An article on RWW about mobile apps and browser-based sites highlights the different concentrations in categories between native apps and mobile sites. Native apps are heavily weighted toward games and entertainment. Mobile web sites are heavily weighted toward shopping and social categories:
… 19% of the mobile sites measured were Shopping & Services sites; compared to 3.6% in the same category in the App Store. Content in the ‘Social’ category also has a higher chance of being a browser-based mobile site, rather than an app (12.9% to 1.7%).
Additionally, Taptu estimates that mobile site growth far outpaces the growth of native apps on any other platform, including the iPhone and App Store.
My position for a long while has been that mobile sites have much better reach due to the ability to access them from any mobile device with a decent browser, without having to download an app. This makes cross-platform development much easier for existing web teams. As more mobile platforms take up the WebKit rendering engine, including this week’s report that BlackBerry 6.0 will include a touch browser backed by WebKit, the baseline for development across the myriad of mobile devices is actually much better than what we had with the first web browsers in the late ’90s.
Still, the perception by consumers that apps are hip, as well as aggressive app-centric marketing by carriers, sets a higher barrier for consumers to understand the wealth of mobile sites available to them on their existing handsets. Visibility is still an issue here.