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Mobile shift: You’ve probably underestimated just how big this is (trigger.io)
231 points by amirnathoo on Jan 24, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 114 comments

Two things:

1. The author of this article clearly has money on one side of the issue since he's trying to sell a cross-device app development platform.

2. The data he supplies isn't broken down by usage type, so it's a little hard to analyze. What if 50% of the 'app' time is spent playing games? Or 20% of it is spent only in a couple of apps like Facebook? He's suggesting that native apps are supplanting web usage, but the graph actually shows web usage going up. So, are apps complementing or cannibalizing web usage? Hard to tell.

I understand that some people like TV/Radio metrics; such as time spent; however web sites/mobile apps are programmable with multiple purposes where each have diverse usage scenarios than passively watching TV.

Comparing Minutes spent on apps or web sites may be a bit misleading; in this case why not put time spend on Office suites or Desktops on PCs too or me watching my Lisp code. Apps such as games, contents, utilities or web front ends have all different meanings to the users and with regard to monetization (ad or not). The same is true for web sites.

a. the time I spend with my utility apps are apples and oranges comparison to the time I spend reading HN on my Android.

b. Not all 'times spend` are monetizable, or monetizable in the same rate or way;

c. Mobile apps are used slower mainly due to small screen size, finger input.

d. Games are a peculiar category on their own.

Edit: that said; mobile has expanded our connected time to new places/times; toilet, elevator, waiting (queues), couch, TV-ad pauses...

If you follow through to the article's source (Flurry - http://blog.flurry.com/bid/63907/Mobile-Apps-Put-the-Web-in-... ), they split out the mobile usage by activity. It is 47% games, 32% social.

Thank you for the perspective.

One of the first signs I noticed of this was startups we funded not caring much what their domain name was. IIRC that trend began about a year to 18 months ago.

I wonder how mobile web fits into this. Sure, native apps are great, but I'd much prefer to not need to switch between a bunch of native apps and just use my phone's web browser.

Mobile web apps like Facebook prove that you can build a non-trivial app that runs in a web browser and have the experience be so good that people don't even care about the native app version (at least everyone I know just uses Facebook right from their mobile web browser).

A good domain name is still valuable. This is more true especially as more access to phone hardware gets opened up to JavaScript APIs right from the browser. You just can't beat making a change to your app on your server and having all your users get new versions the next time they visit. It's way better than waiting weeks for Apple to review and approve your changes.

I've seen the opposite. Almost everyone I know uses the native facebook app versus going to m.facebook.com. Most people only use a few websites/apps on their phones, and I think it's just simpler to tap on the app icon rather than start up mobile safari and type m.facebook.com.

Facebook is an app you use often, so the increase in responsiveness is well worth it.

In the case of most startups, native apps are unnecessary. I already see that feeling trend my geek friends ("Ah, not another of those sites that want me to download their app. I just want to see the [movie listings, items for sale, opening hours, etc.]").

Worth noting, also, that Facebook (and Twitter) is mostly just a window with a browser (hence why the mobile sites are very similar).

>> In the case of most startups, native apps are unnecessary.

I think the point the original post was trying to make was that in deciding between Web and native app, only native apps will be necessary. In other words, why spend the time developing a Web app when everyone will use it on a mobile anyway.

(I just want to point out that there's a large part of my soul that is just torn over agreeing with this post, because I would much prefer an open Web to proprietary apps. And I built Web apps for years. However, denial does not become an entrepreneur.)

The "native" facebook app is just an html5 webapp believe it or not.

I have no trouble believing it, which is a big part of why it has such terrible ratings and reviews now, as compared to when it was native.

And from what I understand, Facebook has done a lot of significant engineering to try and improve the performance while keeping it mostly HTML5.

Mobile web apps aren't ready.

The FB app was heavily using webviews long before the most recent redesign. I could be wrong, but if I remember correctly it was even mostly web-based back when Joe Hewitt was still working on it, and he left Facebook in 2009.

Be that as it may, the experience of using an app is different from using a website. For one, and remember this is for the normal user, there is less searching involved which means less keyboard time, which means faster.

That, and an app seems to have more authority than a website. "This is Facebook, and I know it." sort of thing.

I believe it has both native as well as HTML5 elements, just like the LinkedIn app.

I believe at least the News Feed is HTML5.

I discovered it when I was at Starbucks. My session expired and the NewsFeed displayed the Starbucks login page instead.

No, some minor parts are done with webview, but most of it isn't, at least not for the iPhone. There is a huge library called Three20 that was created while the app was developed (as far as I know).

Is this true? Do you have a source?

It is not true. Facebook uses this: http://three20.info/

I didn't think so. Thanks for clearing that up.

I don't think so. You don't get that smoothness with HTML5.

These people have heard of bookmarks, right? You can bookmark a website and put the icon right on your home screen. I visit HN all the time from my phone, but I definitely don't type news.ycombinator.com every time.

