Splitting up mobile usage between browsers and apps is largely a user-centric decision. If I am to voice my opinion, it would be Mobile Apps that win the battle.
I have a Gmail app for official conversations, Hangouts for professional chats, Facebook, Twitter, Skype and Instagram meeting my social needs, Amazon.in as my shopping platform and WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger meeting my need for communication.
Seldom do I access my mobile web browser. In fact, it becomes the only choice when I am researching for something or looking for addresses or related information on the web.
Mobile apps do make life faster, but at the same time are defined by the power of the device. In fact, a survey by Quixey for December 2015 reported 32.6% of mobile users (read smart phone users) prefer both mobile browsers and mobile apps at different times.
However, statistics can also be confusing sometimes. A report by Morgan Stanley says that the audience for mobile browsers is twice as great as the users of mobile apps.
The report suggest that the mobile browser is being regarded as the “ultimate app” and over the period of past three years, the browser audience is twice the app user’s, across more than the top 50 mobile properties.
Conversely, another report by Flurry, an analytics firm, smart phone users, both iOS and Android, are spending 86% of their “device time” on apps and only 14% is browser related. So, it is really the factors that are taken into consideration for making these reports that advocate the difference.
What Are Mobile Apps And Mobile Browsers?
Before we begin to take a closer look at the differences between mobile browsers and apps, let’s first understand how they’ve been defined.
A mobile website, courtesy of mobile browsers, consist of browser based HTML pages linked together to be accessed over your internet connection. The only thing that distinguishes the normal desktop website from a mobile website is that it’s designed for smaller devices and means of interactions (touch against clicks).
Mobile apps on the other hand are actual applications downloaded and installed permanently on your device rather than being rendered inside a browser, every time you need to access them. The apps pulls data and content in a similar manner from the internet as a browser, but it works independently catering solely to its company-specific platform.
When Does A Mobile Browser Or Website Fare Better?
If your goals have largely been centered on public communications or marketing, mobile browsers and websites make better sense in the effort to create an outreach strategy. Mobile browsers offer several inherent advantages like cost effectiveness, compatibility and broader accessibility.
- The leverage of immediacy
Mobile websites are instantly available via browsers across all types of devices. Apps however would require downloading and installing the marketplace before the user can view or interact with the content. This creates a significant barrier between the initial engagement and the final action or conversion.
- The leverage of compatibility
One responsive website has the power to reach all types of mobile devices while native apps would require separate versions developed for each kind of devices. Now, if a business is looking to reach out, investing in so many versions of the same content delivery platform would be a huge cost.
- The leverage of upgradability
Compared to app, websites are more dynamic in terms of their ability to update content. Changes are immediately updated on websites, but with app, the updates need to be downloaded by the end user. This may or may not work every time.
- The leverage of ‘findability’
Mobile websites, via browsers are easier found and accessed since their search results are listed in industry-specific directories. Further, regular users can be automatically redirected to the mobile version of the website (using device detection. The best example would be the m.facebook.com address.
- The leverage of shareability
Since mobile websites can be accessed across a variety of platforms, they can also be easily shared among users. Compared to native apps, they have greater reach. A simple link sent across messages, mails or posts can be directly accessed without the need for redirection.
For someone using a Facebook app for instance, there is no way to copy paste links in the address box to check out the content, even if it inside the realm of Facebook.
- The leverage of lifecycle
The shelf life of apps on average is around 30 days unless you have a very unique type of app. For an average app, longevity is debatable. However, users can always return to mobile websites via mobile browsers.
- Cost and time
Lastly, mobile websites are easier to develop and much more cost effective as compared to apps. With apps, developers will have to consider security, and other crucial bottlenecks, but mobile website will act in accordance with the properties of the browser. A fast and secure mobile browser will meet the needs of the user most of the time.
When Does A Mobile App Make Sense?
Despite the inherent benefits of mobile websites and browsers, there has been a huge investment in mobile apps. However, the successful ones meet specific scenarios and uses. An app would make sense over a browser or mobile website when you are looking for:
- Gaming / interactivity
Think Angry Birds! There wouldn’t be a web alternative to it!
If your users are looking to get a personalized service, apps can be a great way to facilitate that. That’s the reason I use the Amazon.in app.
- Complex reporting
If your work consists of extensive interaction with data, figures, charts and analytics, apps will be more effective.
- Native functionality
Platforms that need to interact with the device hardware like camera, GPS or phone, can be made to deliver faster when integrated into an app for the same.
- Offline work
Well, we do play Angry Birds and Candy Crush without an internet connection, it’s a great advantage to own a smart phone.
The apps v/s web debate is never ending, just like whether the chicken came first or the egg. The choice depends on what you are looking to do and the lifestyle that you lead.
What’s your take on the mobile apps versus mobile browser question? Let us know in the comments below.