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The one-update-cycle rule

The Play Store has over 1.3 million apps available, and a lot more being made available day after day. I just took a count and I have exactly 20 apps on my phone that I use regularly (at least once a week). ButI keep installing new apps just to check out what's new and out there that I might end up liking and find useful.

This kept increasing the number of apps installed on my phone and started making my experience of using the phone bad. The golden standard of design is to have visible and available only those things that are useful and necessary.

This was when I formulated the one-update-cycle rule to remove the clutter. It's a fairly simple rule. I turned off auto-update for my installed apps. So, Play Store would push a notification whenever there was an update available for any of my installed apps. I use that notification as a trigger to either update or uninstall the app. If I hadn't used the app since I installed it/previously updated it, I would uninstall it. And if I had used it, I would update it.

While most people may not follow a defined algorithm like I do, I believe the algorithm mimics the behaviour observed for most people, irrespective of what their triggers are to uninstall an app.

Average uninstall-rate for well-managed apps with a decent number of downloads (>50k) is in the range 30-40%. This means that for every 5 people that install your app, two of them end up uninstalling them in under a month. What if these are the two additional users that all your marketing campaigns are bringing in? Scary, right?

Which is why I feel the number of app downloads is just an ego-metric. But coming back to my algorithm, you might wonder what happens to those apps that don't push updates frequently (at least once a month). I feel these apps are doomed to fail anyway as any bunch of developers that don't see their work being shipped will eventually feel demotivated and find greener pastures.

Is your app providing enough value at frequent intervals to make the user want to keep it on her phone?

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