Study: Mobile Apps Have Overtaken Web Usage; People Consume Apps Like Tapas

Apps Screen

Looks like we might be at a tipping point in the market for mobile apps and how they are becoming the go-to place for digital content. A new bit of number-crunching from the app analytics company Flurry claims that for the first time, this month in the U.S. mobile app consumption overtook web surfing — on mobile and PC — in terms of minutes of use.

In a blog post, Flurry notes that so far for the month of June, mobile apps in the U.S. averaged out at 81 minutes per day of use, while web use averaged out at 74 minutes. Games were the most popular category at 47 percent; followed by social networking at 32 percent.

Flurry’s figures are based on its own U.S. data, which it says covers 500 million “aggregated, anonymous use sessions per day across more than 85,000 applications,” on iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry and J2ME platforms. The web stats, meanwhile, are taken from Alexa and comScore (NSDQ: SCOR) and take account of minutes spent on the “open web,” “mobile web” and Facebook.

Putting aside the fact that Flurry may be a tad biased in its position here — it’s an app analytics company, so bigging-up the rise of apps benefits it greatly — and that it’s not quite clear what exactly is being covered on the other side of the fence — where do web apps fit in? where do sites requiring subscriptions go (are they “open”)? and does this include time spent on work computers or just those in people’s homes? — taken alone the sheer rise of app usage over time speaks to how fast apps have grown as a medium. Flurry notes that app usage has grown by 91 percent over the last year.

It also underscores how much people (well, people in the U.S., at least) like to have their content targeted and served directly, rather than as an all-you-can eat buffet, so to speak.

Drawing out that food metaphor a bit more, it looks like people like to consume content like tapas: “growth has come primarily from more sessions per user, per day rather than a large growth in average session lengths,” writes Flurry’s product marketing manager Charles Newark-French.

Apps are still in their early days, compared to the now-mature web, which grew by only 16 percent in the last year.

What will be interesting to watch is how the balance will change in the year ahead. We are only now starting to see an earnest rise of “web apps” like the FT’s and Facebook’s that create app-like experiences but with less client-side storage of content.

And there are still more innovations to be made in native mobile web browsers: apparently Apple’s new iOS 5 build is outperforming Windows Phone Mango, which looked pretty fast when it was previewed earlier this year. All this could go some way to swinging minutes away from apps and back to the web again.

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