Nielsen: games are the most popular smartphone apps

Gaming is the most popular mobile app category
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More than half of all smartphone owners played games and racked up about 8 hours of play time each month in the second quarter this year, according to a new report from Nielsen.

Games were the most popular apps used on smartphones in the past 30 days, with 64 percent of smartphone owners downloading them. Weather apps were the second most popular apps, downloaded at 60 percent, with social networking apps like Facebook coming in at third, with 56 percent of all smartphone owners downloading them.

iPhone owners played games more often and longer than Android owners. Players racked up 14.7 hours of play time on iPhone games each month, while Android owners only played games for 9.3 hours each month, according to the report. Windows Phone 7 owners, despite the device being closely tied to Microsoft’s online gaming network, Xbox Live, played games for only 4.7 hours a month.

Nearly all smartphone owners who played games were willing to pay for the apps, according to the Nielsen report. That’s compared to only 76 percent of smartphone owners who were willing to pay for a news app.

Smartphone games are designed to be played in small, bite-sized chunks that only last for a few minutes. For example, the typical level in a PopCap game like Peggle or Plants vs. Zombies takes anywhere from 20 seconds to 2 minutes to complete. That’s compared to typical video game titles on home consoles, where the average play session can last upwards of an hour. Massive online games like EVE Online can have play sessions that last upwards of 3 hours.

VB’s research team is studying mobile user acquisition... Chime in here, and we’ll share the results.