No, I doubt most of them have heard of bookmarks, at least not on their phone. I bet if you took a survey right now of iPhone owners, maybe 10% would have any idea what you're talking about.

Pure speculation, but I wouldn't be surprised.

I would be very surprised. Assuming they have used bookmarks anywhere else, I wouldn't think it would take long for the tedium of entering URLs on a touch screen to make them think of making a bookmark. The question is whether they can figure out how.

True, but in practice I don't feel like that happens all that often. Either because people just don't know about it or because they just don't think about it. Web sites feel like, well, web sites; so most people naturally expect to access them through their browser app. (Nothing technical, just the way humans seem to work.)

Just a quick reality check: "normal people" don't know anything about bookmarks, and they know almost nothing of URLs. They simply search google every fscking time. And I'm talking of desktop usage here.

Disagree, I think most people know about bookmarks/ favorites, at least on a pc. They are pretty much as old as the Internet. Mobile I would agree.

. . . or just google "HN news"

Actually, just 'HN' will get you there with 1st result.

> at least everyone I know just uses Facebook right from their mobile web browser

Until this exact moment, it never even occurred to me to use Facebook from mobile safari. I just tried it out and it is pretty impressive; it looks (and works) very much like the app but with a slower and less responsive UI. If given the choice, I don't see why anyone would use the web version over the app though.

I suggest that you go and have a look at the reviews of the native Faceebok app both on Android Market and on the FB page of that app. The app basically stopped to work over a month ago. The web app is fine.

I have an iPhone

I think you might want to question your assumptions. The reason you want to do everything in the browser is probably twofold:

1) Inertia (that's the way I've been doing it for a decade, dagnammit), and

2) It's an easier context-switch. Rather than go back to the home screen, swipe over to the next app, and tap it, you just just type in the first few letters of the url, then select the site you want to go to from the drop down list.


1) Has had pretty poor predictive value in the last few years, and there's no reason to suggest it'll improve. Our entire industry is built around disrupting inertia.

2) Is ripe for disruption. At the end of the day, when you get right down to it, entering the first few letters of a url then selecting the correct site is both an arbitrary, and not particularly optimized workflow. The fact that we are used to it does not mean there aren't far better systems out there. Sure, Chrome on my MBP has learned to take me to my top 10 sites with cmd-l -> $url[0] -> enter, but my mom needs her buttons on the bookmark bar. I tried to remove the titles, thinking she could easily recognize the favicons, but no dice. She needs a start menu-like interface.

Similarly, I was on the bus with my friend, browsing reddit. He buys tons of apps for his iPhone, and he looks at my screen and says, "is their mobile app free?" I said, "well, yes, but most people just browse to reddit.com/.compact". he stared at me in disbelief. Why would you use the browser if you can have an app?

For those of us who live and breath the Internet, it seems only natural that a write-once-run-anywhere website would be more appealing than having to download some stupid app from some stupid store, type in your password, then have to remember which home screen it's on, etc. For those who use the internet as casual content consumers, however, apps take a lot of the frustration out of it. Want to read the economist? Tap the economist button. That's it. Want to watch a youtube video? Tap the youtube button. Need directions? Tap the map button.

For the casual user, these workflows are far more intuitive. My friend, who has spent hundreds of dollars in the App Store, rarely uses the browser on his phone. He uses the Plenty of Fish app, the Chive app, etc. For most non-technical users, this just makes sense. It might seem annoying to us, but we are not the largest market segment by far.

Now it might be that we'll see mobile web sites with a light wrapper disguised as apps; perhaps cache and a link that opens in the browser. Maybe we'll see native support for the kinds of things that are typically done in the browser. But, crucially, what I don't think we'll see is the dominance of mobile web over native clients. For the vast majority of people out there, I think they just want the app.

It's not inertia, but it is an easier context-switch, IMO.

If you made an "app browser" that allowed better searching (type the first letter and the app appears --- tap to open it), sorting (like bookmark folders) and easy navigation between apps, you'd be presenting me a much better experience than the current process of finding and switching between apps on your phone.

That said, I still think pure mobile web could be the future. Why couldn't Apple allow mobile web apps to be sold in the app store? It's an icon that opens a web page. It could be as simple as that.

Let's take it a step further. Imagine that when you download this new type of mobile web app, Apple calls a JavaScript API that reads the HTML manifest in the 'index' file and loads the resources in the background. Apple shows the downloading bar over the app icon while this happens, just like downloading an app today. When you click it, everything is loaded and ready to rock.

> If you made an "app browser" that allowed better searching (type the first letter and the app appears --- tap to open it)

The iPhone has this. Just swipe right on the home screen.

> and easy navigation between apps

On the iPhone, double tap the home button and you get a taskbar of your running apps.

