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

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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.

6 Responses to “Study: Mobile Apps Have Overtaken Web Usage; People Consume Apps Like Tapas”

  1. There will always be a battle between the mobile app and the web. With companies creating “cookie cutter” mobile apps for a couple hundred dollars, the mobile app marketplace across all platforms will become flooded with apps for many websites and companies. These apps will ultimately server little to no purpose other than putting the website in a more “usable” format. 

    True apps with quality design and purpose will become more abundant also but not at the rate of the “cookie cutter” apps. 

  2. I agree with Patrick Young. People seem to like mobile apps because websites often are not designed for mobile devices. This trend says something about how companies should envision their website and overall online strategy. Everyone in this comment thread has great ideas. I wrote a little piece with my thoughts on what this means for online strategy. I’d love to get some of your insights.

  3. Patrick Young

     The source of the problem is not enough websites are mobile friendly.  If the web designers would simply and make usable sites then more websites would be accessed via mobile.

    Web designers have a desire to be on the bleeding edge of technology. HTML5 is like a new toy. Mobile requires going back to HTML basics. Keeping it simple and usable.

    Mobile sites also require pages to be constructed without CSS and HTML errors. The only reason most websites render at all is due to the Browser detecting and fixing their errors. Mobile Browsers have limited resources and capability to fix errors. Even when the mobile Browser can fix the errors, it wastes precious time.

    This site is a prime example. The comment box does not work on FireFox 4.01. I had to switch to IE to leave this comment. I ran this page through the W3C HTML validator and it reported 60 HTML errors. A comment box does not require JavaScript, so why is it used here? Looks very nice. What good is pretty when it’s not functional.

    The web designers are out of control. Somebody needs to put a leash on them.

  4. wow that is great – nearly half of that “apps” time people are using their smartphone productlively to PLAY GAMES.  This is indeed great news for our country.

  5. Fully functional closed-end mobile apps may lose out to mobile browser-based sites over time due to redundancy and development costs. Mobile apps may just become ‘shortcuts’ to mobile sites just as many Google Apps are simply shortcuts to sites today. Why create a mobile site AND a mobile app? Just build it once as a mobile-optimized site and encourage consumers to install a shortcut on their mobile phone’s desktop where the apps are sitting today. They touch the icon and get whisked away to the mobile browser that brings up the mobile site that looks and functions just like a mobile app.

  6. milesgalliford

    interesting article. Apps will continue to grow until we get better quality and universally available mobile Internet access. Then we will have a level playing field and we will find out whether consumers prefer apps or the native web. Place your bets now!