A blizzard of articles followed the release of a report by Flurry that says that the amount of time spent on mobile apps exceeds time spent on mobile and desktop web. Many are referring to this as a tipping point that shows that HTML5 isn’t going to catch native apps.
Yawn. Does this even matter?
I guess the assumption is that the total amount of time spent on the desktop web exceeds the amount of time spent in desktop native apps and that mobile is some new behavior here, right?
Except I can’t find any data on how much time is spent on the web versus using native apps when it comes to desktop computers. The closest I’ve found is research that looks at home usage of computers.
My assumption is that for the tasks that people do repeatedly, that they are likely to find specialized software. Sometimes that specialized software is web-based—salesforce comes to mind—but just as commonly that software is a native app like Outlook or Photoshop.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we looked at computer usage to find that native app usage exceeded web usage. I have iTunes running constantly while doing other things. Does that count?
One reason I find discussions like this frustrating is not simply because it feeds into an argument that I’ve grown weary of—web versus native—but also because it is information that no one can really act on. What do you do with the information that people are spending more time using mobile apps than they are using the web?
Advertisers perhaps could use it to make decisions to put more money into ads running inside mobile apps. Of course, these ads would:
- Be built using HTML5—even iAd is based on web technology.
- Drive people to mobile websites.
Otherwise, the information doesn’t seem to be something you can act on.
One problem with average data like this is that heavy usage—like game play—skews the average. We don’t know median usage. But most importantly, we don’t know the usage patterns for your target customers.
I’m not disputing the results. I’m merely asking, now what?
All of the debate about web versus native obscures two more interesting trends in the data:
- Casual gaming, especially via a mobile phone, has really taken off.
- Most social networking started in the web, but has turned to native on the phones. Facebook is trying to go back to web on mobile. This is something to watch given how large a chunk of time is spent on social networks.
For all of the talk about how mobile web is being left behind, I have yet to see a single study that doesn’t show exponential growth in mobile web usage.
Yes, people may spend more time playing games than browsing the web on their phones, but they are still browsing the web on their phones in record numbers. And if businesses want to reach them, they need to include mobile web as part of their strategy.
No “average” user looks at their phone and thinks, “Awesome, native apps are winning!” No, they rely on both apps and web on a regular basis.
If our customers don’t see this as a zero sum game, why do we insist on talking about it in these terms? I look at mobile and see a world of opportunity for both the web and native apps.