Is 2010 the year that the mobile browser will finally overcome the mighty app to proclaim dominance in the mobile space?
Not likely. At Digiday: Mobile in New York on Monday, it became clear that while the mobile web has made a lot of progress over the last year, apps aren't going away any time soon.
Moreover, there are a lot of mobile marketers who believe one cannot exist without the other. For those of you who had hoped to save some money by focusing mobile dollars in one space — sorry.
Much of the success of mobile applications sprung from the limitations of the mobile web. When smartphone browsers proved insufficient for handling smartphone users' demands, brands and publishers started creating platform-specific applications. But as the mobile web has developed and acquired more and more capabilities, it's starting to make dedicated apps look more like accessories than necessities to some.
Like Erica Chriss, VP of strategy and business development at Greystripe, who says:
"Browsers are improving. They are becoming more of a platform choice for content owners."
As more consumers take to smartphones, browser usage is growing. Over the last year, there has been a 40% growth in browser usage.
According to Jeff Sass, VP of business development at Myxer, the mobile web is more versatile than platform specific apps:
"In the end, the mobile web wins. There will always be apps, but there's always more and more on the web."
Sass says it really comes down to a question of reach:
"There is a limitation with apps [because of different mobile platforms]. On the web, you are able to reach consumers as long as they have internet access."
Despite the strides that mobile browsers have made over the last year, some functionality and features available in the app environment still haven't transfered. Patrick Mork, CEO of GetJar, made a good point:
"In general, the handset technology advances much faster than the networks they're on."
That's why he concludes:
"You're always going to do much more on a handset through an app than on the mobile web."
But creating an app and launching it in on a mobile device doesn't guarantee consumers will see it. According to Mork, there are now nearly 50 different app stores, and over 400,000 apps in the top three stores.
When mobile apps were nascent, it was easier for brands and publishers to got noticed for their mobile products. Now, it's easy to get lost in a pile of apps.
Katie Juhl, manager of National Geographic Mobile breaks down the marketing spend requirements:
"You need to spend at least as much marketing the app as you spend creating it...what we need to do is make sure people know we're in this space."
And despite all the debate over which platform will dominate, it looks like the best approach in mobile might be to use apps and browsers together as marketing tools. Bryson Meunier, associate director of content solutions at Resolution Media, suggests the following:
"If you're going to build an app, you should also build a mobile website, even if it is just to promote that app. Otherwise, you're missing the boat."