Are apps better than the mobile web?


3 minute read
Alumni: Kieron Gurner

Alumni: Kieron Gurner

UX & Design Lead

Digital Insights

The mobile analytics firm Flurry, recently reported that apps are beating the mobile web for user’s attention hands-down. Flurry’s statistics of over one billion smartphone devices in the USA show that users spend 80% of their time in apps, with the remaining 20% being used to browse the web. So, are apps better than the mobile web?

Right now, users are clearly far happier with their experience they get from apps than they are with mobile web. This doesn’t mean it will always be the case, since we’re only five years into smartphones as a platform, and mobile web technology is getting better all the time. But for now, there are a few reasons why native apps are still ahead of the game:

  • Apps are fast

  • Apps can be used without an internet connection

  • Mobile web sites aren’t yet as intuitive as apps are

  • Apps feel like they “belong” to users

  • Apps remember user preferences & log information – and can access other content on the users phone

It’s important to remember that both kinds of mobile use are still developing, and the kinds of things that people want to use apps for is still growing.

How are people using apps?

The numbers suggest that not only are there more devices being activated, but also that users are steadily starting to use more apps too, which seems like positive trend for the future growth of the app market.

Some apps allow users to browse the web from within them too – like Facebook – so it’s likely that the large share of usage Facebook is getting (18% overall) is due, in part, to people opening shared links and accessing the web from within Facebook. This mechanism means that users don’t need to leave the app to continue their flow, and in turn, stay in the app longer.

What does this mean for the mobile web?

Modern smartphones are still quite new (remember the iPhone’s only been around since 2007), so it’s impossible to say how things will develop in time. The data suggests that smartphone and tablet sales are not slowing down though, and as we’re all becoming more used to using smartphones in daily (or hourly) lives, we’re sure to see developments in both app technology and web browsing capabilities.

As web technology advances and with better connectivity becoming more widely available (like 4G), some of the issues with mobile web will become less relevant. But, app technology is also improving with innovations, like indoor positioning and augmented reality; which will always make apps a better choice for a lot of situations.

Over time, the distinction is likely to blur, but for now at least, apps are winning the fight for users’ attention hands-down.

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