Survey: Mobile app use surpassing time on spent browsing Internet

by Phil Hornshaw

Image from FlurryMobile apps are continuing to pick up steam, and it appears that mobile device users are now spending more time using their apps than they are surfing the Internet on their PCs.

The data comes from Flurry, an industry analysis firm that says users are spending about 81 minutes each day on apps of one form or another, while they’re only surfing the web for about 74 minutes each day. That’s in comparison to 66 minutes on apps and 70 on the web in December 2010, and 43 minutes on apps and 64 minutes on the web back in June 2010. TechCrunch has the story.

Flurry gathered its information from a combination of results from comScore and Alexa to track web usage, combined with its own numbers on app usage. According to those results, Flurry says instances of app usage are up. It counts 5 million or so usages per day over 85,000 apps, and it’s finding not that people are necessarily spending more time on apps at any given moment, but that they’re logging-in to apps and checking them more often.  As TechCrunch puts it, it means more users hitting-up Facebook and Twitter from their smartphones and tablets several times each day.

And that usage, for quick-hit services like social networking or finding small tidbits of information, seems to be eclipsing the generally larger and more involved experience of browsing the Internet. Flurry’s system of gathering data isn’t foolproof, as one might expect, but it does present an interesting window into the mobile sphere and the ways it’s encroaching on traditional computing.

What about the mobile web?

Image from FlurryWhat the Flurry numbers don’t track, unfortunately, is usage of the mobile web on various devices. That comparison could likely offer some insights into the possibilities of the expansion of web apps on mobile devices. Facebook is reportedly working on an entire web app store for iOS, and some publications, like the Financial Times, are creating HTML 5 web apps for use on mobile devices rather than put up with subscription rules as set by Apple for apps in the iTunes App Store.

Also revealed in Flurry’s numbers are the kinds of apps into which users are sinking more of their time. Leading the pack, as always, are games with 47 percent of app usage; following that, it’s social networking apps with 32 percent. News apps are used 9 percent of the time, followed by entertainment apps at 7 percent and “other” with 4 percent.

So not only are mobile apps being used more, but as we’ve been hearing pretty much forever now, so are mobile games. And it seems that social networking companies, at least, are seeing the potential in mobile: Facebook is finally getting around to creating an iPad app, reportedly, and Twitter is deeply integrated into Apple’s upcoming iOS 5. The latter promises some interesting new functionality, deeply mixing the connected experience of smartphones with the ability to share life as it happens. Come September, Flurry’s numbers and how they change may tell some interesting stories about how the mobile and social networking worlds are changing too.