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back to article Smartphone users prefer LOVELY apps to fiddly mobe websites

A whopping 85 per cent of smartphone users reckon local apps are better than websites, but they're an impatient bunch and expect a gentle touch to be rewarded within seconds or they'll go elsewhere. The numbers come from Compuware APM, which hired Equation Research to quiz three-and-a-half thousand global smartphone users and …

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Silver badge

Just say no.

Apps are better because it's cooler to have an app than put the kind of effort that is required to make a website useable on a phone. It's a self fulfilling prophecy.

Apps are in principle a bad thing for accessing websites. It encourages the siloisation of data. Imagine if sites like the register disappeared and were available only as an app?

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Silver badge

Re: Just say no.

I'm getting bored of websites that throw up a "Would you like to download our app?!!". For looking up a film, for example, I might want to look at its IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, Wiki or Showcase entry. If anyone knows of a way of setting "No, %&^ off, just show me the &%$ing website like I asked you" to be the default response, please do let us know.

That said, and at the risk of stating the bleeding obvious, specialist apps will require less data to be transferred and are often better formatted for my device. The app will continue to remember my preferences (my local station, to use the Rail Enquiries as an example), if I decide to purge my browser's cache and cookies.

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Re: Just say no.

>specialist apps will require less data to be transferred and are often better formatted for my device.

Agreed, but if the developer needs to develop an app for Android, iOS and Win8, what is the development cost of maintaining three load-lines of code (I assume they don't cross compile!) compared to a suitably designed HTML5 website?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Just say no.

> The app will continue to remember my preferences (my local station, to use the Rail Enquiries as an example), if I decide to purge my browser's cache and cookies.

I fail to see how, after you explicitly remove locally saved data, that it is a failure of the websites that their locally saved data has been removed.

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Joke

Re: Just say no.

there must be an App for that

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Re: Just say no.

" If anyone knows of a way of setting "No, %&^ off, just show me the &%$ing website like I asked you" to be the default response, please do let us know."

In the end I gave up and set my browser user agent to pretend to be a desktop.

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Re: Just say no.

>I fail to see how, after you explicitly remove locally saved data, that it is a failure of the websites that their locally saved data has been removed.

I didn't say it was the fault of the website, just of the website model. If you are to infer anything further, it should be that an option to 'delete all cookies and cache except from websites x, y and z' would be quite nice to have in a browser, but that it would be still be effort to administrate.

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Anonymous Coward

Are you serious?

"given the utility of sites optimised for mobile, one has to wonder why handset applications remain the preferred option"

Are you kidding me? Have you actually USED a site "optimised" for mobile? They are universally awful, with restricted content and functionality. I always either switch back to the non-mobile site or to an app if there is one, and its a site I'll be spending a lot of tiem on.

Not to mention the other obvious advantage of the app, which is that you don't have to constantly download the site layout over and over and over, the the data it works on. Which is particularly important if you have a crappy 3G connection (i.e. you're on 3 in London), or you don't have unlimited data.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Are you serious?

tiem->time

over and over, the the data it works on -> over and over, JUST the data it works on.

I swear, I won't skip the proofreading step next time...

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Re: Are you serious?

Did you write it on a smartphone?

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P_0

Re: Are you serious?

Have you actually USED a site "optimised" for mobile? They are universally awful, with restricted content and functionality. I always either switch back to the non-mobile site or to an app if there is one, and its a site I'll be spending a lot of tiem on.

Absolutely agree. Actually I can give an example: BusinessInsider.com 's mobile website is absolutely infuriating.

A list of headlines pop up, and if you scroll to the bottom there is a button to load more. If you keep loading more and more stories until you find one that might be interesting, and then click on the headline, read the story, go back to the home page, only the top stories are there and you have to reload and reload until you get back to where you were. Terrible design.

The Guardian's isn't that much better. I usually just click on the desktop site button.

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Re: Are you serious?

m.theverge.com does a mobile-optimised site quite well. The rotation of Top Stories at the header can be swiped through, and stories are loaded in a list form, with the option to 'load more' rather than move to an 'older stories' page.

The Reg is okay to browse on a 4" screen, but depends on the browser re-flowing text. Comments are tricky, though.

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Re: Are you serious?

Which is an arguement for improving the website rather than letting the internet devolve into a series of apps. Sir Tim Berners Lee has some interesting things to say on the topic:

http://www.zdnet.com/apps-no-root-your-device-serves-others-berners-lee-7000010661/

(I tried looking on el reg but couldn't find the story)

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Bronze badge

Re: Are you serious?

