Facebook helps app usage outpace the Web

Facebook is the driving force behind a new trend: smartphone owners are using apps more than they are using the Web. We're talking about the whole Web: both mobile and desktop browsing.

Some 40 billion apps have already been downloaded from Apple's App Store and Google's Android Market. Consumers are increasingly splitting their time accessing services on the Internet between PCs and smartphones. Last summer, mobile analytics firm Flurry reported that the average smartphone user, for the first time ever, began spending more time in their mobile apps than they do browsing the web. As you can see in the chart above, the company notes that the usage gap continues to widen, and it believes that Facebook is a driving force behind this trend.

The chart compares how daily interactive consumption has changed over the last 18 months between the web (both desktop and mobile web) and mobile native apps. This is an important point to stress: we're not just talking about Web browsing on the mobile phone compared to mobile app use; we're talking about Web browsing overall compared to mobile app use.

The web, shown in green, is based on publicly available data from comScore and Alexa, while app usage, shown in blue, is based on Flurry's own analytics data, which tracks anonymous sessions across more than 140,000 apps. The company estimates this accounts for approximately one third of all mobile app activity, which the company scaled-up accordingly.

Since Flurry's first analysis in June 2011, time spent using mobile apps has grown from 43 minutes to 94 minutes in December 2011. During the same time period, average time spent on the Web has also increased, but only slightly: from 64 minutes to 72 minutes. Users seem to be substituting websites for apps, likely because they are more convenient to access throughout the day.

Flurry believes this trend is driven largely by a decrease in time spent on Web version of Facebook: in June 2011, the average Facebook user spent over 33 minutes on average per day on the website, while in December 2011 that number dropped to below 24 minutes. Time spent on the web without Facebook has grown at a modest rate of 2% between June 2011 and December 2011. The company argues Facebook users are increasingly accessing services through mobile apps.

It's worth noting that this past year, Facebook released its second app, Facebook Messenger: for Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, and Windows. Meanwhile, the first Facebook app saw its own milestones, as you can see in the links below.

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