers who don’t want to pay a personal trainer, or attend weekly check-in meetings in-person, an app is the next best thing for support and coaching in health and fitness goals.

The Features You Need to Succeed:

  • Progress Tracking: Users should be able to easily record their progress — whether it be improved time, increased sets, or weight loss. MyFitnessPal, for instance, includes a calorie counter and pedometer, meeting the consumer need for easily tracking activities.
  • Training Guidance: Knowledge of proper form and technique is important for people to avoid injury and ensure results. Fitness app Sworkit provides over 200 videos led by professional trainers to do just that. In order to fit into that personal trainer role, fitness apps must prove to users that they have reliable expertise in their area of health.

Competition: For many, competition is motivation in itself. Competitive running and cycling app Strava understands this, and includes a leaderboard so users can see how their times compare to other area athletes.

Utilities & Productivity

Growth: Flurry Analytics shows that utility and productivity app usage increased 17% from 2015 to 2016 – still well above the average year-over-year app usage growth of 11%. While the other most popular app categories support different facets of user lives, productivity apps bring everything together to make sure it all gets done.

The Features You Need to Succeed:

  • Offline capabilities: Lack of Internet connection shouldn’t keep someone from using your productivity app. Google Keep makes this a non-issue, by allowing users to add notes and checklists offline. Once connected to a network, the app will then re-sync added notes across all devices.
  • Cross-Device Synchronization: For a productivity app to be truly useful, it must not create more work for the user, and that means the ability to sync across all devices is key. Today’s busy workers may use their mobile device on the go, and then switch to their desktop or laptop once at the office. Productivity apps Microsoft Office and Google Drive accomplish this by letting users sign into one account on multiple devices.
  • Push Notifications: Leverage push notifications to make users feel like your app is an indispensable tool. Many apps, from daily task managers like to calendars like Outlook, use push notifications to great success.

Simplicity is Key

No matter the app category you choose, remember to keep your app simple and easy to use.

Sometimes, executives, developers, and entrepreneurs get carried away thinking about neat capabilities and third-party integrations for a new app. Remember, all decisions you make for you app should come down to creating the best experience for your users. Seeking outside feedback throughout your development cycle is crucial to ensure that what you’re designing will actually meet consumer expectations and deliver a delightful experience.

If you’re looking for a second opinion on your app idea, or an expert developer to steer you in the right direction for user experience success, reach out to Barefoot Solutions, where our experienced team is thrilled to help you get your app idea off the ground!

Contact us today for a free consultation.

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