I think the issue is not "Have you actually USED a site "optimised" for mobile?" but - have you actually (tried to) use a site over a typical 3g connection?

For example, I have personally largely given up on google maps when out and about and now use MapDroyd which only needs a current GPS position to be able to display a useful map - yes I periodically have to download updates, but these are usually over the home WiFi.

In fact the majority of the app's on my smartphone are local with minimal data needs - this may just reflect the fact that in travelling around the country I have a greater experience of coverage holes. also when sitting in a cafe etc. with free wifi, why use the small screen smartphone when as you are sitting down you can pull out the 10" tablet?

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Silver badge
Boffin

A series of apps

Actually, "the internet" *is* a series of apps. We got our chuckles back in '98 when a teacher told to his class that the lab computers now had "the internet" blocked. Netscape now was password-protected. We got a great laugh, and then proceeded to telnet off to our favorite MUD. Of course, we wouldn't correct our teacher's idea of "the intertubes" as this misdirection would mean he wouldn't prod on our MUD/BBS stuff.

Interestingly, many of those "series of apps" are actually using the web anyway; Web Services are usually the interface used for many of them. So there's no love lost with the series of apps, and mobile devices are coping better with the native apps anyway. Hell, even Steve Jobs found out the hard way about that, remember the iPhone was originally devoid of native apps.

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Apps > Sites

Well written Apps are better than websites. Sadly the likes of Facebook suck at writing Apps.

No matter how great your website is, when it comes to speed there's no beating the amount of local storage you can use to cache all of the site's graphics. The smaller you can make each request for data the faster it's going to appear, especially in areas of flakey network connectivity.

This isn't the case on a PC where you get access to a decent amount of local storage in the temporary internet files type of location, but for mobiles where the web browsers local cache is more closely guarded it's a no brainer.

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Re: Apps > Sites

HTML5 should be able to address most if not all of your points.

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Re: Apps > Sites

If I hadn't recently noticed a 475Mbyte browser cache folder when backing up my wifes phone I might have agreed with you. Haven't checked what mines using but I do know there's more free space available than I allow FireFox on my PC ;)

...and yet that huge cache still can't overcome the effect of terrible 3G latency, the real reason (along with the cost of data) most of us prefer apps over even the prettiest website.

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Silver badge

The biggest problem I have browsing on my phone are those cookie banners that hog up 80-90% of the screen when I zoom in.

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Happy

TWO obligatory xkcd's

On the subject of mobile "optimized" sites:-

869

On the subject of apps:-

1174

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Anonymous Coward

I solved the apps problem in one stroke,

Got a Windows phone - app free zone.

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Bronze badge

Nice trick, Eadon

Go anonymous and get upvotes.

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Happy to see that El Reg app is the only news app I have seen that is smart enough to have a view in browser button so its easy to access features the app doesn't deliver such as copy & paste.

I get quite a lot of use out of the feature as the WP8 app doesn't add the headline when sharing to twitter (hint, hint).

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the REG ipad app is pants

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Re:

Yes it is.

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Mushroom

Now...

If they could just stop this trend of making single player games always online, I will be happy. Oh wait, that's just EA and Ubisoft. Who gives a shit then!

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Pint

Apps FTW

The best thing about apps is the content is available when you open it - no need to wait for the pages to slowly drift in via GRPS. Shame so many don't have offline mode working properly :(

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Thumb Down

I must be strange

I find most apps from sites useless.

I always end up going back to the website to use that.

Examples being Shopping websites who provide apps.

plus why have 200 apps when you already have a browser.

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Megaphone

Yer not strange

I also find most site Apps a waste of time and most "mobile" website are irritating shite. I prefer the whole "desktop" website experience.

One of the things that the designers of mobile browsers might want to add is the Option to ALWAYS present itself as a "desktop" browser. I can do it in Chrome for Android but have to select it for every damned page,... after loading the page <Grrrrr>. On my 10" tablet I do not want to ever see a mobile website or be asked to download their App. If I think their App might be useful I can get it from Google Play. On my 4.5" phone I may use some Apps but even there I don't want them thrust at me like some company phallus begging to be fondled.

Now if it's something you access and use regularly then an App makes sense but the whole point of a web browser is it's versatility to display a wide variety of sites.

