How Much Time Do People Spend on Their Mobile Phones in 2018?
We'd all agree that people are on their phones "all the time." But what does that look like in minutes and hours? How much time do people spend on their mobile phones in 2018?
Thankfully, there's been a lot of research done on this recently. We'll share that research below, and give you a breakdown on what it means for our day-to-day lives.
So, how much time do people spend on their mobile phones in 2018? Let's dig in!
Where'd we get all this information?
We'll link to everyone as we reference their work, but we included research from industry titans like:
- Pew Research Center
- and more
Our goal with this report was not to prove a point, but to see what people are actually doing, and then to understand its practical application. We hope you enjoy it!
How much time do people spend on their mobile phones in 2018?
The simple answer is "over 4 hours a day."
According to comScore's 2017 Cross Platform Future in Focus report, the average American adult (18+) spends 2 hours, 51 minutes on their smartphone every day.
That's about 86 hours a month! This might be a record, but growth has certainly flattened out over the last year-and-a-half.
We're spending more time involved in digital media overall, but less of that time on desktop and laptop computers. Mobile now accounts for about 65% of total digital media consumption.
As you might imagine, college-age adults (18-24) spend significantly more time on mobile phones than older demographics.
eMarketer also released a study in 2016 that gives a significantly different answer. Their mobile research report shows total time spent by mobile users as 4 hours, 5 minutes per day.
Their study does also include tablet users, and only includes active mobile device users, both of which could account for the more-than-hour per day difference.
The study leaves room for potential overlap between users who might multi-task between a smartphone and tablet, too. Even though tablet usage accounts for roughly 15% of total mobile time, tablet users could still skew the numbers.
Another study, conducted by Flurry, shows U.S. consumers actually spend over 5 hours a day on mobile devices! About 86% of that time was taken up by smartphones, meaning we spend about 4 hours, 15 minutes on our mobile phones every day.
Flurry's study aligns more closely with eMarketer's study, leaving comScore's research out on the edge.
Flurry and eMarketer's reports also coincide more closely with past research, which has shown we spend about 4 hours, 40 minutes on our mobile phones every day.
It's difficult to pin down an exact figure for how much time people spend on their mobile phones in 2018, but the simple answer is "over 4 hours a day."
What are we doing on our phones?
We use our mobile phones for entertainment, to connect with friends and colleagues, to stay informed, to shop, and for just about everything else!
At least 81% of American adults now own a smartphone, and these devices have become an integral part of both our work and personal lives.
Here's what that looks like in hours and minutes.
According to MediaKix, we spend an average of 1 hour, 56 minutes on the top 5 social media platforms alone. The top 5 being (by usage):
And according to comScore's 2017 Future in Focus report, 66% of that time takes place on smartphones. (Only 21% of social media time takes place on a desktop.) Though this doesn't include sites like Pinterest, LinkedIn, and other heavy hitters, it means we spend about 1 hour, 16 minutes a day engaging with the top 5 social media platforms on our phones.
It's amazing how the purpose of mobile phones has changed through the years. They started as another way to communicate, and now they're tools to experience the whole world from your fingers!
As social media, entertainment, search, and shopping take up larger portions of our time, how much time are we spending on actual communication?
Unfortunately, what research is available (and accessible) is a bit dated, and no study agrees with the next!
For instance, one study by Informate (Jan. 2015) reports that the average American smartphone user goes through 32 texts and 6 phone calls per day.
This takes up a total of 26 minutes and 21 minutes, respectively. If only other studies shared the same results!
A study by Nielsen shows we spend an average of 5.3% of our time emailing, and 13.4% of our time texting.
Based on our total mobile time of 4+ hours a day, Nielsen shows we spend about 13 minutes and 35 minutes per day on emailing and texting.
Next, comScore's 2017 Future in Focus report shows we spend 3% (7 min.) of our time emailing, and 2% (5 min.) on instant messengers, which are very different figures from the first two reports!
However, comScore's study only includes app usage, so standard SMS and email accessed through a browser are not included.
eMarketer's Mobile Usage report (pulled Nov. 2015) offers a much simpler breakdown in time, though it's even more different than the first two!
According to eMarketer, 22% of mobile phone time is taken up by texting, 22% by phone calls, and 10% by email.
This would mean we spend, on average, about 55 minutes a day texting, 55 minutes a day on phone calls, and 25 minutes a day on mobile email.
Maybe we do actually use our phones for communication!
eMarketer's report is most consistent with past research. Behaviors can and do change, but there might be a better reason for all these differences.
Today's mobile landscape is dominated by multipurpose apps. You might use WhatsApp - or any number of similar options - to text or to call. You might use Snapchat to message, send pictures, and scroll through a feed.
A lot of our communication today takes place within "social media apps." And because so many of these apps have so many functions, it's hard to say how much time we spend on any one thing, like texting.
Roughly 90% of our mobile time is spent using apps.
Today's digital landscape is very much app-focused. In fact, according to comScore's Mobile Hierarchy Report (Jan. 2017), apps make up 87% of total mobile minutes.
Although, Flurry Analytics reported in December 2016, that apps take up 92% of total mobile time, while browsers account for the other 8%.
It might be difficult to nail down an exact figure, but roughly 90% of our mobile time is spent using apps.
According to comScore, American adult smartphone users spend an average of 73.8 hours a month on apps, which comes to a little under 2 hours, 30 minutes a day.
However, if we spend over 4 hours a day on our phones (like what we came to above), and app usage takes up 90% of that, then we actually spend about 3 hours, 40 minutes a day on apps.
As you might imagine, younger adults spend more time on apps than older adults. That figure decreases steadily for older demographics, ending with those 65+ y.o., who spend 42.1 hours a month on apps, or about 1 hour, 25 minutes a day.
What might be most surprising is how much time seniors are spending on apps! Younger adults are "digital natives," who grew up with this technology, but that certainly hasn't stopped it from spreading.
What does this mean for you and me?
Things have changed, they will continue to change, and it's in everyone's best interest to adapt accordingly.
Mobile phones have solidified themselves in everyday American culture. They've also changed our daily behaviors.
Since Apple sparked a smartphone revolution in 2007, mobile devices have gone from cool and trendy to staples of how we interact with the world. And our behaviors have mostly moved from compulsion to practical application.
The #1 alarm clock is a phone. Most people check email and social media on their phones, and we all use them to communicate with friends, family, and colleagues.
The amount of time people spend on their mobile phones is less representative of addictive behavior today, and more representative of a massive cultural shift.
One interpretation of this data is that our lives are merely more technologically integrated. And, as with any change, this brings its own set of challenges.
How will we handle them? Only time will tell!
What does this mean for businesses?
The time people spend on their mobile phones means about the same for businesses as it does for everyone else. Things have changed, they will continue to change, and it's in everyone's best interest to adapt accordingly.
More people prefer social media and mobile messaging over calls and emails. It's the duty of your business to communicate through social media and mobile messaging as well, because you need to meet consumers where they already spend their time.
People spend more time searching for answers via mobile phones than on desktops. It's the duty of your business to provide answers to these searches, and to tailor your website so that it provides a fast, enjoyable experience for mobile users.
Times have changed, and the businesses who change with it are the ones who will succeed.
A Final Word
How much time do people spend on their mobile phones in 2018? Quite a bit.
Over 4 hours a day means we spend over 1/6 of our days on our phones! But it doesn't mean we're bad people.
Mobile phones have become very practical, highly functional devices, and our usage reflects their application.
People have been adapting to advancements in mobile technology en masse, and businesses who follow suit will be able to thrive in this mobile-first era.
At least until the next big thing comes around.