comScore: Browsers And Apps Neck & Neck On Smartphones; Social Networking Reigns

We all know that with the rise of smartphone platforms like the iPhone and Android, mobile browsing and app usage is skyrocketing. But what are people actually doing when they whip out their phones (other than playing Doodle Jump)? Internet analytics firm comScore has just released a new report detailing just that. The conclusions aren’t terribly surprising: on both smartphones and featurephones, social networking dominates. Other popular categories include news and online banking, but these trends diverge a bit depending on whether you’re looking at native applications or browser-based websites.

According to the study, native application and browser usage have seen strong growth on smartphones in the last year (with increases of 111% and 112%, respectively). In April, 80% of smartphone users fired up native applications, while 78% used their phone’s browser. These figures are important — during a presentation announcing iAds, Steve Jobs stated that people weren’t using search on their smartphones, but were trending more toward applications (note that not everyone who used their browser was using it to search).

In the same time span, a mere 19% of users on feature-phones used their browser, and only 17% used applications. But despite those relatively meager proportions, the ubiquity of feature-phones means that they still account for almost half of all mobile browser and app usage.

As for what activities users are engaging in from their phones, social networking is king, especially on native apps. Usage of native social networking applications grew 240% in the last year, with 90% growth in browser-based social networking. The other leading categories for native applications are news apps, sports, and banking. For browser-based sites and webapps, the most popular use-cases after social networking are banking, general reference, sports, and search.

One other thing to note: comScore is apparently omitting games from its analysis, which is almost certainly the most popular category for native applications.