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Re: Yer not strange

You need to get a Windows Phone. Settings > Website preference > desktop version in WP8. That changes the User-Agent from:

Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; MSIE 10.0; Windows Phone 8.0; Trident/6.0; IEMobile/10.0; ARM; Touch; <manufacturer>; <model>)

to:

Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; MSIE 10.0; Windows NT 6.2; Trident/6.0; ARM; Touch; WPDesktop)

The only difference between that and a Windows RT tablet is the 'WPDesktop' token.

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Better use of AJAX on mobile sites would help to make them more like apps in terms of speed/responsiveness. This would mean loading only the parts of the page that a user requests instead of the whole thing every click. It could also mean showing a fancy loading animation until the content is retrieved. Offline (local) storage could also be used to hang on to content (same as amazon's cloud reader downloads books).

Hopefully a few new mobile OSes like Firefox OS, Tizen and Ubuntu, will make companies think they need an improved mobile site rather than 3 more apps. The cost of developing specialised apps for the iPhone, iPad, Android, WP8, Firefox OS, Tizen, Ubuntu and BlackBerry will be enormous compared to a mobile site.

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Meh

Bad Apps, Bad Websites

Bad coders, bad bosses, dumb clients, unreal expectations from the companies to the customers... there's plenty of blame to go around.

Lean, cleanly coded websites would be a good start.

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h3
Bronze badge

I never use desktop sites on a phone.

Sometimes I do on a tablet. But if I am going to then I use Firefox Mobile (At least adblock works).

Mobile sites are generally not as bloated or annoying.

(Only time I would use the internet out and about is to find something out most of the time the mobile optimized google cache for a site is enough for me).

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Silver badge

App overload?

I visit hundreds of websites in a month - why would I want hundreds of app icons cluttering up my phone?

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One reason I prefer local apps...

...is the absence of infuriating, pointless messages warning that the site you're visiting uses cookies. Particularly on the sites that seem incapable of remembering my "I couldn't give the tiniest shit" response to the warning.

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Anonymous Coward

A whopping 85 per cent of smartphone users reckon local apps are better than websites

I reckon a similar proportion of people would say they prefer bieber to Iron Maiden

They're all twats

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Silver badge

Re: A whopping 85 per cent of smartphone users reckon local apps are better than websites

"They're all twats"

You might very well say that. I couldn't possibly comment.

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Angel

The web will always be 2 steps behind

By its nature, native apps will push new boundaries (the way Flash did) and HTML5 will come along 5-10 years later with an open version. That's what happens when you have the likes of Apple, Google and Microsoft all trying to make their platform attract users and developers. How would I crop and compress an image in HTML5 for example? Send push notifications? One day, but by then who knows what native software will be doing that HTML5 can't.

HTML5 also behaves very differently across different mobile platforms and OS versions. The dream of write once run on iPhone and Android hasn't been realised yet, so you end up with something that uses the lowest common denominator in order to work. Yes it costs more, but I unless it's a very simple app, writing 2 apps for each platform will always result in a better end product.

Then there's the connectivity problem - until we have fast internet everywhere, on all our devices, native apps that can download their content will be needed. Can your HTML5 connect to the internet and download the latest content automatically every night?

What about the (very real) question of is JavaScript, a language originally intended for form validation and basic scripting up to the task for building and maintaining large code bases?

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Anonymous Coward

Yeah I don't want hunderds of apps on my phone. Whilst I agree a well written App is more useful and faster than a mobile website, I don't like all the other things that come with Apps. An App can start up in the back ground and do stuff on your phone you are not aware of. With a mobile web site you are a bit more in control. I find the Register, Telegraph and BBC mobile websites easy to use and read on my phone using Firefox.

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Black Helicopters

BUT.. a site which detects your mobile and delivers a GREAT mobile site version is maybe best?

What we really want is things to be FAST. And that might mean NOT having to download an app.

A few web sites just work - fast and brilliantly - on a mobile device. These are the sites which detect a mobile device, and quickly serve up an appropriate version of the site/content... that is FAST and probably faster than loading up (or installing) an app.

I reckon the reason for the outcome of this web research is:

- Many web sites work really badly on mobile devices

- Many "mobile versions" are crap

But there are crap apps too... Salesforce, anyone? Addison Lee's taxi booker?

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Happy

It's the UI that's important

One thing that people often overlook with the "one size fits all" mobile websites is that phones are personal items, and people tend to buy them based on the user experience. If they have an Android phone, chances are they like the way the native apps look and work. Same with iPhone, and the other minor players.

If you try to force people to use your mobile website, with the same UI across devices - likely to be completely different to the native UI, it's a degraded experience for users. That's why I get so much work at the moment converting webapps to native. Thanks hipsters!

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