We are entering the post-app era where virtual personal assistants do our bidding and multi-purpose messaging apps like WeChat take up more real estate on our smartphones, according to Gartner.

“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 per cent of survey respondents used six to 10 apps a month, which is down 6.2 per cent 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 Ekholm. “This supports the move toward messaging and virtual personal assistants, and ultimately the post-app era.”

According to a new Gartner mobile apps survey, the number of consumers using messaging apps and personal assistant apps is continuing to grow.

The survey showed that 35 per cent 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.

VPAs Will Replace the Usage of Some Apps

A VPA like Siri with a conversational interface ready to serve and capable of complex actions will replace some traditional apps. Users will shortcut apps by using VPAs to get fast information in a consolidated manner, Gartner says.

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,” she said.

“The conversational interface is not replacing apps, but it’s enhancing the way users access them,” said Ekholm.

According to Gartner, Siri and Google Now were the most used VPAs among US and UK respondents in 2016. They were both used primarily to check the weather forecast (70 per cent), find nearby or popular places to visit (44 per cent), and read breaking news or other news stories (44 per cent).

Social media rules app land, but messaging services are catching up

Social media apps are the most popular apps on users’ smartphones, but they will likely be eclipsed by messaging apps in the next two years, according to Gartner.

Facebook Messenger (81 per cent) and WhatsApp (61 per cent) remain the most used mobile messaging apps among US and UK respondents.

In China, WeChat (95 per cent) maintain their leading position. Messenger apps have become incredibly “sticky” with users with 72 per cent of mobile messenger survey respondents using the app at least once per day.

“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 ecommerce possibilities within the app itself,” Ekholm said.

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