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Smartphones: So Many Apps, So Much Time

2 minute read | July 2014

Consumers are spending more time on their apps than ever before. Over the past half-decade, the proliferation of mobile devices has transformed us into an app-driven society, presenting marketers with new opportunities to connect with consumers by creating more interesting and sophisticated apps to command their attention.

New data from Nielsen shows that U.S. Android and iPhone users age 18 and over spend 65 percent more time each month using apps than they did just two years ago. In Q4 2013, they spent 30 hours, 15 minutes using apps, a full half-day more than 18 hours, 18 minutes in Q4 2011. The average number of apps used per month, however, only increased slightly from 23.2 in Q4 2011 to 26.5 during the same period in 2012 and 26.8 apps per month in Q4 2013. This shows that while there may be an upper limit to the total number of apps users are willing to access within a given month, the amount of time they are spending on those apps is showing no signs of slowing down.

Who spends the most time on apps now, and what are the opportunities for growth? Smartphone owners ages 25-44 use the greatest number of apps per month (29 apps, on average), but 18-24 year-olds spend the most time on them (37 hours, 6 minutes). Time spent does decrease with age, but apps are clearly playing a big role in the lives of all smartphone users. Case in point: Even those aged 55+ spend more than 21 hours across an average of 22 different apps per month.

Social and Search Dominate App Time

When looking at the types of apps that are competing for mobile users’ attention spans, social networking and search still rule, as people spent nearly 11 hours per month, on average, accessing these apps. Entertainment viewing, including video, audio, and gaming apps, grew 71 percent among mobile users over the prior year. Each of the top app categories experienced growth in time spent per person from 2012 to 2013. Photography, for example, is ripe with apps to capture and edit the perfect candid pic, and this category saw a 34-minute per-person increase in time spent among active mobile users. “As mobile consumption habits evolve, it’s imperative that app developers continue to add functionality and robustness to their offerings,” said Monica Bannan, vice president of product leadership at Nielsen. “Although there does appear to be a limit to the number of apps people are willing to access on a monthly basis, they’re spending 31 percent more time than they were last year, proving that it’s the content that counts.”


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 5,000 panelists ages 18+ with Android and iOS handsets).

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