For the second year in a row, Flurry Analytics has released its report on the state of mobile app usage in Canada. Yahoo’s Yannis Dosios, vice president of platform & exchange presented the 2016 trends at Toronto’s AdWeek on February 2nd.

Flurry Analytics is a tool used by developers and marketers to measure and analyze consumer activity across their application portfolios. Flurry currently supports iOS and Android operating systems; as well as Apple TV and the Apple Watch.

At Yahoo, we’re focused on building a strong portfolio of solutions to help advertisers connect and engage with consumers through the combination of data and technology. Over the years, we’ve made significant investments in Yahoo’s advertising technology portfolio which brings together the strengths of Yahoo, BrightRoll and Flurry, and all of which are available to our clients and partners in Canada.

In Canada, Flurry Analytics is used by over 4,200 companies, installed on over 14,500 apps, across 38.6 million devices (yes, more devices than Canadians!), measuring almost seven billion sessions per year. Globally, Flurry has a footprint of 940,000 applications, across 2.1 billion global apps, holding an unparalleled look into the world of mobile app usage.

When looking into mobile usage locally, one major trend emerged in our report: Canadian mobile usage looks a lot like global usage did 12 months ago, still ascending on the growth curve.

So in 2016, Canadians app usage grew by 74%. Sports and Messaging and Social apps saw the most year-over-year session growth with 172% and 98% increases respectively.

Some interesting trends in app usage emerged across four of Canada’s major cities: Calgary, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. While Social and Messaging app usage stole the show across every major city, second and third places show that some cities have varying priorities when it comes to Productivity. We’ll let the data speak for itself here, about which cities like to work more and which like to play more.

Compared to 2015, global app usage grew by 11% in 2016. In previous years, we’ve seen all app categories grow in tandem; however, for 2016 year the story is different. In 2016 mobile apps started eating their own, with session and time-spent growth in some app categories occurring at the expense of others. While Messaging and Social apps use rose year-over-year by 44%, Personalization apps (like emoji keyboards) declined by 46%. One possible reason for the steep decline is that Personalization features were increasingly included in operating systems throughout the last year.

App category deep dive

When we looked into 2016’s most notable categories, here’s how time-spent trends shook out both globally and in Canada:

2016: The year social ate media: Time spent in Messaging and Social apps grew by 44% globally, proving to be the driver that helped mobile achieve its year-over-year time-spent growth of 69%. For Canada, time-spent in Messaging and Social apps grew by an impressive 98%

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All of this is the result of a trend we call “Communitainment,” or the social sharing of user-generated content and media, from articles to video. But there is only so much time in the day, meaning minutes spent on Social and Messaging apps are minutes not spent in other app categories like News. In other words, “Communitainment” is eating the lunch of legacy media, and of many pure digital publishers.

Sticky apps tied to daily habits: Some of the most successful app categories throughout the years have tapped into the mobile addict population. They’re also apps that rely on live data, such as Business and Finance (up 43% globally in time-spent) and Sports (up 25% globally). The Sports category was especially popular in Canada with time-spent increasing by a whopping 172%. It didn’t hurt that Canada’s largest city, Toronto, had an incredible sports season with both the Blue Jays and Raptors making the playoffs.

Video killed the gaming star: Gaming, the app category once known as “the darling of the mobile industry,” saw time-spent decline by four per cent globally, compared to a three per cent decline in Canada.

One reason is user habits—rather than play through obstacles, users are just paying their way through games. This may explain the strong increase in gaming revenues reported by Apple’s app store. Also, gaming remains a hit-driven industry. Last year’s main hit, Pokémon GO, faded relatively fast, as consumers lost daily interest in the game, only returning for marquee holiday events. Another notable hit, Super Mario Run, was released too late in the year to make a difference in the overall engagement numbers.

Shopping apps spell doom and gloom for brick and mortars: It was hard to miss the disappointing post-holiday news from major retailers; however, the story is quite different in the mobile world. In 2016, Shopping apps continued to gain popularity, growing 39% in Canada compared to 31% globally.

Form factor refresh

As forecasted in last year’s global report, phablets (devices with screens between 5” and 6.9”) are becoming the dominant form factor around the world, capturing 41% of market share. In Canada, phablet adoption jumped 26% in 2016. This nicely correlates with the growth in Communitainment, as phablets are ideal for social sharing and consuming media. We expect that phablet share will continue to eat away at medium phones, completely eliminate small phones.

Value add for marketers

At Flurry from Yahoo, we interact with thousands of companies every day; from developers of small messaging apps to large game studios, everyone is looking for the right growth recipe. While there’s no magic ingredient, we’re the ones investigating the key parts of mobile growth and can help advertisers and marketers best leverage Canadian specific data to elevate their campaigns. Just last year, mobile and native ad spend grew 34% with the highest spend going to FinServ, followed by Retail and Auto. Surprisingly, the least amount of spend went towards Entertainment.

Top Canadian trends

  • Sports app usage by Canadians last year grew by 172%
  • Phablets saw a 26% year-over-year uptick in adoption in Canada
  • Canadian mobile trends are on a 12-month delay compared to global usage figures

 This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of Direct Marketing.

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