How Fast Do Top News Apps Start?

Two weeks ago, we presented our study of cold start times of top apps in Google Play. Meanwhile, our friends at the New York Times explained how they’ve reduced their Android app’s startup time from 5.6 seconds to just 1.7 seconds with the help of NimbleDroid, so we feel obliged to present a quick study about start times of top news apps :).

Why do our fellow developers at the NYTimes care so much about app start time? Imagine being interrupted by a push notification about a breaking news story, and after tapping on the notification, waiting upwards of four seconds for the app to start – users undoubtedly hate experiences like this, so it’s imperative that news apps launch quickly and function smoothly.

To study how quickly (or slowly) top news apps start, we compiled some top news apps from Google Play and quantified their startup times. Again, our benchmark devices are Nexus 5 phones (representing mid-range devices) running Android 4.4 (the most popular Android version at the time of study). One thing to note is that we determine an app to have finished starting up once its main Activity is loaded and its main thread is idle to respond to user actions; the app may still be loading news content in the background.

Another quick note – we only included news apps that produce their own content, not news aggregators.

As you can see, the NYTimes and Yahoo News have the fastest startup time of all major news apps on the Playstore. Both apps are nearly 4x faster than WABC and NBC, the slowest. Both Yahoo and NYTimes are our users, so there’s a strong positive correlation here ;).

It’s important to note that nearly 70% of these apps take over 2 seconds to start up. This is surprising, given the importance of being the first to deliver a story - we would expect apps in this category to load much quicker. After all, 40% of the top 100 apps start in under 2 seconds. Clearly, there is a lot of room for improvement in this sector, and just a few quick fixes could go a long ways towards improving the user experience these applications offer.