Are Mobile Apps Really Changing Everything?
Apps are beating the browser on mobile devices, but being a user's favorite is more important than ever. It means that while apps have huge potential, making a good first impression could be the key to success.
The amount of time users spend running apps on their smartphone has rocketed in recent years, possibly because of better Wi-Fi availability and more competition for data plans. Nielsen reported that the average monthly app use for a smartphone owner rose from 23 hours and two minutes at the end of 2012 to 37 hours and 28 minutes at the end of 2014. Meanwhile Forrester Research reported that app use now makes up 85 percent of the time phone users spend engaging with their phone.
It seems users have decided that they often want to do a specific task on a phone rather than idly surf the web, and that's where dedicated apps come in, doing one thing and doing it well.
Google is convinced that there's a trend away from the browser and towards dedicated apps. It recently took the surprise step of launching an open source code system designed to make mobile Web pages launch more quickly. The idea was to combat the problem of users finding it easier to read articles in apps such as Facebook than on news websites -- a move that directly threatens Google's ad revenues. However, that doesn't mean every app developer can share in a glorious revolution.
Both studies mentioned above found people are trending towards using fewer apps for a longer time. Nielsen found the average number of apps people use during a month is 26.7, a figure that's remained almost identical even as total time spent on apps has gone up more than 50 percent. And Forrester found that the average person spends 84 percent of the time on a smartphone using just five apps that have been installed in an app store -- of course, which five varies from person to person.
While mobile apps are very much here to stay and are already the dominant way in which smartphone users interact with the Internet, only a minority of apps are likely to prevail. That makes it more important than ever to develop apps that identify and serve a genuine need rather than rely on novelty or gimmicks.