> Why couldn't Apple allow mobile web apps to be sold in the app store? It's an icon that opens a web page. It could be as simple as that.

Phonegap allows you to bundle a html/javascript webapp as a native iPhone application. There are even hooks in there to access the camera, gps, etc.

Good points on iPhone. I've used PhoneGap and it's great, but that's not exactly what I'm getting at. I'm thinking of a mobile web app that doesn't have to live inside a webview wrapper. This could happen someday when the OS provides a JavaScript API for accessing camera, gps, etc --- and could use the html manifest as a means for "downloading" the app. This would, in my ideal dream world, also allow the app publisher to make app changes at will without waiting for an appstore review.

You can save any website to the Home screen as an icon, and you can even remove Safari chrome from it. You're just giving up app discovery through App Store.

> This would, in my ideal dream world, also allow the app publisher to make app changes at will without waiting for an appstore review.

This is the main reason it won't happen; app store review is one of the key parts of Apple's positioning.

One of my concerns with moble web apps is that you rely on the browser UI conventions. For instance, tab/window management on the iOS browser is ok, but I find the same painful on the Android 2.3 browser. This is not even taking alternative browsers into account.

Although, some 'apps' solve this by adding an icon to the home screen or an embedding a web view inside a native app container. Sadly, I don't know enough about these solutions to critique effectively.

Paul, what are your thoughts on premium domain pricing? Are the days of super premium prices over?

You mean domains that cost hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars? I think those "days" never existed, in the sense that it has probably always been a mistake.

For things like stripe/ path I think the investment in a memorable domain might pay off. I'm sure it helped Dropbox after they got their one, although not sure of the price paid. I would agree on generic ones like business.com

Dropbox yes, as they have a desktop-centric product, but Path? Even if you remember which one of the cool TLDs they decided to go with (US Commercial, Tonga, Lybia, British Indian Ocean), the site itself is a redirect to app store, something you go to by default if you're on an iPhone.

Yeah, I guess for the average user it might not matter much. For me it projects the clean design and simplicity of the whole thing. If I see path.com pop up on Twitter it is much more likely to grab my attention than somerandomtwoworddomain.com

Agreed. Brandable domains are the way to go. But the buyers are few, which keeps the value low, until they're branded that is.

Dropbox, pre startup, would you even have paid the $10 for it? Not sure...but now? of course.

What makes a brandable domain? For one worders like stripe/path and all, it's easy, but dropbox? How could someone have predicted it's "brandability"?

They couldn't but someone did have the domain originally, after it had started becoming a brand.

On the other hand, Fred Wilson still considers a good domain name an important success factor for startups and is something they take into account when evaluating whether to invest. http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2011/04/finding-and-buying-a-domain-...

> I met a team at a mobile dev shop a couple of weeks ago and in the discussion I casually mentioned that mobile app usage exceeds web usage.

I have to question this assertion made in the very first sentence...it does not pass the bullshit test and it's hard for me to trust anything else in this post unless this assertion is proven in detail.

And by "in detail," I mean that this metric is useless unless broken up by category. Is it possible that Facebook mobile app usage is more than Facebook standard-browser usage? Possibly. What about for news sites? I would say, no way. It seems that many of us at HN, even the productive ones, spend a chunk of the work day browsing. Imagine how much the average white-collar worker spends idling away.

Also, how much of the mobile app usage includes freemium/MMORPG/spec-intensive games? This is a category that many web services will never try to compete in?


FWIW, here is the site that the OP links to to justify this assertion: http://blog.flurry.com/bid/63907/Mobile-Apps-Put-the-Web-in-...

And this is what that site says: > In this report, Flurry compares how daily interactive consumption has changed over the last 12 months between the web (both desktop and mobile web) and mobile native apps. For Internet consumption, we built a model using publicly available data from comScore and Alexa. For mobile application usage, we used Flurry Analytics data, now exceeding 500 million aggregated, anonymous use sessions per day across more than 85,000 applications. We estimate this accounts for approximately one third of all mobile application activity, which we scaled-up accordingly for this analysis.

Ah, a "model using publicly available data from comScore and Alexa"...right, that sounds like a totally reliable blackbox to base a completely game-changing assertion.

I find this trend disturbing. This is essentially the opposite of what happened in the 90s during the mass migration from curated networking experiences like AOL and CompuServe towards the unfettered Internet. Now, people are willingly eschewing the open web in favor of, in the case of iOS, walled gardens. And unless this is reversed, it portends a dismal future for the Internet.

We're still trying to find the balance of local and cloud. Desktop apps were great in the 90s because they leverage the local machine's speed and hardware (there weren't any mp3 or jukebox webapps in the 90s, games etc).

But as the browser and web got more powerful and we started moving around more and having more computers (work, laptop, home) the centrality of "the cloud" because a selling point and for many applications the "local power" of the desktop was less important.

Now however we're seeing new constraints play a role.

