Social networking mobile apps grow 240pc to 14.5m users

4 Jun 2010

Social networking leads as the top-gaining category for both application and browser access on mobile devices, according to new research by ComScore. Accessing bank accounts is one of the fastest-gaining categories.

The study of US smartphone users also found that accessing bank accounts was one of the fastest-gaining categories via both app and browser, as the convenience of mobile banking continues to appeal to a growing number of consumers.

“With mobile media consumption on the rise, the discussion of how consumers are accessing content – whether it is via application, browser or both – continues to be an important factor for companies looking to invest further in their mobile brands,” said Mark Donovan, comScore senior vice-president of mobile.

“Although application access is clearly on the rise, with several categories more than doubling their audience via this method, content consumption via browser continues to be the most popular method for Americans to access mobile media.”

Triple-digit growth in smartphone apps

In terms of penetration, 78pc of smartphone users accessed their browser in April 2010, while 80pc of smartphone users accessed applications. In comparison, just 19pc of feature phone users accessed their browser, with 17pc accessing applications.

Although smartphone users are driving growth in browser (up 111pc in the past year) and application (up 112pc) access, feature phone users still make up nearly half of all users accessing mobile browsers and apps.

“Although growth in application usage on smartphones continues to grab the spotlight in the mobile market, the audience using their mobile browser remains larger and is growing just as quickly,” added Donovan. “Brands need to remember to take into consideration the user experience across both channels when building their mobile strategies.”

Social-networking audience triples

In April 2010, 69.6m mobile users accessed an application on their phone, an increase of 28pc from the previous year. Several application categories experienced triple-digit growth in the past year, emphasising the increasing popularity of this method as a form of mobile content access.

Social networking experienced the strongest growth in app access, increasing 240pc to 14.5 million users. Accessing news apps followed, growing 124pc to 9.3 million users, while sports information apps experienced a 113pc surge to nearly 7.7 million users.

Bank accounts apps also more than doubled their audience, growing to nearly 5 million users in April.

Browsers versus apps

Nearly 73 million mobile users accessed their browser in April, an increase of 31pc from the previous year. Mirroring application category growth, social networking ranked as the fastest-growing category accessed via browser, growing 90pc from the previous year to reach almost 30 million users, followed by bank accounts (69pct to 13.2 million users).

Online retail sites also experienced a significant increase in audience usage via browser, increasing 47pc to 7.3 million users, as Americans continued to show adoption of the mobile retail channel.

“Social networking is by far the fastest-growing mobile activity right now,” said Donovan. “With 20pc of mobile users now accessing social-networking sites via their phone, we expect to see both application and browser usage continuing to drive future consumption of social media.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years