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Egham, U.K., February 21, 2017

Gartner Survey Shows VPAs and Messaging Platforms Keep Attracting Users

Social Media Apps Are the Most Popular Apps, but Will Likely Be Eclipsed by Messaging Apps in the Next Two Years

A new Gartner, Inc. mobile apps survey* showed that the number of consumers using messaging apps and personal assistant apps is continuing to grow. The survey showed that 35 percent of respondents said they used virtual personal assistants (VPAs) in 2016, up 4 percentage points from 2015. Seventy-one per cent of respondents used messaging apps, a 3 percentage increase in 2016 (see Table 1).

"We are witnessing the beginning of the post-app era based on the evidence that users are starting to use fewer apps actively on their smartphones," said Jessica Ekholm, research director at Gartner. "At the end of 2016, only 33 percent of survey respondents used six to 10 apps a month, which is down 6.2 percent from a year ago."

"More importantly users want rich and engaging app experiences and are increasingly looking for apps that can offer a multitude of services without users having to leave the app itself," added Ms. Ekholm. "This supports the move toward messaging and VPAs, and ultimately the post-app era."

Table 1. Top 5 Smartphone Apps and Personal Assistant Apps Usage, 2015 and 2016, U.S., U.K. and China

Type of Apps

2015 Survey Respondents (%)

2016 Survey Respondents (%)

Social Media















Personal Assistant



N= 3,021 in 2016; N= 3,024 in 2015
Source: Gartner (February 2017)

VPAs Will Replace the Usage of Some Apps

Siri and Google Now were the most used VPAs among U.S. and U.K. respondents in 2016. They were both used primarily to check the weather forecast (70 percent), find nearby or popular places to visit (44 percent), and read breaking news or other news stories (44 percent).

The survey also showed that the conversational interfaces provided by VPAs - ready to serve and capable of complex actions -have the potential to replace some traditional apps. Users will shortcut apps by using VPAs to get fast information in a consolidated manner.

Ms. Ekholm recommends that brands and app providers find new ways of reaching their users. "Being able to enhance services and introduce new experiences into messaging platforms without the user having to download further apps makes them critical real estate for innovation," said Ms. Ekholm.

Messaging Apps Are Catching Up With Social Networks

Facebook Messenger (81 percent) and WhatsApp (61 percent) remain the most used mobile messaging apps among US and UK respondents. In China, WeChat (95 percent) maintain their leading position. Messenger apps have become incredibly "sticky" with users with 72 percent of mobile messenger survey respondents using the app at least once per day.

"The conversational interface is not replacing apps, but it’s enhancing the way users access them," said Ms. Ekholm. "We expect messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Line or Facebook Messenger to become increasingly engaging and rich as more features are added to them, whether creating more engaging user-generated videos, chatting with customer services, or having more e-commerce possibilities within the app itself."

Allowing developers and businesses to integrate bots on social platforms, removing the need for users to switch between apps, has the potential to transform workflows. "This would allow companies that have chatbots to improve touch-points, help customer service efforts and ultimately help fuel sales revenue," concluded Ms. Ekholm.

For Editors:

*The Gartner mobile apps study was conducted in the U.S. (n = 1,000), the U.K. (n = 1,000) and China (n = 1,021) among a total of 3,021 respondents from August 26 throughOctober 13 2016 to understand consumers' behavior and attitudes around the use of mobile apps.

Gartner clients can get more information from "User Survey Analysis: Mobile Apps, U.S., U.K. and China, 2016"

About Gartner

Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) delivers actionable, objective insight to executives and their teams. Our expert guidance and tools enable faster, smarter decisions and stronger performance on an organization’s mission critical priorities. To learn more, visit