On mobile, again power in some cases is a bit limited, we have more data/sensors to play with and HTML hasn't caught up to complicated swipe interfaces too well yet. We have location and accelerometer sensors that haven't been too well integrated yet. And your phone is always with you. So we're seeing a swing to cloud data back local apps again. The 3 mobile apps I use the most are google reader (the new site layout is space wasteful in a browser on my netbook, good luck having fun reading on a mobile browser), a movie player and a music player. On my desktop I'm just as likely to use grooveshark or some other streaming service, but with still expensive mobile bandwidth having "locally cached" mp3s wins out over streaming.

If we want to move this back all onto the web, we need an html6 that supports swipe, mobile app like layout, local storage (I know, html5 draft kinda has this... ish)

It's all about device constraints and what is available.

This is just a signal we need to develop the browser some more if we again want it to be the platform of choice in this new space.

We're still trying to find the balance of local and cloud.

History tells us that this "balance" is a mirage. It's a see-saw with a foundation based on thick vs. thin clients, i.e. where the horsepower is located.

I always liked the metaphor of the 'wheel of reincarnation' from 1968 (!): http://www.cap-lore.com/Hardware/Wheel.html (Read the linked PDF paper, better than the HTML summary.)

Also you're confusing "the internet" with "the web" I think. Most mobile apps are internet backed. Even the games these days all tie into "openfient" for global scoreboarding and acheivment tracking. And most big sites like google reader and facebook offer a mobile app for a better user experience but all the data comes from the internet.

The internet is going now where and this won't hurt it at all.

As for the web, the subset of the internet that is about passing webpages around? Well, maybe it will be bad for it. And possibly that's not a bad thing. There are pros and cons.

Javascript had already started killing the web. The industry is going to regress to client/server, and whether the platform will be browsers or mobile devices' own window systems is just an implementation detail. The tradeoffs differ, but they both suck compared to addressable content in standardized formats.

I'm not sure I follow you there, the web has always been more than just html content delivered to your browser. I mean now there is even more access to raw data (json/xml based API) less need to build html parsers and try to scrape sites.

I'm more optimistic - Apple doesn't have a monopoly on the software stack like Microsoft did with Windows.

Competition between Android, iOS and Windows Phone already seems to be spurring a race towards openness.

I think it's even worse...

I've done a lot of "desktop" aka "client/server" programming... 5 years ago everyone declared that DEAD.

Now, we're going back... it's just now there's a few more devices to support, with tinier screens + touch.

I suspect that many of those minutes are playing Angry Birds or minesweeper. While it might cut into Facebook gaming time, I don't think it really is competition for what most of us see the web as providing.

It really is all very temporary anyways. Native apps took off because the web wasn't ready for mobile (most sites were horrendous, etc). I am finding more and more sites offering up excellent mobile experiences that rival or exceed what their parallel native apps offer. Just a few stories away from this the fogcreek crew say "Apps provide things we can’t get out of the web: better speed, offline support, smooth animations, push notifications, and a native look and feel". Of those the only item that legitimately is an advantage of native apps is look and feel.

People who are surprised about the time spent on mobile devices have obviously never been in a waiting room nor public transportation.

Since the iPhone, people have had a chance to kill "dead time" which would otherwise have been spent staring into walls and windows. Twitter's microblogging and -communication, of course, has exacerbated this where we see celebrities who tweet when there is downtime on the set where they are shooting.

I think it's completely ridiculous to say that this is something particular to mobile apps rather than mobile proper.

Why does it have to be apps?

The web experience on mobile devices is improving all the time. With all major smartphone platforms now sporting WebKit browsers, CSS3 media queries and HTML5 are widely supported in the mobile space. That enables us to create sites with one markup that function well for all screen sizes.

There isn't as much pizazz on the web as can be done with apps, but given the expense of effectively writing the same app three times (one for web, one for Android, one for iOS) responsive techniques in web design can make the web option a lot more cost effective than the alternative.

There's one caveat to this report that's important: the data is about two different sets of users. The web data is from comScore, and measures all US web users. It includes everyone from HN readers to the neighbor that checks email just once a month. The mobile data is only looking at US smartphone users (who own a phone that can run apps that Flurry can track), and excludes feature phone users or people with no mobile phone at all. Assuming high smartphone usage correlates to high web usage, web data looks comparatively low.

Personally, I find most native apps to be much better designed for mobile devices than mobile websites. I know this is changing with newer web technologies, but the reality is that the mobile device provides a completely different set of options that mobile web will have a hard time catching up on. I'm thinking about things related to the hardware, such as near-field communication - or things related to processes that are not running inside the browser, e.g., push notifications.

To me, the possibilities with a mobile device are far greater than what lives within the browser. As much as I love the open standards of the web, and have become a software develop in their midst, there is something that really inspires the imagination about mobile devices that goes beyond the browser.

