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Mobile first, but app second.

The fastest-growing mobile phone markets barely use apps

By Alice Truong

Deputy editor

Africa and Asia, the two fastest growing mobile markets, aren’t very big on apps.

The overwhelming majority of mobile internet activity in the regions is spent on web pages, according to a report released yesterday (July 28) by Opera Mediaworks. In Asia and Africa, websites made up 90% and 96% of mobile impressions, respectively, in the second quarter.

Their habits are a sharp contrast to the US, where apps accounted for 91% of impressions. Globally, there’s a more even distribution, with apps making up 56% of mobile impressions and websites comprising the remainder.

The trend in Asia and Africa is somewhat surprising given their mobile penetration. Asia is home to the world’s two biggest phone markets, China and India. Phone ownership is also rising at a fast clip in Africa, with rates in some countries, such as South Africa and Nigeria, now on par with the US.

The discrepancy with app usage can be explained by the phones being used in the regions.

“A big portion of the mobile audience in mobile-first regions like Africa and [Asia-Pacific] are still using low-end feature phones because of the cost factor,” a spokesman tells Quartz. “This therefore compels them to use the mobile web more than apps, which are usually dominant on smartphones.”

It’s apps that make phones so powerful, transforming the way people connect with each other, access health care, find work, run businesses, consume entertainment, and much more. Currently, much of Africa and Asia still suffer from slow internet speeds, but the region will likely see a shift to apps as their mobile markets mature.

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