Do Mobile Users Prefer Browsers Over Apps?

About a third of U.S. mobile phone subscribers used a downloaded application in August, according to comScore, and app downloads have shown impressive growth over the past year.

But according to research from Adobe Systems, many mobile device users appear to think browsers offer the better user experience.

Mobile users polled in the study reported a preference for mobile browsers to access virtually all mobile content. Games, music and social media were the only categories in which users would rather use a downloaded app than browse the mobile Web.

Their preference for mobile browsers extended to the retail category, with users showing a strong bias toward mobile browsers for accomplishing every mobile shopping task mentioned. Whether it was researching product and price info or sharing that information socially, mobile users would rather fire up a browser than a dedicated app.

These preferences may surprise mobile experts who consider apps to offer the best content and shopping experiences. And marketers may be frustrated as well; getting an app on a user’s home screen is a constant reminder of the brand, but it doesn’t make sense to offer an app users don’t want.

“Just because you can create an app for that doesn’t mean you should,” said Nicole Perrin, a senior editor at eMarketer. “The majority of marketers are better off creating a rich mobile Web experience that gives customers the tools they need to research, browse or buy products — rather than focusing energy and resources on developing apps that consumers aren’t likely to download.”