January 14, 2015 Last Updated 9:10 am

IAB study finds that smartphone owners spend significantly more time using mobile apps than browsing mobile websites

Press Release:

NEW YORK, NY – January 14, 2014 — The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and its Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence today released “Apps and Mobile Web: Understanding the Two Sides of the Mobile Coin,” a research report that explores how mobile consumers experience content – and highlights the often underrated importance of the mobile web. Although comScore research indicates that smartphone users spend more than 88 percent of their mobile time in the app environment, the new IAB results demonstrate that what looks like app time may actually be mobile web use in disguise. As such, the study suggests that advertisers and media companies alike realign their mobile strategies to account for the fact that many potential consumers are now arriving at and viewing mobile websites through a variety of pathways, including apps.

Examining user perception, the IAB study found that only 18 percent of smartphone owners who use the mobile internet on their phone say they spend significantly more time using mobile apps than browsing mobile websites. However, more than half (52%) of smartphone owners say they click links within apps that take them to content on mobile websites at least sometimes or more frequently. This means that while these users are technically operating within an app, they are also spending time on the mobile web.

Asked which they preferred – using the mobile web or a mobile app – for several activities, respondents were either skewed toward the mobile web or balanced between the two approaches:

  • Search – 42% prefer mobile web, 32% have no preference, 20% prefer apps
  • Shopping – 28% prefer mobile web, 26% have no preference, 22% prefer apps
  • News – 25% prefer mobile web, 31% have no preference, 25% prefer apps
  • Local Directory – 25% prefer mobile web, 31% have no preference, 21% prefer apps

Even greater preference for the mobile web can be found within different demographic groups, especially with those in affluent households ($100,000+).

The research also reveals that there are a variety of ways that smartphone users find sites to visit on the mobile web:

  • 54% say search is a primary tool
  • 29% say they discover websites through recommendations (via email, word-of-mouth, etc.)
  • 26% cite links in social media apps

“Understanding the journey users take to get to mobile content is critical, and this study is just the beginning of our exploration into the topic,” said Anna Bager, Senior Vice President, Mobile and Video, IAB. “Marketers, agencies and publishers must be mindful of any entrance people may take into their mobile presence. Many consumers bypass the front door, taking a roundabout trip into the mobile web instead.”

To download the entire “Apps and Mobile Web: Understanding the Two Sides of the Mobile Coin” study, please visit http://www.iab.net/mobileappsandweb

Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of IAB from December 12-16, 2014 among 2,030 adults ages 18 and older, among which 1,103 are smartphone owners and 938 are smartphone owners who use the mobile internet on their phone. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

IAB obtained exclusive access to comScore’s Mobile Metrix App-Web Category Data for October 2014.

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