Ever since the widespread use of smartphones, the mobile web has become a strong engine for growth. Indeed, the mobile web generated a turnover of 16 billion euros in France in 2013, and is expected to grow to over 42 billion euros in 2017! This represents a growth of 25% per year in average for this sector.
A BCG study shows the economic weight of this fast-developing sector: the mobile web is growing at a steady pace thanks to advertising, facilities and infrastructures, new services and content but in particular thanks to mobile applications.
In developed Western European countries (Germany, France, United Kingdom, Italy and Spain), 102 billion of mobile applications were download in 2013, and 9.2 billion of these were paid applications. This number should increase to 269 billion in 2017 with 15 billion paid applications.
New uses come up all the time: pay its taxes in mobile, do a banking transaction or monitor its vital signs. Moreover, the way people consult information change. Visitors use less and less websites and prefer using an application. This change, called the “web applification” is linked to the growth of mobile web and the sale of smartphones and tablets. The consulting firm AT Internet noted that the French websites traffic declined by 2% between January 2012 and March 2012 compared to 2011. The drop in traffic is even faster since the mid of 2012. At the same time, the use of applications increased.
However, such figures have to be put in perspective because most of revenues are generated by the sales of the products and services relating to applications (hardware as the smartphones and tablets).
Mobile apps have not been as successful as people think. According to a comScore study: 65% of users don’t download mobile applications and only use applications already downloaded on their smartphone, 42% just use one application. It can be explained more specifically by the fact that in new smartphones there are a lot of pre-loaded apps. For example, in Samsung Galaxy S6 there are 41 pre-loaded apps:
- Samsung apps: phone, contacts, messages, video, …
- Google apps: Google, YouTube, Chrome, Maps (the most widely used app), Google+, Drive, Gmail…
- Microsoft apps: OneDrive, OneNote, Skype
- Other apps: Facebook (the second-most commonly used app), Instagram, Messenger, Whatsapp…
Users can use their smartphone without downloading any other app. That is why it is more complicated for new brands remove to difficult to distinguish themselves because they don’t have visibility. There are other weak points:
- Mobile applications are closed; they don’t enable users to cross from one universe to the other with a simple click as in mobile website.
- Mobile apps require phone’s memory: apps require more and more memory while smartphones hard disk are not unlimited and for the most of smartphones, there is not the possibility to add memory (ex: IPhone, Samsung…).
- For editors it is more complicated to modify an application than a mobile website.
- Need to develop a different application for different platforms (IOS, Android, Windows), that is really more expansive (development and maintenance).
Although mobile apps have various advantages:
- They offer a really friendly and pleasant user experience (nice design, innovative features…)
- They enable users to receive push notifications
- Some of the applications can work without internet connection
- Apps offers the good visibility for a brand or a media.
There are also a lot of weak points and the mobile application market seems to be more and more saturated. A study of Deloitte suggests that consumers are less fond of mobile applications after an initial time of discovery so that a third of smartphone owners download no mobile application every month. Moreover, the monthly volume of app downloads has strongly declined in 2014 in countries where there is a saturation of the smartphone sales.
Brands have to find other options to generate traffic on mobile devices. So these are the new options for brands:
Responsive mobile websites
Applications have more and more competition from mobile website with a responsive design. Indeed, these mobile websites enable surfers to cross from one universe to the other and don’t need a prior download.
App first content
Google and Microsoft are working on new systems which enable to stream on your mobile screen the content of a mobile application without downloading it. To begin, in 2015, Google initiated a new way to search via Google Search on Android with the streaming of mobile applications directly from search results. Google has indexed the content of mobile application to have a junction between traditional search and mobile applications. They are profound links because it goes into an app (cf screens below). Moreover 40% of searches made with Android show the content of app.
Google wants to go further. The firm wants to be able to display « app first » content in Search. A new option will enable to stream application not downloaded on the mobile terminal directly in Google Search. A simple button “Stream” enables surfers to access to a streamed version of the application. Users will still be able to do the same things on the app. The only difference is that it is on a mobile terminal. The “app first” content refocuses users on mobile websites
This cloud technology is the product of the acquisition of Agawi in 2014, a company specialized in the streaming of native mobile applications thanks to a technology of virtualization.
Personal virtual assistant
In the future, apps could be replaced by intelligent agents and personal virtual assistants, with artificial intelligence which will go to find alone in cloud, information that we are looking for.
In the medium term, according to AppNation, the future is related to the new hardware platforms. Indeed, emerging devices as connected cars or Smart TV provide new opportunities. For example, today, almost 11% of American consumers have a car which can welcome apps on the car glove pocket. Moreover, there are three time more people who want to buy in the six months ahead a TV able to do turn apps than people who want to buy a classic television.
One could wonder if the future of applications could be in connected TV, cars, watch or glasses and less in smartphones or tablets.