Flurry: Utilities, news, weather and sports are the most engaging app categories

The most engaging apps aren’t games, banking clients or even social networks reports Flurry — they’re simple apps that deliver the same value time and time again. The mobile monetization provider’s latest study shows the most engaging apps are actually utilities falling under the categories of Weather, Reference, Sports and News. Apps in those categories keep the majority of their users coming back regularly, even after three months.

Flurry put together its report by tracking the 90 day retention rates of a series popular apps, comparing their retention rates to how frequently they were used. Altogether, consumers used the apps Flurry tracked more than 1.7 billion times a week.

According to Flurry Weather Apps showed the best retention, with 73 percent of users still opening an app 30 days after installing it, 63 percent opening it 60 days after installing it, and 55 percent continuing to use it after 90 days. Interestingly, although weather apps showed the best retention, they weren’t the most frequently used apps, averaging 3.7 user sessions a week.

The most frequently used apps were streaming music apps, communication apps and social games, but only communication apps retained half their users a month after the initial install. Flurry found 62 percent of users were still opening a communication app after 30 days, but only 47 percent of social game players and 39 percent of music fans were still engaged with their apps after a month.

Flurry used its research to divide app categories into four broad groups: intensive and loyal use apps (news, communication apps), “burst-value” apps that were used intensively, but for finite periods (dating services, social games), infrequently used apps with high churn (personalization, entertainment apps) and infrequently used apps that provide high value and low churn (travel and navigation apps, single player games).

Flurry’s study is a repeat of one the company conducted in 2009. The company found that while the average 90 day retention rate has improved over the past three years, rising from 25 percent to 35 percent, the overall frequency of app usage declined. In 2009, the average app logged 6.7 sessions a week, compared to 3.7 in 2012.

Overall, Flurry recommends that developers working in categories with strong retention explore subscription and advertising based monetization models, while considering consider one-time download fees to monetize apps that fall into categories with higher churn rates. The company found that in-app purchases were an effective monetization strategy for frequently used apps regardless of retention rates.

The full breakdown of Flurry’s findings by category follows after the jump.