Not So Fast: Native Apps Still Trump Mobile Web

Last week over on webapptesting.com, Jamie Saine blogged about why the mobile web could conquer native apps. In her post, she cited predictions from noted mobile experts who believe that HTML 5 browsers will win out in the long run. This is not an uncommon view in the mobile world, but is it realistic?

As a brief rebuttal, I wanted to entertain the exact opposite: Could native apps actually conquer the mobile web? In many ways, they already have. Here’s why:

For one, the mobile web has already lost considerable ground on native apps, a trend that’s expected to continue – and possibly accelerate – over the next few years. As covered by Amy Gahran of CNN:

“A year and a half ago, mobile users tended to spend considerably more time — an average of 64 minutes per day — using the Web browser on their phone or tablet. By comparison, they spent only 43 minutes per day in apps. Now mobile users now spend an average of 94 minutes per day using apps, but just 72 minutes browsing the mobile Web…”

In fact, Joe Wilcox of Beta News had even higher statistics of mobile app usage:

“In March, the web browser accounted for just 18.5 percent of time spent online among US smart-phone users. Mobile apps accounted for the rest. Now we know why Safari for iOS capabilities advance so sparingly: Apple sees it as irrelevant. Stated differently: Safari is to mobile what Internet Explorer 6 was to the desktop 10 years ago. Apps matter more to both developers.”

Bottom line: We are spending more time with native apps. Why? Speed. Convenience. Reliability. Accuracy. Usability. These are things not currently associated with the mobile browser. As Jamie noted in her post:

The mobile browser is just not ready for a true Post-App Economy. When we talk about mobile Web apps, HTML5, CSS and the like, we are talking about the quality and capabilities of the mobile browser. Currently, none of the major mobile browser providers have the capability to serve top-notch, app-like experiences that serve all user expectations. … Direct access to the full capabilities of mobile devices is the primary issue, but not the only one. Others include rendering, graphics and load time (all basically in the same category), along with HTML5 audio and video quality. …

Users from across the spectrum have made it loud and clear: They prefer to access content via native apps. If the usage of mobile apps continues to grow at this rate, could the mobile web dissolve entirely? No way. Can it be rendered insignificant? Possibly.

What do you think? Let us know what you think in the comments section.

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