How Is Consumer Behavior Changing on Mobile Devices?

Note: the following is an excerpt from our new report, Multitasking and Mobile Apps: New Ways to Measure Consumer Behavior, which we published earlier this week. Click here to download a copy of the full report.

What is mobile? Ten years after the introduction of the iPhone catalyzed the smartphone and mobile computing market in ways few industry experts or brands could have anticipated, mobile is no longer a category limited to a smartphone or a tablet. Today, internet-connected devices (such as smart home systems), screenless interfaces (such as AI-driven personal assistant apps), and virtual reality offerings are proliferating as consumers buy more devices and spend more time online.

In 2007, consumers owned just a couple of devices on average and used them for specific purposes: mobile phones (for making phone calls and listening to music) and PCs (for working). Verto Analytics data shows that American adults (ages 18 and above) today own an average of five devices—a category that includes PCs, smartphones, tablets, and wearables. And these consumers expect a seamless experience and continuous connectivity as they move across these screens and devices.

Consumers Own More Devices and Spend More Time Online

In addition to owning multiple devices, the time consumers spent on their devices grew slowly over the course of 2016.

By September of 2016, average smartphone usage was 75 minutes per day, and average tablet usage was 39 minutes per day. Consumers who used both devices engaged in 114 minutes of active mobile screen time per day. (Our figures exclude background usage.)

Meanwhile, PC usage totaled an average of 104 minutes per day, which lags by 10 minutes behind mobile usage of both tablets and smartphones. While we expect there may be additional modest growth for time spent on new screens, including mobile devices, consumer attention (and time) is an increasingly rare commodity. We expect new user interfaces—including screen-free interfaces, wearables, and voice-guided personal assistants like Google Home and Amazon Echo—to add into total time spent online.

Consumers Are Doing Even More on Smartphones and in Apps

The app is stronger than ever: Verto Analytics data shows that mobile app usage is growing faster than mobile web usage. Between July and December 2016, the total monthly time consumers spent using mobile apps on smartphones grew from 6.1 billion hours to 6.9 billion hours. Over the same period, web browser usage on smartphones increased from 1.1 billion monthly hours to just 1.2 billion hours—a difference of 100 million hours of usage.

Not all time spent online is distributed equally across apps and web sites, however. On average in 2016, 85% of the time consumers spent on smartphones was in apps, while mobile web usage accounted for only 15% of the time.

How Many Apps Do Consumers Really Use?

Verto Analytics data shows that consumers use fewer than 10% of the apps installed on their smartphones daily. While consumers have an average of 89 apps installed on their smartphones, they use 25 of them each week and only eight apps daily. And this daily app count represents an increase: in Q3 2016, consumers used an average of only seven apps per day.

The lopsided relationship between apps downloaded and app usage is even more stark when it comes to usage on tablets and PCs. Although tablet owners have an average of 78 apps installed on their devices, they use just three on a daily basis. The average consumer has slightly more than 80 apps installed on his PC, and he uses fewer than eight apps monthly, and just one app daily.

Taking the Next Step

Companies now have the daunting task of competing for a single consumer’s attention across an average of five screens. As a result, publishers, brands and businesses— from global powerhouses to fledgling startups—must accept that apps need to be designed for cross-device use to get the attention (not to mention wallet-share) of a hyper- connected, multitasking consumer. Tackling this challenge is less difficult if you have a nuanced understanding of how consumers behave across the devices they own and the apps, sites, and services they use.

Interested in learning more about the evolution of consumer behavior? Click here to listen to our on-demand webinar, How Consumer Behavior Is Shaping the Mobile Apps Market, and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.