Understanding Mobile Apps and Why Users Keep or Delete Them

Peter A. Liefer II | Posted: November 6th, 2013 | Updated: July 26th, 2022

Mobile app stores are featuring more and more apps by the minute, with over tens of thousands of apps being added every month. Simply developing and launching your app will not work if you do not work on ensuring that users are aware of your app’s main highlights. You have to get the message across and make your app be as competitive as possible.

In 2012, the average user downloaded 80 apps per device. This is eight times more than when there were only 10 apps downloaded for every one device in 2008.

With those numbers it’s quite a feat to get your app downloaded, but what can be even harder is getting users to use your app more than once. Marketers and developers need to plan and execute marketing efforts to keep users engaged after your app is downloaded to their device.

Why Users Delete Mobile Apps

Because the data doesn’t lie, most of your users either aren’t using your app or uninstalling it altogether. Research by Mobilewalla revealed that users eventually delete 90 percent of all downloaded apps. Make one wrong move that angers or frustrates users – and chances are your app will be deleted.

Mobile App Types of Problems Encountered

The survey by Compuware also sheds light on the most common reasons why users might delete mobile apps or give them bad reviews. The number one cause: freezes. Sixty-two percent of the people who were surveyed said they would delete an app if it froze up.

Another survey from uSamp revealed that 71 percent of users said they would delete an app that crashed, 59 percent for slow responsiveness, 55 percent for heavy battery usage, and 53 percent for too many ads. That’s a lot of pressure for developers and marketers!

This tells us a couple of things:

Mobile customers are intolerant and fickle. (You know you are). If your app isn’t a knockout on first impression, it’s probably going to be deleted or will be forgotten on their smartphones.

You’re potentially losing thousands or millions of dollars in revenue. That’s no joke.

Profit in the app world is a numbers game dictated largely by your app users. Whether your app business model is pay to play, in-app purchases, advertising, or freemium; theoretically, the amount you can generate from an app is highly dependent on the number of users you have.

Why Users Abandon Your App

Here are top reasons why users abandon your app:

Complex or bad registration process: Users won’t keep an app if the registration process is complicated. Mobile users want to start using their new apps quickly. If logging in isn’t a fluid experience, you may have users leave your app for good. Greet new users with useful welcome messages or an intuitive tour.

It’s another “me too” app: It’s difficult to stand out in a crowd of a million. (Literally a million apps just in the iOS app store). Search “to-do list” on any app store and you’ll find pages of apps that offer “the best” solution to managing your to-do list. Finding the best combination of channel, creative, and timing for your marketing campaigns to reach your target audience – and stand out from competitors – is critical to make sure your app gets repeat use.

Lots of bugs and errors: Mobile users have a very low tolerance for unstable apps and nothing can turn them away faster than crashes and buggy interfaces. That’s why 71 percent of users will delete an app after it crashes. If your app happens to have bugs when it’s released, be sure you have the resources to handle support questions or you may receive a lot of poor reviews in app stores.

It’s important to remember that the factors above aren’t the only reasons customers will delete an app after one use. Every app is different. The problems in your app’s first time user experience might not always be apparent from just looking at these three issues.

Don’t Leave Money on the Table

To figure out how to prevent users from deleting your app, you need to understand why they’re leaving in the first place. If your users are abandoning your app after only one use, whatever is turning them away is probably not very deep into your app experience.

The launch and registration of your mobile app is the first opportunity to impress new users of your app. By seeing how your first time users navigate through your app and where and when they leave, you’ll be able to identify the exact feature and/or screen that caused them to drop off – and fix it.

Monitor valuable metrics, such as tutorial completion, time spent on each screen, quitting the app, back tracking between screens and more. For example, if users are closing out of your app after connecting their Facebook account to create a new account, it may mean there’s a bug that’s causing your app to crash or it could be that users are reluctant to share their social network information on their first visit. You may need to offer email registration as an additional option.

The mobile app landscape is only going to get bigger and more competitive. As more apps enter the market, you’re going to need every advantage you can get to stay ahead of your competitors.