Consumer product strategists designing product experiences for mobile phones and smartphones must decide on their development priorities across the mobile Web and apps. While some believe this is a fundamental “either/or” choice, current consumer behavior suggests that consumers are using both. More than half of European consumers and 60 percent of U.S. consumers who download apps at least monthly also access the Internet via their mobile phones at least daily. In short, heavy app users are also heavy mobile Web users. The more frequently consumers access the Internet via their mobile phones, the more likely they are to download apps at least monthly. More than 10 billion apps have been downloaded cumulatively since the launch of the Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) App Store—the majority of them via iPhones. But this doesn’t stop iPhone owners from being the most frequent mobile Internet users: 63 percent of U.S. iPhone owners and 72 percent of European iPhone owners access the mobile Internet on a daily basis.
The mobile Web and apps offer different benefits and serve different audiences. For now, mobile apps make the most of smartphone features because they integrate more deeply and more widely with the unique features of smart mobile devices that use an operating system. However, mobile websites cost less to reach a wider audience. The majority of consumers don’t own a smartphone and don’t access app stores; they are more likely to use a mobile browser and to access the Internet from their mobile phones. The barriers to accessing a site via a browser are lower than those to downloading an app—even for smartphone owners. Also, the fragmented nature of the mobile industry means that porting apps to different platform environments costs money—particularly when including maintenance and promotion costs.
I have covered this issue in more detail in a new Forrester report “Why The ‘Web Versus Application’ Debate Is Irrelevant To Your Mobile Product Strategy.”
I'm a multi-disciplinary designer-strategist at HP. My passion is whole product design: the seamless integration of HW+SW+Web to deliver compelling experiences to users. I'm currently swimming upstream to bring Web 2.0-style community participation to HP's consumer printing business.