mobile-apps2Mobile apps usage continued to vault higher in 2013, rising 115% year over year, according to Flurry Analytics. Highlighting the growth surge, utility and productivity apps, such as Evernote and Quip, registered growth of 150%. “Even gaming, which was feared to reach saturation levels in 2013, posted 66% year-over-year growth in use,” according to a Flurry Analytics press release.

Flurry tracked a daily record 4.7 billion mobile app sessions on December 31, 2013 alone, bringing the annual total to 1.126 trillion sessions.

It was mobile apps in Flurry’s Messaging and Social Apps category that grew the most in 2013, posting a year-over-year gain of 203%. “The growth in that segment should not come as a surprise to many, given the attention that messaging apps such as WhatsApp, WeChat, KakaoTalk, LINE, Facebook Messenger and SnapChat have received in the press,” Simon Khalaf commented on the Flurry blog.

“What is surprising, however, is that the rate of growth (tripling usage year-over-year) dramatically outpaced other popular categories. This type of growth could explain the high valuation Facebook has allegedly put on SnapChat, or Facebook’s rush to add direct messaging in Instagram, an app frequented by teens.”

Ranking third, following Utilities & Productivity apps, use of Music, Media and Entertainment apps rose 78% collectively. Following closely behind, Lifestyle & Shopping app use increased 77%. Use of Games apps rose 66%; usage of Sports, Health and Fitness apps was up 49%, and News & Magazine app use was up 31%.

Despite stellar growth, doubts persist regarding mobile apps’ revenue-generating potential, and whether they “are simply experiences or more of a platform,” Khalaf notes. The experiences of Korea’s LINE in Japan and that of TenCent and Xiaomi indicate that mobile apps can serve as platforms, and that they can generate strong revenue growth.

As Khalaf highlights, “In March of 2013, and just three months after launching its game distribution platform, LINE announced that it had delivered over 100m downloads to its gaming partners.

“Tencent’s WeChat has conducted an experiment with China’s emerging device manufacturer Xiaomi demonstrating WeChat’s potential as an m-commerce player. In that experiment, Xiaomi launched a new smartphone to WeChat users. The result: 150,000 new smartphones sold in under 10 minutes through a messaging application.

“2014 will be a crucial year for these applications and will determine whether they will remain independent, but highly frequented applications, or become killer mobile platforms and distribution channels,” Khalaf concludes.