ComScore published its U.S. Mobile App Report yesterday. Much of it is really interesting: mobile app usage increased 52% in the past year; on the whole we spend 42% of our overall app time on just one app; iPhone users earn 40% more income than Android users, for a few examples. But one small, somewhat buried bit of information is fascinating to us here at Layer. And it has to do with engagement.

Across all age segments, the most time is spent on […] apps in the Social Networking, Entertainment and Messaging categories.

Another way to say this: apps designed to enable people to communicate with one another (social networking, messaging) are the most engaging apps available.

One of our theses here at Layer is thataddingcommunications makes, for the most part, any app better. And the biggest room for engagement boost is in apps that weren’t designed just for chat in the first place. A real estate app, a calendar app, pretty much any marketplace app. The addition of communications, built contextually into the product experience, will boost engagement and retention and make the product overall better and more useful. This is what we believe, and what we’ve seen proven out by our early access users.

But since the trend of adding communications to products that didn’t previously have the features is somewhat new (Pinterest, a top app itself, just added chat functionality this month), there’s not much data to tell this story at scale. This is likely because historically it’s been extremely difficult to build these features. We take the fact that apps rich with communications are highly engaging — like the ones referenced in the ComScore report — coupled by what we’ve seen in our beta, to mean that adding the same features to apps in other categories will elicit the same engagement benefits.

Another one of our beliefs: beyond just adding communications, there’s a right way to do it. We believe it must be intrinsic to the product experience so that it feels seamless. Contextual. Fluid. In-app. There are lots of experience benefits, and business benefits, too. All of which lead to better engagement. In a marketplace app, for example, having communication that doesn’t require the user to leave the app and move to SMS or email will mean higher conversions and a lesser likelihood users will simply connect directly outside the app.

If an app’s users have a personal connection to its content and are able to express themselves and connect in context, they will find more value in the app and use it more. At Layer we spend a great deal of time thinking about how transformational these features can be for both the app developer and the end-users of their products.

If you haven’t yet requested early access to Layer, please do. We can’t wait to see what you build.