Mike Isaac

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Among U.S. Social Network Users, Smartphone Apps Trump the Mobile Web

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It’s a good thing that Facebook is doubling down on its native smartphone apps. Because it is, as they say, giving the people what they want.

That’s according to Nielsen’s latest numbers, at least. For U.S. users, more than a third of the time spent using social networking sites on PCs and mobile devices comes from app activity, the company said in a report published on Monday, besting by far the amount of user activity seen on mobile Web sites.

That’s a big jump from the year previous. Total time spent using social networks via app is up to nearly 41 billion minutes yearly, the study said, close to seven times that of mobile Web activity.

This shouldn’t come as a complete surprise by now. With the proliferation of subsidized smartphones invading the U.S. at a rapid pace, it has become easier and cheaper for people to access sites like Facebook, Twitter and the rapidly rising Pinterest apps via their mobile devices. Each iteration of Apple’s iPhone has sold faster than the one previous, and are available on three out the four major U.S. carriers (and recent rumors suggest we could see the iPhone come to T-Mobile soon).

In the Android world, Samsung has sold millions of its Galaxy S handset series, and myriad hardware makers have brought Android devices to the market at relatively low prices.

PCs, too, aren’t what they used to be. With the rise of smartphones and tablets comes the gradual waning of desktop usage. Hardware giants like HP and Dell have seen reduced forecasts in sales. And social network activity on desktops dipped nearly 7 percent from the year previous, according to Nielsen.

Facebook, still the leading most-used social app, has struggled to catch up with this trend over the past year. The company’s new “mobile first” motto has played out internally, forcing Facebook to devote more engineering resources to developing the Facebook Android and iOS apps.

There has even been a retooling of the company’s team structure in this vein; each separate product team is responsible for their mobile efforts, rather than just one team working on all mobile aspects of the site.

App performance has increased as a result. So, ultimately, Nielsen’s findings suggest that the more attention paid to mobile will only serve to bolster user experience across social apps, therefore increasing engagement across the board.

Now, if only all these social networks could get the whole mobile monetization thing down, they’d really be set.


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