This is probably true for companies targeting casual users. Facebook and YouTube are great examples.

But I can't see people switching to mobile for the bulk of their serious, work-oriented computing unless the hardware experience drastically changes. I would never program on an iPhone or iPad if a computer were available. Nor would I want to do serious video editing, or CAD. I probably wouldn't even want to type a book on an iPad unless I had an external keyboard and mouse--and at that point, how different is it from a laptop?

Granted, most of these use cases can't be done on the web today. But that may (or may not) change. And even now, there are professional tasks that I'd much prefer to do on a laptop or desktop than on a mobile device--for example, updating Basecamp to-dos.

I also wonder whether this mobile vs web distinction will persist in the long run. Imagine a future where the most popular way to access Facebook is by clicking an icon on your iPad, which launches a Facebook mobile version in Safari or a very thin native app built around UIWebView. Is this mobile, or is this the web? At that point, I think the distinction becomes meaningless.

Few people who use computers for work require the same degree of capability as programmers do. For most office work there are huge reasons why the mobile paradigm makes a ton of sense. I firmly believe that in 10-20 years it will be the dominant form of business computer.

That doesn't mean you can't use a mouse and keyboard as well. And that does make it similar to the form-factor of a laptop or a desktop but that misses the core advantages of tablet computers. The OS experience, the app. install and management experience, the portability advantages (tablets are vastly more portable than even a laptop), and the potential cost savings. Not to mention that it could easily be a different set of companies providing such systems in the future than the PC stalwarts of today (perhaps google, apple, samsung, and HTC instead of Microsoft, dell, and hp).

So in other words, mouse + keyboard + iOS/Android will become the dominant system for everyday office use, such as word processing and writings emails? I can believe that.

As you said, the fundamental difference at that point between mobile and traditional computers is the OS. But if that's the case, then I have to question how relevant the distinction is from a developer's point of view.

To cater to mouse + keyboard + iOS/Android users, we don't need to build native iOS apps. We can just as well build regular old web apps and ensure they work well for mouse + keyboard + iOS/Android. That's not very different from what we do today, except for the fact that we'd have to account for yet another set of screen sizes.

Therefore, as far as serious/business/professional apps are concerned, I don't foresee a major paradigm shift. More like a pressure to learn some new web dev techniques, such as responsive design.

Again, though, I don't claim this would hold true for consumer apps. Many of those will likely be used from an iPhone or an iPad without any external devices.

What I think will be even cooler is tablet + keyboard + motion sensing field. If the gestures were designed right, you probably wouldn't even have to move far off the keyboard to get that nice, free-form, analog input. Now that I think about it, that would be pretty cool on my desktop, too.

While I think the idea of this article is true, I think it's a bit unfair to compare the number of mobile apps to the number of web sites. Yes, there may be 350 million websites, but how many of those actually offer a valuable service? I think that the number of worthwhile websites is easily less than 400k. Same with the phone app market: there may be 400k apps, but most are crap. Honestly, I think that the web and mobile probably hover pretty close to each other in terms of the number of useful applications.

Yes, this isn't exactly a comprehensive study, I just looked up some ballpark figures to get an idea and was really surprised by just how big the diff was between where consumer attention vs developer attention seemed to be.

I'm not sure it makes sense to think of it in terms of number of 'useful' website vs mobile apps today by some definition of 'useful' though. Even if you expect the ratio of useful / not-useful to decline at 40M Android apps vs 400K you'd still expect that most of the top useful 100 apps in 3 years' time haven't been conceived yet and will be very different from today's.

Agreed, The 350M websites to 400K apps comparison is completely silly.

I just had another thought on this: mobile usage does not necessarily imply that the back-end is entirely on the device as well.

For example, the app I'm building right now has an entirely iOS-based UI, but the brains are hosted on the public Web via API. The app talks to the back-end via Websockets for anything that requires brains.

This type of architecture allows your application to participate in the UI-du-jour (native apps) while at the same time participating in the open Web. And you can simply write another client when another type of device (I dunno, Kinect?) becomes the consumer's preferred method of consuming. I think it will become much more popular in the coming years.

As a web developer is pains me to say this, but I think that this is a good thing. The web moves so slowly; it will never keep up with native apps.

Some people are definitely concerned this leaves us in a less open world, but IMO, we'll be just fine. The most important part to have open is the data/logic layer, and that has happened through the explosion of APIs.

I freely admit I'm on the web side of this issue.

No question that apps are big. But there's a lot of data out there that people regularly used less than 10 apps in the last 30 days. Almost all of those are social or built-in apps. They used a lot more than 10 websites in the past 30 days.

The raw number of apps and websites available is a complete red herring. Mobile apps have existed (in a numerically significant form) for < 4 years. The web is closer to 20. Expect the amount of noise in the app space to follow a similar growth curve except to date app discovery is worse. With the control vendors have over app store environments, this may get even worse and not better. Or it might get a lot better. Who knows. One thing is for sure -- if you want to be found right now, you're better off with a good web site.

