For the first time, the number of Americans accessing the Internet from apps is about equal to the number of people who reach the web using laptops and desktops, perhaps painting a future laden with mobile ads and doom and gloom for traditional mediums like television.
In the U.S. there are roughly 221 million laptop and desktop Internet users, compared to 224 million app users, according to Flurry Analytics, a mobile analytics firm.
The Flurry report measured the top 250 IOS and 250 Android applications in February and found that at its peak 52 million Americans used apps during "primetime," "afterwork" television hours around 7pm to 10pm.
The new numbers indicate a massive mobile app audience, that rivals traditional mediums like television and newspapers. They also underscore the importance for companies to invest in apps that are potentially available to over a 1 billion smartphones and tablets worldwide.
Mobile users spend the majority of their time (80 percent) on apps and just 20 percent on the web, Flurry found in an earlier report.
To get an understanding of how large a peak audience of 52 million app users is, according to Flurry, "you'd have to combine the circulation of the largest 200 weekend newspapers in the U.S. or combine the audiences of the three most highly rated primetime TV shows during a good week."
App usage is at its highest during the weekends, during the day 9am-5pm, and tends to drop overnight.
The growing use of applications, and the growing economic influence of Latinos in the United States makes for an interesting future in the ad world.
Latinos will make up one third of the U.S. population by 2050, and are the fastest growing demographic among mobile Internet users. With Internet mobile ad spending expected to more than double from $7 billion in 2013 to $16 billion in 2015.
Latino Internet users are more likely than white Internet users to say they go online using a mobile device — 76 percent versus 60 percent, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
There are more than 52 million Hispanics in the U.S. today, with a purchasing power expected to grow by 50 percent from a $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion in 2015.
As more Latinos and Americans turn to their tablets and phones, audiences on television continue to decrease, a point highlighted on a blog written by Flurry's head researcher Mary Ellen Gordon — since 2002 there has been a 50 percent collapse in broadcast TV audience ratings, she writes, citing a Morgan Stanley analyst.
While the app audience is large, it is also more fragmented, that is, split among hundreds of different applications among all ages and locations. But Gordon sees this as an advantage for companies and advertisers alike.
"Mobile, in particular, can deliver different ads to different users within the same app," Gordon said, "or the same ad to similar types of people across different apps, based on the varying interests of those individuals."