According to App Annie, messenger service Snapchat is among the top 10 most downloaded apps in the US right now. Competitor WhatsApp lags behind in number of downloads, bouncing between the top 20 and top 30. But just because users are downloading an app does not mean that they are using it. In fact, Forrester’s US Consumer Technographics® Behavioral Study shows that each user’s top five most used apps represent 84% of the total time spent using apps*. Just a handful of apps command a large majority of users’ attention.  So number of downloads only tell part of the story.

When it comes to actual user engagement, how does Snapchat compare to WhatsApp? 

The two are, in fact, neck and neck when evaluated using Forrester’s App Engagement Index, a framework that measures engagement success for apps across four user metrics: popularity, commitment, frequency, and time spend. Interestingly, their overall scores are comparable, but their performance on each of the metrics is different: While Snapchat attracts a larger audience, WhatsApp users actually spend more time using the app.

The App Engagement Index tells us that social networking and communication apps (which includes messaging, email, and digital video and/or voice apps) are the most engaging types of apps on smartphones evaluted using the index. They outpace other app categories like games and news/media. And while the Facebook app is the clear winner when it comes to engaging a large audience, other social apps earn their high scores for different reasons, highlighting some interesting takeaways. Technographics clients interested in learning more about how social apps compare can read my latest report “How Do Social Apps Stack Up?”

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*among apps that interact with web browsers with the exception of pre-installed (native) email and messaging apps

Nicole Dvorak is a data scientist serving all roles. Follow her on Twitter at @NicoleLDvorak