For the first time ever, US consumers will spend more time using their mobile devices than watching TV, with smartphone use dominating that time spent.
Consumers’ use of smartphones will continue to make up the majority of their media consumption, but we predict that use will plateau by 2020, as consumers become increasingly uneasy about overuse of mobile devices.
The average US adult will spend 3 hours, 43 minutes (referenced as 3:43) on mobile devices in 2019, just above the 3:35 spent on TV. Of time spent on mobile, US consumers will spend 2:55 on smartphones, a 9-minute increase from last year. In 2018, mobile time spent was 3:35, with TV time spent at 3:44.
Tablet use among US adults continues to lose ground, having peaked at 1:11 daily in 2017 and dipped to 1:08 this year. This trend will continue through 2021.
“We’ve expected that mobile would overtake TV for a while, but seeing it happen is still surprising," said Yoram Wurmser, eMarketer principal analyst. "As recently as 2014, the average US adult watched nearly 2 hours more TV than they spent on their phones."
What are people spending time on their devices doing? They’re consistently spending the bulk of their time using apps over web browsers, with the average person spending 2:57 in apps vs. 0:26 on a mobile browser.
Within apps, people spent the most time listening to digital audio, followed by social network activity.
“Digital audio apps continue to add minutes because people are streaming more music on their phones, and podcasts have taken off in popularity in the past few years,” Wurmser said.
Longer term, smartphones will remain the dominant device for consumer media, but backlash continues over screen time, even if broader consumer behavior has not reflected these sentiments. Companies like Google and Apple have introduced screen time controls, but how useful they are in ultimately changing behavior remains to be seen.
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