Gartner: personal assistants such as Siri keep attracting users

A new Gartner mobile apps survey shows that the number of consumers using messaging apps and personal assistant apps such as Apple’s Siri is continuing to grow. The survey showed that 35% of respondents said they used virtual personal assistants (VPAs) in 2016, up four percentage points from 2015. Seventy-one percent of respondents used messaging apps, a 3% increase in 2016.

"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," says Jessica Ekholm, research director at Gartner. "At the end of 2016, only 33% of survey respondents used six to 10 apps a month, which is down 6.2% from a year ago."

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, she adds. This supports the move toward messaging and VPAs, and “ultimately the post-app era, Ekholm says.

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%), find nearby or popular places to visit (44%), and read breaking news or other news stories (44%).

The Gartner 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.

Facebook Messenger (81%) and WhatsApp (61%) remain the most used mobile messaging apps among US and UK respondents. In China, WeChat (95%) maintain their leading position. Messenger apps have become incredibly "sticky" with users with 72% 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," says 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.”