Mobile apps or mobile Web? If the goal is to reach as many makes and models of devices, then mobile-optimized websites are a natural first choice. If it’s about building “experiences”, then mobile apps — front and center on our smartphones— may have some advantages. It’s often a confusing decision for marketers to make, and the right choice depends on what brands want. However, new numbers from Nielsen boost the argument that apps are gaining some serious traction (despite an increased focus by brands on the mobile Web and excitement about the improvements promised by HTML5).
Comparing 2012 to 2011, the research company discovered U.S. mobile subscribers are moving to smartphones and downloading more apps.
Among the findings:
- Smartphones are 50 percent of penetration, up 12 percent from the previous year
- The average number of downloaded apps per device has gone from 42 to 51
- 88 percent of iOS and Android users have downloaded an app vs. 74 percent a year ago
- The number of iOS and Android users has risen to 84 million from 38 million
- Time spent on apps is up 10 percent despite the advancement of the mobile Web
- The time spent on the Top 50 apps has gone down from 74 percent to 58 percent
Some things have seen little or no change. The top five apps continue to be Facebook, YouTube, Android Market, Google Search and Gmail. And smartphone owners spend just slightly more time on apps each day (37 minutes a day in 2011 compared to 39 minutes today).
Also, privacy continues to be a concern, with the vast majority of users (70 percent in 2011 and 73 percent in 2012) expressing concern over personal data collection. What’s more, 55 percent are wary about sharing information about their location via smartphone apps.
How I See It: There are few absolutes in mobile. I never bought the debate that tried to make us believe that mobile Web and mobile apps was an either/or situation. As marketers, we need to follow the numbers, keep an open mind, and anticipate what’s next. Yes, apps appear to be on the rise. But we have to dig deeper and ask “why”. One driver is the always-on nature of apps across the board. Many apps (like games) can be used even when there is no connectivity. We know that many apps are downloaded —but we also have evidence that many apps lose their appeal quickly and are rarely, if ever, used. In contrast, a mobile website is a more of a necessity than a novelty. People require access to optimized destinations using their mobile devices and they expect brands to provide mobile-friendly experiences once they get there. This — as I learned from ESPN while researching my newly released Mobilized Marketing book — is critical. Mobile users often punish brands that fail to deliver a great mobile experience.
Mobile video makes its mark
Nielsen data — based on a global survey of multi-screen media usage — also reveals a shift in how people access and enjoy video content across devices. Specifically, watching video content on computers has become just as common as watching video content on television among online consumers.
More than 80 percent of respondents in 56 countries reported watching video content at home on a computer (84 percent) or on TV (83 percent) at least once a month. This is a shift from 2010 when more people reported they watched video content on their TVs (90 percent) than on their computers (86 percent) within the same period.
While the in-home TV and PC are still the most popular devices for watching video content, mobile as a channel for accessing and consuming video content is also moving up the ranks. Three-quarters (74 percent) of global respondents report watching video via the Internet (on any device), up four percentage points since 2010, and over half of (56 percent) of respondents worldwide say they watch video on a mobile phone at least once a month. Additionally, 28 percent (nearly a third!) watch video at least once a day.
As I observed in my book, mobile video is becoming a new and important channel to the consumer. Mobile video usage and interest is particularly prominent in Asia-Pacific and Middle East/African regions, where Nielsen reports 74 and 72 percent of consumers, respectively, watch video on mobile phones at least once a month (as I pointed out in my book, many do this while on the train). Asia-Pacific and Middle East/African regions are also where almost 40 percent (38 percent and 37 percent, respectively) watch mobile video as part of their daily routine.
While mobile video is currently less popular in North America, the region is nonetheless seeing the highest growth rates in mobile phone video consumption. Thirty-eight percent of North American respondents say they watch mobile video once a month, up eight percentage points from the 2010 results.
How I See It: Mobile video is high on my radar. I wrote about the regional differences in my book (and in my column last month here on MobileGroove). As mobile industry veteran Frank Barbieri pointed out in our interview: There are “particular quirks with the Korea experiment that aren’t necessarily true in North America.” One is the commuter culture. As Frank put it: “There’s a lot of downtime. North America is more car-based versus public transport.” Second, live video mobile services are free. “We’ve never had that. It’s always been a subscription-based service. That has kept usage fairly low.” And let’s not forget that in many regions mobile is the first screen for content. ESPN told me that consumers will always go for the “best available screen.” This upshot: people who have mobile first, use it. The rest of us will reach to mobile to supplement TV viewing. Connect the dots, and mobile video is a category worth watching (no pun intended).
- Nielsen on U.S. Smartphone and Mobile App Growth (nielsen.com)