Over the past few years, we have seen an increasing trend of consumer computing technology shifting to a mobile-first philosophy. The “age of mobile” that we are currently living in has been defined by the rise of two ecosystems – the mobile web and mobile apps. Both these ecosystems have been competing for user attention on the mobile platform for a long time. A new report by eMarketer sheds light more on this tussle, with one emerging as a clear winner.
On an average, a mobile user in the US spends nearly 3 hrs on the Internet every day using his device. The duration, however, will grow over 3 hours by 2019, and mobile apps would be the driving force behind the growth – despite the average number of apps per device is estimated to go down.
With the fast-changing equations in mobile web and mobile app, it’s important to understand:
- On which ecosystem brands should focus more in the coming years?
- Which ecosystem is more effective from ROI per say?
- Which is the most preferred ecosystem of mobile users?
Internet Time Spend: Mobile Apps Leave Mobile Web In The Dust
As we reported earlier, mobile is becoming the largest platform for internet access across devices. eMarketer reports that mobile users in the US spend an average of 2 hours and 51 minutes on the internet per day on their device. However, for some time now mobile apps have been dominating internet usage on mobile platforms and this gulf is only widening with time. Research firm eMarketer reports that mobile users in the US will spend nearly 2 hours and 25 minutes per day on the internet via mobile apps in 2017. This estimation is even higher than previously forecast and represents an increase of 10.3% over 2016. This also means that nearly 20% of media consumption time will be spent with mobile apps.
In contrast, time spent in browsing the mobile web is estimated to be 26 minutes per day in 2017. This is a mere 4% improvement on the 25 minute per day average in 2015.
Forecasts for the future are also pretty dismal, with the average daily usage of mobile web pegged at only 27 minutes in 2019, representing an improvement of 8% from 2015-2019. Meanwhile, daily internet access via mobile apps is set to experience an improvement of 41.74% during the same time period.
These facts only serve to underline the immense significance of mobile apps. They now make up 84.9% of total mobile time spent on the internet, compared to the 15.1% spent on the mobile web.
All these stats paint a pretty grim picture for the future of the mobile web. So why are users preferring mobile apps over the mobile web? Some of the primary reasons are:-
- Customizability And Personalization – Mobile apps have the ability to provide a level of personalization and customizability simply not possible on the mobile web. Apps provide the ability to track user preferences, usage habits and provide a tailor-made custom experience to each user.
- Access To Native Hardware Functionality – While mobile websites have some limited access to device hardware such as GPS, it pales in comparison to the level of access mobile apps enjoy. Mobile apps can integrate smartphone features such as camera, accelerometer etc and take advantage of higher processing power.
- Interactive Apps and Games – For such type of content, mobile apps are the logical choice. The popularity of gaming on mobile is one of the driving forces behind the dominance of mobile apps.
- Better Offline Functionality – Apps have the ability to provide basic offline functionality, even in the absence of an internet connection. This is a feature that can only be offered in a bare-bones way via HTML5 on the mobile web.
- Better Performance – If properly coded, mobile apps can provide significantly faster performance compared to their web-based counterpart.
- The advantage to working offline: With the increasing technology advancement, mobile apps reduced the dependency on the Internet. Unlike mobile web that demands always-connected scenario, mobile app users can always access to historical data and information without having their devices connected to the internet. In many apps, users are allowed to add, update information on their app irrespective of the availability of the internet, which automatically gets uploaded whenever device have internet connectivity.
But, Mobile Web Still As Important As Ever
Despite stagnating growth and cannibalised use-time by mobile apps, the mobile web is as relevant as ever. A closer look into mobile app usage patterns reveals a worrying development.
Even though users continue to spend more and more time on mobile apps, the number of apps in use is declining. We reported earlier how 2016 was the first year where mobile app usage did not grow across the board. Time spent is some apps depreciated at the expense of others.
eMarketer notes listening to audio, social networking, gaming, video watching and messaging as the most time-intensive activities. What this means is that even though mobile apps being used more than ever, the app marketplace is becoming extremely competitive. Major companies are combining increased functionality in their apps, rendering many other apps useless. The biggest victim of this has been the category of personalization apps.
Another area where mobile web reigns supreme is the lucrative Retail sector. Business.com reports that while some e-commerce giants like Amazon sustain greater mobile app revenue than mobile web revenue, the mobile web dominates revenue generation for most retailers.
Mobile web also offers its own set of advantages over apps:-
- Broader Reach And Instant Access – Mobile websites are easily accessible across most platforms and instantly.
- Lower Investment – Mobile websites require a lower level of investment monetarily and time-wise. They also work across all platforms, whereas apps need to be developed individually.
- Upgrades And Maintenance – Mobile sites can be instantly upgraded and hence provide more flexibility. They also require lower levels of maintenance by the development team.
- Higher Revenue Share – Host mobile app stores generally take a cut of the revenue. This is not the case with mobile web.
- Discoverability And Shareability – Mobile websites are more easily discoverable, especially through search engines. They are also more easily shareable via simple URLs or hyperlinks from other websites.
- Time spent on mobile apps by internet users is at an all-time high and is only set to grow over the next few years.
- The cone of successful app experiences is shrinking, with most time being spent on social media apps like Facebook. The success of these apps is being driven by increased native implementation of new features and video consumption.
- Despite the growth, the competitive nature of the app market and high investment required make it a risky proposition.
- Mobile Web offers the benefit of widespread reach and discoverability at a relatively low investment.