We discussed this a while back in a blog post based on other data from Flurry. Also discussed by Skyfire.

Mobify post: http://blog.mobify.com/2011/06/23/have-apps-really-passed-mo...

Skyfire post: http://www.businessinsider.com/why-flurry-got-it-wrong-on-ap...

Ed: fixed link.

It is true that mobile usage is going through the roof and there is no doubt there is a legitimate gold rush happening right now.

Nevertheless, I would like to raise a few points/questions with the reasoning in this analysis, somewhat in defense of the web:

1. Mobile apps provide a different mix of functionality when compared to the web (particularly on our PCs). Quite a few mobile apps are simply games, various time no-value-add time sinks and other similar non-connected activities. Hence, I am unsure about the merit of comparing 60 minutes inside of a web browser to 60 minutes on a mobile app. (On the other hand, perhaps facebook usage more than compensates for all this)

2. One reason mobile usage is so high is that our smartphones are always with us and many of us chronically play with them when we have more than a 15 second pause. Again, I am unsure about the "quality" of the interaction during these times.

3. It seems that many mobile apps - the huge hits notwithstanding - solve small, yet meaningful problems in a cool way. This is great, but it eventually yields a lackluster impact - both financially and in terms of the effect on society - and it makes for a real tough proposition to develop mobile apps as a team (read multiple people) and expect to sustainably "grow" a business. Yes, the barren solution space is huge, but the bang for the time spent is also smaller on average. In contrast, the web now provides really large flexibility in solving a range of problems at various depths.

4. It also seems that several impressive startups are leveraging the mobile platform as an add-on to their web-based presence, another channel to solve problems on or a value enhancer to the tech. There is 0 doubt in my mind that mobile is here to grow in this sense.

All in all, applications that leverage mobile have a large empty space to fill. However, people should not just jump into mobile because it seems to be the "rage".

Remember a time when someone talking about the Internet wasn't necessarily talking about the World Wide Web?

Fifteen years ago we were bitching about all the startups abandoning 16 bits worth of open and unfettered TCP port address space for the walled gardens of port 80 and this new-fangled HTTP protocol.

Viva la (r)evoluzione!

This is a pretty bold premise; I think mobile web consumption probably represents a pretty large fraction of those minutes. Having a web app that works well both for desktop and mobile seems more important than a native mobile app, to me.

If they included games in that then I'd say over 90% of that "mobile app use" time block is games or facebook for non-tech users. Games are better made as native apps due to audio issues and facebook is facebook. Hence, the articles dataset needs clarification before a firm conclusion can be made..

I prefer web services that link software on various apps across various devices which cache and sync content. The best example is probably Kindle which has a hardware device, various mobile apps and web based reader.

Once mobile web browsers have access to most of the APIs that native apps have access to, and they have good offline functionality, developing a web app over a native app will be a no-brainer

Comparing "web sites" at large to "mobile apps" is an unfair comparison. In addition to being able to get online through native mobile apps, smart phones also count for page views on regular sites as much as any desktop does. Also, most serious web app programmers out there also have a mobile version of their web site available, so I don't buy the whole give-up-on-standard-web-apps-and-go-for-native-mobile-apps argument. However, no one can deny the strong trend toward mobile computing.

I don't think it's about giving up on standards in favor of native in an either-or kind of way.

If you're building an app nowadays, ideally you'd have a web, mobile web, iOS and Android version at launch. Because you want distribution and need to go where your users are.

Thing is, the web is very crowded so it's hard to get attention whereas relatively, it's still wide open when it comes to the native app galleries.

Yeah and you've underestimated how much mobile web apps will dominate. There will always be native apps, but their percentage of total mobile apps will dwindle. Many, many apps require nothing more than what webkit offers today. A couple years or less of hardware performance increases will push us past the inflection point.

But the main driver will be supply. There just are'nt enough Android, iOS developers. Web devs are legion.

And no cross-device solution will be able to keep pace with webkit & HTML/CSS.

I bet 80% of web minutes are spent on facebook or google(gmail in particular),that means 20% of minutes left for the remaining 345,999,998 other sites on the web.

I think it's important to keep something straight here.

If you are going for the consumer market and some parts of the B2B market then yes mobile will keep advancing.

But you aren't going to do the design, programming, your taxes or any other labor intensive work or creation on your mobile.

So yes we probably underestimate it, but if we believe in that, then we are most probably also underestimating how much both desktop apps and web apps are going to matter many years ahead of us.

