iPhone homescreens in 2014: No Microsoft, Apple and Twitter replacements, Yahoo ascendant

What the share-friendly Twitter crowds have on their first iPhone screen in 2014

Image by author (captured from Google)

If someone asked me what was on my phone homescreen, I'd probably mention the productive stuff: Boomerang email, Basecamp, a calendar widget—stuff that makes me seem On Top of It.

If someone asked me to post a photo of my homescreen, though, you'd see that my Twitter client is always the most-used in an automatic list of recent apps. You'd see folders for Social, Music, news, and Weather (an entire folder, because I'm a nerd and I live in Buffalo). And you'd see that I'm trying, somewhat painfully, to make Google's Hangouts my all-in-one texting and messaging app.

You learn a lot by seeing people's actual phones, rather than asking them to describe them. That's why development company Betaworks worked some data analysis on the annual posting of home screens right after the (U.S.) new year, under the hashtag "#homescreen2014."

The firm saw their own apps on 17.3 percent of the roughly 870 iOS screens they analyzed, up from 5 percent of the screens in #homescreen2013. Not bad. But they found out more about people's screens, and they shared it on a Medium post about #homescreen2014. What follows are the bits I found interesting, and can maybe explain or link a bit further:

(Just a reminder: it's a biased sample of people who use Twitter, share their homescreen on Twitter, and it's only iPhones. Still: intriguing.)

Messenger apps compliment standard messaging instead of replacing it


Eighty-nine percent have the standard Apple texting app and 86 percent of people have the phone app.

And then this:

Facebook is Messenger is on 14% of people’s homescreen, Whatsapp is on 12 percent, Snapchat is on 11%, Path on 5 percent (while Snapchat and Path aren't straight messaging app’s, worth noting them here for comparison), Groupme 4.7%, HipChat on 2.6 percent, Line on 1.5 percent, Viber 1%, Kik is on 0.5 percent. What’s interesting is that these alternatives don't replace the standard texting app.

As noted in John Herrman's smart take on why Facebook bought WhatsApp, these messaging apps are, at their core, a threat to Facebook and other social-minded apps, more than a threat to phone messaging itself. Especially outside the U.S.:

Last year, Forrester research analyst Charles Golvin told BuzzFeed’s Charlie Warzel, “In places like Brazil, Mexico, Spain… 25% of the time people spend on smartphones, they’re spending in WhatsApp. The number is variable for each of those countries, but it is of that magnitude.” These were the numbers that Facebook couldn’t ignore, describing markets where it still has an opportunity to grow.

homescreen2014_2.jpgImage by author (via Google image search)
More #homescreen2014 phones

Browsers on iPhones: about what you'd expect

Sixty-five percent of people have Safari on their homescreen, 18 percent have Chrome, Opera Mini is at 0.5 percent. For 7 percent of people the browser is so important, they have both. For 9.8 percent of users there was no browser whatsoever on the homescreen.


Apple's own apps are now much more replaceable, and people are replacing them

In the earliest days of the App Store, the most hard and fast rule was that you could not make an app that mimicked or "duplicated" the features of the standard Apple apps: a phone dialer, a music player, an email client. Apps like Google Voice were previously dead on arrival. These days, over half of homescreens shown off on Twitter (again, a likely bias, but possibly just an early-adopter pointer) have alternative core apps:

Fifty percent of people who have a mail app on their homescreens in the sample have a non-Apple mail app. For task-related apps the number is 57 percent, calendaring 46 percent, weather 44 percent, maps is 54 percent and for podcasting the number is 65 percent. ... The large percentage of people going through the hassle of switching suggests that even in an iOS7 post-skeuomorphic world Apple’s apps are often not best in class.

For some use cases, I would argue this is inevitably true: some people need "heavier" or "lighter" email, some want hardcore dewpoint/barometric weather, others have so much calendar confusion as to need triage. But for podcasts, Betaworks' statement is just straight true. Podcasts really is just not very good.

Microsoft not really an iOS player yet (understatement)

Microsoft-branded apps are 0 percent of people’s homescreens. Microsoft-owned (i.e., Skype) are on 11.5 percent.


Yahoo: getting there (with its checkbook)

Yahoo apps (branded and non) are on about a quarter of homescreens sampled — but it is acquisitions that have driven this presence. Yahoo-branded apps are on only 11.3 percent of homescreens. Take out Yahoo Weather the number falls to 2.47 percent. Yahoo non-branded properties have a high presence: Flickr is on 6.9 percent of homescreens and Tumblr is on 9.8 percent.

This is why Twitter curtailed third-party viewing clients

With its August 2012 announcement of a new API and limits on third-party clients, Twitter signaled that it wanted to recapture the experience of exactly how its service looked, felt, and interacted with its users. But it seems people would rather have a say in exactly how their stream is presented.

Twitter’s client app is only on 37% of homescreens and third-party clients are on a whopping 55 percent of devices, with one client, Tweetbot, making up a full 49.5 percent of the sampled homescreens.

Mobile payments are not a core thing yet

Similar to gaming, commerce isn’t core to the workflow that people have on their phones, yet. Venmo (formerly a betaworks investment) is on 2 percent of homescreens, Paypal is on 1.3% and Square’s app (Cash) is on 0.5 percent of homescreens sampled.

Or you can find those things more often on a second or third page over, perhaps. But in any case, it's a way to go before paying with phones is really real.

Google and Facebook have multiple points on your homescreen

The primary-colored and mostly-blue web giants don't just have their own apps they want you using: they have multiple apps tied to their backbones, which keep you coming back.

Facebook has Instagram, for example:

In the sample set, 18 percent of devices had just Facebook installed, 12 percent had just Instagram. Thirty-six percent had Facebook and Instagram. Unbundled, single-purpose apps are the way to expand share on the homescreen and Facebook is pulling it’s core desktop experience apart as their audience moves to mobile.

Google has a lot of other things, besides its own apps. Those apps are pretty popular in themselves, at 62 percent of users having one, and the median user having two of them. But beyond those offerings:

(I)t’s important to add that Google data underpins a lot of core experiences on mobile devices: web search, yes, but also mail, calendars etc. I.e., I would guess that most Mailbox users (now part of Dropbox) use Gmail IMAP — and Mailbox is on a full quarter of people’s homescreens in the sample.

As always, read the source article by Betaworks at Medium for more context and findings. How we organize our little pocket communication computers is endlessly fascinating.

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