comScore's top 10 mobile apps: What wasn't there

Facebook was the most popular app among Android and iPhone users in the U.S. toward the end of 2012, bumping the former app champ, Google Maps, down to second place. That’s one tidbit metrics firm comScore recently released alongside its list of the top 10 mobile apps for December 2012 , based on usage from Android and iOS users in the U.S.

The comScore list includes many of the apps you’d expect including Facebook, Google Maps, and Google Search. Cooliris, an independent app for iOS, also made comScore’s top 10, proving that smaller developers can still compete with the tech giants in the mobile app world. But what I found interesting more than what comScore included in its list, was what wasn’t there.

The official list

The most popular mobile apps during the month of December based on unique visits, according to comScore were: Facebook, Google Maps, Google Play, Google Search, Gmail, YouTube, Pandora Radio, Apple iTunes, Cooliris, and Yahoo! Messenger.

Facebook was not only number one in terms of unique visits, but also had the best engagement, accounting for 23 percent of overall time spent on mobile apps. No other app came close to hogging that much mobile time, according to comScore. But while Facebook may dominate by unique visits and time spent, Google laid claim to half of the top 10 with five of its apps. It’s also interesting to note that this list was dominated entirely by free apps and the apps came from only six companies.

What wasn’t there

Major social networks other than Facebook were nowhere to be seen in the top 10. It’s not surprising to see Google+ absent, but not even Twitter, one of the top 30 websites in the U.S. and a social network laying claim to 500 million registered users, made the cut.

It’s well known that Google is the most dominant search engine on mobile thanks to being the default search engine for both Android and iOS devices. But Bing is still one of the top 5 most visited sites on the Web, according to numbers from both comScore and Nielsen. And yet, when it comes to apps, Bing is nowhere to be seen. Ask.com, another top 10 Web property according to comScore and Nielsen, was also a no-show among the top 10 mobile apps.

Amazon, it seems, is also a mobile wimp, despite its popularity as an online destination and basically owning the e-book market. Kindle is synonymous with consuming e-books, but couldn’t crack the mobile app top 10, even though 23 percent of Americans ages 16 and older read e-books, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Premium video streaming didn’t break into the top 10, leaving YouTube as the only video site on the list. Popular video services such as Hulu, Netflix, HBO Go, and CBS Connect couldn’t compete. Google recently said users worldwide watched 4 billion hours of video per month on YouTube in 2012 across all device types.

Games were another missing segment from comScore’s numbers. There’s little doubt that Android and iOS users love to download games. As I write this the top 10 most popular free apps on Google Play includes three games, and the iOS top free list includes six. But I guess users just aren’t playing games as much as they are checking their location, sending e-mail, chatting with friends, and listening to music.

There could be many reasons for some of the missing segments on comScore’s list. Games, for example, may have been deliberately excluded. It may also simply be the case that apps such as Twitter and Kindle, while popular, don’t quite make the cut among U.S. smartphone users. Some popular core mobile apps, especially smartphone apps, may also have been excluded such as mobile Web browsers, SMS, and calling functions.

Nevertheless, comScore’s take on the top 10 mobile apps in the U.S. gives us a very interesting picture of mobile device habits. Based on comScore’s list, the most popular general activities on mobile devices would be social networking, navigation and location services, downloading apps, Web search, e-mail, watching video, listening to music, buying music, viewing photos, and chatting with friends.

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