The world is increasingly going mobile: mobile apps, to be more exact. New data out of app analytics firm Flurry finds that mobile users are spending more time in mobile apps than mobile web browsing, widening a gap that began for the first time last summer.
Flurry said Monday that average smartphone users now spend 94 minutes in apps a day compared to 72 minutes in a mobile web browser. Last summer, Flurry noted the first time app usage eclipsed mobile browsing, with users spending 81 minutes in apps compared to 74 minutes daily on the web. Now, Flurry said app usage is continuing to grow each day, while the use of mobile web browsing has fallen. ComScore also noted a shift last fall toward mobile apps, finding users are now spending more time in apps over the browser for the first time. For the study, Flurry examined app usage in 140,000 apps running Flurry analytics and compared it to mobile web data usage from comScore and Alexa.
The shift to apps appears to be driven in part by mobile users’ waning interest in accessing Facebook from a browser, Flurry said. It said while the average Facebook user in June last year spent more than 33 minutes on average each day on the website, that number is now below 24 minutes. Traffic to Facebook now appears to be increasingly channeled through mobile apps, including a new Facebook app for the iPad, which launched in October. But with Facebook’s increasing use of HTML5 and web technologies, it’s possible Facebook could also help push the tide back toward web browsing as it looks to enable more developers to build mobile web apps that work through Facebook. And with the overall maturing of HTML5, we should see more interesting web apps emerge that can attempt to pull user attention away from native apps.
Flurry said the growth of mobile app usage appears to be slowing, however. Between Dec. 2010 and June 2011, the time spent in mobile applications grew more than 23 percent, but from June 2011 to December 2011 time spent in apps has grown 15 percent. While the growth in time spent on mobile apps is slowing, users are engaged in more sessions, visiting apps more frequently than in the past, said Flurry.
The jockeying between apps and mobile web browsing will continue into the future. Native apps make more sense for intensive programs that require more use of the hardware. And with native app stores making it so easy to download purpose-driven apps, it’s simple for users to turn to apps to get what they need done. But with HTML5 emerging, there are a lot of native apps that can exist just as easily as web apps. And in fact, many apps are being built now in HTML5 with a native wrapper designed for specific platforms. Forrester recently came out with a report recommending developers and enterprises go with this hybrid approach, which cuts down on costs and helps apps fit a number of platforms. I think native apps will continue to increase their advantage over web browsing until HTML5 grows up some more and we see some solid distribution channels and stores for web apps.