Agreed. And further, the longevity of larger interfaces is also a matter of the overall quality and feel of the UX:

A phone sized interface will probably always feel constricting and confining when trying to tackle anything complicated. (And a good part of mobile UX is preventing and alleviating this feeling of claustrophobia, IMO.) It's extraordinarily difficult to cram the full neuro-kinesthetic experience of a complex task into a playing card sized screen; we're more comfortable interacting with things that are "body sized".

But whatever the backend is (and remember, your users don't give a hoot where the computing is done), certainly large sized interfaces are not going to disappear. What is most likely going on is a re-centering of the bell curve: more people will have a smaller screen as their primary interface to the net/web, and larger interfaces will accommodate more complex behaviors and tasks as well as group activities.

You assume of course that there will never be a device powerful enough to match desktop.

Should I remind you that the chip in the that SIm card is in fact the same cpu chip that was used in Apple IIs?

In next ten years you will see design,programming, etc done on tablets

I think a large part of it is also form factor. My phone could have the power of 3 super computers, but i'd still choose my laptop over it. I prefer a larger screen, and a real keyboard.

For a mobile device to replace my desktop/laptop user interfaces + form factors are going to need some rapid advances.

I agree with the form factor issue, but an iPad with a Thunderbolt port would basically take care of it. OK, might need a little more graphics hardware on the iPad to drive a big monitor, but that can't be far off.

Foldable keyboards and dirt cheap projection technologies could mitigate the form factor issues. How about holographic displays? Or huds?

Sure, but not anytime soon.

I don't think I assume that at all. In fact CPU power have very little if anything to do with it.

We could do much smaller cellphones than we do. But we don't because there is a certain size where things start to break down.

I need the space when I work. Just like I need a desk of a certain size.

The need for big screens wont go away any time soon.

I think this is misleading.

It's true that there's a mobile shift in _startup_. Most startups want to hit the mobile goldmine and become the next [enter a company here]. However, we fail to understand that those important minutes spent are spent on either games, which are consumed in matter of days (There's not many games that sustain growth for over a period of a few months), and services that, for the most part, already had a web presence.

Here's my rationale: If your startup/internet service company wants to be successful, it will have to have a mobile presence, if it doesn't, opportunity from competitor will arise and you might get into trouble.

However, considering the cost of a native mobile app (iOS or Android), I wouldn't be surprised if within 2-3 years, startup would go back to focus on web first and if traction occurs, expanding to the mobile area (Except for startup that leverage the mobile hardware, ie camera, geo-location, etc)

Also, for all those minutes used, how many of them are used by Facebook, Maps, and other service that started has a web service first

Completely off-topic: what is this site trigger.io? I cannot access it – apparently it is flagged as suspicious: http://s16.postimage.org/blt1xsb79/triggerio.png It certainly doesn't seem to be a site hosting porn or child abuse content, nor does it sound like a terrorist cell propaganda site – so why would it be blocked? Should I put my paranoid hat on?

Also, does it happen to be any cached/alternative sources for that content that's not hosted there so I can read the article? Normally I could use an anonymous proxy but it seems like too much of a hassle (it's not that easy to find an anonymous one that hasn't been already banned internally as well). Thank you!

Comparing apples to oranges here. Most apps are tools, something you use... While most sites aren't and only provide information.

Also, I can casually browse dozens of sites and completely forget about them afterwards... I don't casually install dozens of apps.

People use their mobile phone for apps more than they do for browsing the web?

Really? No shit.

Show me that people are using their mobile apps more than they're using their desktop/laptop browsers and you'll have something to write about.

Well, that is what the article claims, they compare their own stats with comScore and Alexa stats. But I think the conclusion is indeed flawed as the Flurry stats include people with smart phones with apps on it that use Flurry, which is just a subset of all people using the Internet. They should include the absolute numbers to make the story complete. But yeah, there is a strong trend we can't deny :)

I'm sure most of those 94 minutes per day are playing Angry Birds and other mobile games. I don't expect we are going to see any new billion-dollar companies being founded over the next 10 years that primarily sell mobile games. There is plenty of mobile opportunity, but the big players are already fighting over the obvious stuff. I'm not convinced mobile has significantly more profitable hidden gems than consumer web, certainly not based just on this article. I wouldn't recommend web devs change their careers anytime soon.

You have data to back up those claims? I see plenty of people doing plenty of other things besides playing silly games on their mobile.

I think the article is buying into the notion that the web can never be as rich an experience as the native application. I think that the last few years of explosive growth in terms of cloud services and web applications have made it pretty clear that web applications are a viable alternative. Why won't web applications work for mobile devices as well?

Is the argument simply that the app market is less crowded? Is a comparison of the number of websites on the internet(apples) to the number of android applications(oranges) that compelling?

I don't think the web can ever be as fast moving as a native environment. That's one of the major downfalls with being compatible with all platforms.

Add to this the fact that it is very much in the interest of one of the larger mobile players, Apple, to keep the native experience superior to the html5 mobile browser experience in order to differentiate their iOS offering from a generic "mobile web browser." For example, WebGL is only available for iAds, not for mobile Safari web apps, while openGL is of course available to native iOS apps.

