LONDON: Facebook's suite of apps, including the flagship social network's own platform, WhatsApp, and Instagram, have pushed the communications and social media category to unprecedented dominance of the time users spend on apps, new research shows.

A study from Verto Analytics, which measured the cross-device behaviour of nearly 5,000 UK adults, found that time spent on communications and social media apps grew 38% in the six months from September 2016 to March 2017. As a result of the growth – an additional 11.2 billion minutes – communications and social media apps now account for 44% of all mobile app time.

Entertainment grew by 22%, taking second place, up 3.4 billion minutes. These apps now claim 21% of all time spent on a mobile app. However, games, the next largest category saw a significant decline in time spent (-16%), dropping gaming's share of time from 18% to 13%

"The continuous growth of messaging and social apps mean that the total app time is becoming dominated by just a few sectors," said Dr. Hannu Verkasalo, chief executive officer at Verto Analytics. The top three categories, he added, now account for 78% of all mobile app time spent.

"This leaves the rest fighting over the scraps, which is going to get harder as app downloads are plateauing and there's the impending rise of 'hub apps', where people do more tasks within one app – be it messaging, shopping or ordering a taxi."

While hub apps have not reached the same significance and use in the UK as Tencent's WeChat in China (for more details, read Warc's Best Pracrtice paper: What we know about marketing on WeChat), Facebook's suite of apps is aiming at this kind of domination.

In February, a Gartner report that polled 3,000 mobile users across the UK, US, and China, registered "a move away from using native applications" in the app sector.

Gartner research director Jessica Ekholm told TechCrunch that "consumers are getting less interested in using applications; there are far too many applications" .

On average, people have around 90 apps on their smartphones, but only eight are used on a daily basis. Typical apps only retain 5%-10% of users after 30 days.

"Getting people to download your app is only about 10% of the battle," Verkasalo observed.

"App creators and the brands that advertise on them are under increasing pressure to be one of those crucial eight and stay there."

Data sourced from Verto Analytics, TechCrunch; additional content by WARC staff