Time Spent With Smartphone Apps Continues to Rise. Which Categories Are Benefiting?

May 26, 2016

This article is included in these additional categories:

Boomers & Older | Digital | Men | Mobile Phone | Search Engine Optimization | Social Media | Travel & Hospitality | Women | Youth & Gen X

Nielsen-Smartphone-App-Audiences-and-Consumption-May2016The average number of applications used by adult Android or iOS smartphone users has remained relatively steady over the years, barely budging from 26.5 per month in Q4 2012 to 27.1 per month in Q4 2015. But while smartphone users aren’t accessing more apps, they are spending more time with them, per recent Nielsen data.

Almost twice as much, in fact. Back in Q4 2012, smartphone users spent just over 23 hours per month with apps, a figure that rose to 40 hours and 51 minutes per month in Q4 2015. Growth has slowed, though, as the year-over-year increase of roughly 3.5 hours in Q4 2015 was about half of the increase seen in the prior 2 years.

Nevertheless, as of Q4 2015, smartphone users were spending roughly 90 minutes per app per month, up from 52 minutes per app in Q4 2012. In Q4 2015, the largest year-over-year increases in time spent per app were reserved for the following categories:

  • Travel – up 40% to 2:03 per person per month;
  • Family & Lifestyle – up 29% to 2:04;
  • Productivity & Tools – up 24% to 3:44; and
  • Search, Portals & Social – up 23% to 15:52.

The rapid growth in time spent with search, portal and social apps means that it is now the category with the most amount of time spent per person each month. This is likely attributable to the continued rise of social media use on smartphones: recent data from comScore finds that Facebook-owned properties (Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp) alone account for more than one-fifth (21.8%) of all digital media minutes spent on smartphones.

To get to the top position in terms of time spent, the search, portals & social category leapfrogged entertainment, which was one of only 2 categories to see a year-over-year decline in that measure. However the entertainment category remains the top category in terms of audience size, per the Nielsen data: in Q4 2015 these apps boasted a unique audience of 165.9 million, just slightly edging the search & social category (165.6 million).

Who Spends The Most Time With Smartphone Apps?

The Nielsen report breaks out the average number of apps used – and time spent with them – by gender and age group.

On a gender basis, the average number of apps used varies little between male (26.9) and female (27.2) smartphone users. However, women lead in consumption, spending almost three hours more per month with those apps (42:11 vs. 39:23).

On an age basis, it’s a tie between the 25-34 and 35-44 brackets when it comes to the average number of apps used per month, each at 28.2. Of note, 50-64-year-olds averaged a slightly higher number of apps accessed per month than 18-24-year-olds (25.8 and 25.6, respectively).

Millennials do spend the most time with apps, though:

  • The 47 hours per month spent by younger Millennials (18-24) leads all age groups; followed by
  • The 46.3 hours per month spent by older Millennials (25-34).

Gen X smartphone users, however, are close behind, spending 44.2 hours per month accessing apps.

There’s a larger drop off after that, with smartphone users aged 50-64 spending about 33 hours per month with apps, and those aged 65 and older spending just under 25 hours per month with them.

For more research and data on smartphone apps, see the following articles:

About the Data: Nielsen describes its methodology as follows:

“Insights about mobile app usage were gathered using Mobile NetView 3.0, Nielsen’s on-device software, which is installed with permission on panelist smartphones (approximately 9,000 panelists ages 18+ with Android and iOS handsets). The panelists are recruited online in English and include Hispanic, African-American and Asian-American consumer representation.”

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