We recently completed some interesting research on mobile browsers and apps. We asked 12 people in the Bay Area to tell us when, how, and why they are using browsers and apps on mobile phones. We also counted instances of browser and app use. What did we find?
App usage heavily outweighed browser usage. For most participants, their browser usage was a fraction of their app usage. Participants told us apps were quick, easy, and absorbing. “I was always lured by the ease of the apps,” said one.
What was the browser good for? Completeness. There were some information needs that apps couldn’t meet. This was especially true for quick searches (finding stuff). For example, one participant wanted to find out whether a club admitted people under 21. Another participant needed to learn the number of prisons in California for a class. A third looked up how to restore his Windows 7 system after it crashed.
What does this suggest for future Firefox Mobile development? Apps and browsers are not in opposition– they meet different information needs. Both are important. Browsers are really good with the ad-hoc search queries that come up in daily life. We can concentrate on optimizing the browser for these search use cases. How can we help users find what they are looking for in a way that is as fast and easy as apps?