Is there some place we can all share data (perhaps anonymously) about what % of our users are using mobile browsers? I'll go first: on one of our large-ish travel websites, almost 10% of our users were using a mobile browser (this includes both phones and quasi-mobile devices like tablets). This site isn't very well tuned for mobile so I was pretty surprised by the numbers. We do not have a mobile app.

The web has a serious problem today. I never know how a site will work on my browser. I feel like the web has become a guessing game. Whereas with mobile apps, I know that if you're in the app store then you'll work as expected.

You can tailor web apps for specific devices/browsers/resolutions to control the user experience, just like with native apps. There are no shortcut for good UX on 3" touch screen and 27" mouse-driven screen without lot of extra work.

Correct me if I am wrong but I thought mobile apps aren't an alternative to the web?

Do they mean mobile apps vs. desktop Internet use? That would make more sense.

Can anyone tell me if this is a nicely wrapped Phonegap or a completely new commercial framework that does the same thing as Phonegap?

Looks like a new framework that does the same thing as phonegap. The 'thin native wrapper over html5 webview' isn't actually that hard to do (even for multiple platforms). I prefer to roll my own because, last time I tried PhoneGap, the extra bloat made my app sluggish. It was much more responsive in a minimal custom wrapper.

As a web developer I have typically argued in favor of write once, execute everywhere robust web apps being the future of mobile interaction. Having built websites and apps designed to work well on mobile however, this typically leads to a stream of constant headaches trying to accommodate for the myriad of different mobile browsers and features each support/allow.

Similar to the way that different desktop browsers each roll out new feature support, and often times support features in completely different ways (CSS transparencies/gradients anyone?) mobile browsers have even slower and more varied support for features and interaction control. This problem with desktop browsers has kept most web developers and firms I work with from integrating the latest and greatest HTML5/CSS3 features in all their sites, because there is a huge handicap in trying to optimize for so many different platforms as each evolves on its own timeline.

Even though writing the same app to work well in both iOS and Android is a HUGE undertaking, the advantage is you are only writing your application to meet two different sets of API specifications. Even better yet since mobile devs are typically either iOS OR Android experts you can potentially have two different teams of devs working on the platform they know best instead of having one html team constantly striving to make your application work well (or at all) in a dozen different commonly used mobile web browsers.

I applaud Facebook for their efforts to build out a really great looking mobile web app that does look an awful like their mobile apps, but has anyone watched someone who doesn't know (or care) about the difference between a native app and mobile web app use it? I got a fairly tech-savvy family member a kindle fire recently and it comes pre-installed with a shortcut to the Facebook mobile web app because the native app is not available in the amazon marketplace. Watching over their shoulder I was amazed to see how frustrating the experience was for them when the querystring gets corrupted at certain points and all they are left with is a PHP whitescreen of death. No loading symbol, no ability to get out of the corrupted state the browser got itself into, and generally the user was left with no idea why this wasn't working as nicely as their Facebook app on iOS/Android that looks exactly the same.

At the end of the day I now lean more toward the side of mobile apps continuing to be more efficient and effective for apps that require lots of interaction with the user even if you could technically implement all those interactions in a browser. The relative simplicity of only having to code for two platforms instead of 12, and simultaneously providing your users with a more responsive experience is definitely worth it.

this article seems to be implying that mobile and app are synonymous. as far as i can tell, the fact that desktop apps and mobile websites exist is totally ignored. is this about a shift from web to app, or a shift from desktop to mobile? and what about mobile web use?

So this is mobile apps vs. web, not internet access via native apps vs access via browser, right?

The analysis and the numbers seem to be very misleading. It counts only mobile usage which is a tiny fraction of desktop browsing. StatCounter pegs it at just ~7%.


What about adding a 3rd metric for how much time the consumers browse on their desktops and laptops? That's going to eclipse the time stated in the article.

The reason we're seeing such high app numbers in Flurry is that mobile devices are not as convenient to browse on compared to laptops and desktops, so apps like games take over the time spent on such devices.

I'm thinking that maybe this has nothing to do with mobile web vs native app this could be desktop vs mobile. This post makes it out to be like native apps are gimping the user share from mobile web but I just thinks it's people doing what they used to do on the desktop with their phones.

That's what I was thinking, that this has more to do with more people having web-capable phones than any lack of future for any kind of developer.

Over a billion mobile only users will likely come online in emerging markets over the next ten years.

Many of those will be in India, where RIM is actually growing like crazy. I anticipate Windows on Nokia will be a serious player, and Android phones will drop to prices the masses can afford.

The race is not over and the "mobile web" may yet turn out to be the dominant platform.

I am in a position to boldly predict a new startup will emerge with what will eventually become the dominant mobile web platform.

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