Cidewalk Insights: iPhone Web Share Outpaces Share of App Traffic

Cidewalk Insights: iPhone Web Share Outpaces Share of App Traffic

  • 15 December 2014

Mobile application vs. Web traffic on North American smartphones reflect similar environments from a brand perspective. But while, for example, Apple users generate the most traffic in both ecosystems, the differences between a given user base’s app and Web share sheds some light on how app usage rates differ on a platform-to-platform basis.

To compare how North American smartphone Web and app-based usage breaks down by brand, Chitika Insights conducted two separate analyses.

App-based traffic figures are built off of Chitika's cidewalk local ad product, with an internally built back-end system cataloguing billions of impressions running across more than five major online ad exchanges. The data set for this report consists of roughly half a billion U.S. and Canadian smartphone-based mobile app ad impressions cataloged from December 3 through 9, 2014.

To determine Web-based traffic figures, Chitika Insights analyzed tens of millions of U.S. and Canadian smartphone-based online ad impressions generated within the Chitika Ad Network from December 3 through 9, 2014.

Notice that almost every Android brand exhibits a higher app traffic share as compared to its Web traffic share, with the exception of Google's Nexus devices. Conversely, while Apple iPhone users are the largest traffic drivers in both environments, their share turns out to be higher on the Web (52.5%) than in-app (46.0%) - a 6.5 percentage point share difference that's the largest of any brand.

It's likely that Apple users, in aggregate, are simply more likely to use their browser throughout the course of a given day. Safari has regularly earned praise for its functionality on mobile, and, perhaps more importantly, Apple makes it the default browser for any link clicked on an iOS device. This familiarity may predispose iPhone users to more often trust in their browser when performing tasks, as opposed to finding and using an associated app.

Additionally, other outside metrics point to global Google Play app downloads outstripping iOS by a significant margin. While that trend is presumably more muted within North America where iOS devices are more pervasive, it's reasonable to assume that it still holds true in some degree. 

Looking further down the graph, there's a substantial share drop off for BlackBerry and Nokia between their app and Web traffic figures. This is likely due to both Windows Phone and BlackBerry having smaller app ecosystems, along with the potential bias from ad exchanges within North America to perhaps not auction as much Windows Phone and BlackBerry traffic, due to the lower aggregate volume.

While apps have attracted the most attention from marketers for a variety of reasons (e.g. comprehensive data collection, a more uniform experience), apps and the mobile Web are expected to coexist for some time, as both present unique value propositions to the user. The Web is flexible but broad, while apps are richly composed but limited in their scope.

That being said, the differences in volume between the two data sets (tens of millions of Web impressions vs. nearly half a billion app impressions) illustrates how pervasive app usage has become, and subsequent reports will continue tracking the differences in how subsets of users engage with these platforms in order to illuminate the still-changing marketplace.