Each year, mobile devices entice us to spend more time with them, but the way we’re spending that time is changing: more time on smartphones and apps, and less time on tablets and the mobile web. But even as smartphones are ascendant, within a few years the average adult may hit the upper limit of how much time he or she is willing to spend with the device.
- US adults will spend an average of 3 hours, 35 minutes per day on mobile devices in 2018, an annual increase of more than 11 minutes. By 2019, mobile will surpass TV as the medium attracting the most minutes in the US.
- Nearly all of this additional time spent on mobile devices will come from smartphones, which will account for two-thirds of mobile minutes this year. Time spent on tablets peaked in 2016 and has dropped about a minute since then, to 69 minutes. Even the rate of growth in smartphone minutes is slowing, estimated at 9.3% in 2018 and just 6.5% in 2019.
- Apps account for over 90% of internet time on smartphones and 77% of internet time on tablets. But this is slightly misleading, in that nearly half of app time occurs in an individual’s top app, and 90% in the top five. Moreover, some web time may be undercounted due to browsers embedded within apps.
- The leading activity in apps is digital audio, with the average US adult listening to over 50 minutes of audio via mobile apps per day. Social networking is next, with 40 minutes of app time. The other major categories are mobile video, gaming and messaging. Of these five, gaming is growing most slowly.
- While web time is projected to decrease, modern web technologies may spur a renaissance—though users may not notice. Tools such as progressive web apps will mimic app functionality and will often reside within apps, while accelerated mobile pages (AMP) load quickly enough to entice publishers away from native formats.
- Although we expect smartphone minutes to continue to increase through 2020, they may hit a plateau soon thereafter. Competing devices, such as smart speakers, smart cars and wearables, are likely to cut into mobile time. There are also early signs of a backlash against the modern reliance on smartphones. Whether or not this will lead to any meaningful reductions in time spent remains unclear, but Apple and especially Google have begun to address it with tools helping users limit mobile time.