As the world emerged from strict pandemic lockdowns that began in 2020, consumer media habits shifted and reformed, which incited us to examine what has changed regionally over the last three years.

In the US, mobile media consumption is continuing to displace viewership and listenership in traditional channels. In addition to getting their entertainment on smartphones, consumers are spending more time using mobile apps, especially for social networking and messaging.

In fact, because of mobile’s greater access to content, time spent with PC/tablet devices is shrinking—it stood at 3:38 in H1 2022, down 10.3% since 2019.

Here, leveraging insights from our Global Media Intelligence Report, produced in partnership with Publicis Media-Starcom and GWI (formerly GlobalWebIndex), we analyze the evolving behaviors in mobile and smartphone usage.

Mobile usage statistics

The number of US adults using mobile phones will continue to grow, from 248.0 million in 2021, to 250.7 million in 2022, to 253.3 million in 2023.

Growth will continue as many people keep working and socializing remotely but will slow as in-person activities return more broadly. Daily time spent on mobile devices increased by only 6 minutes in 2022, to 4:30, and sustained growth into 2023 will see another 6-minute increase.

Smartphone usage statistics

As people adopt and discard various pandemic habits, they will form new patterns of device use. The 2020 spike in mobile time, by more than half an hour, was rooted in time and place, but growth will persist over the next couple of years. Time spent on smartphones, in particular, will continue to rise, though at a slower rate.

Smartphone use will return to a more sustainable growth rate in 2023 and 2024. This will bring an end to a period of rapid growth, which began in 2019 and was driven partly by a sharp increase in demand for premium subscription video-on-demand (SVOD), TikTok, and podcasts, and partly by the onset of the pandemic. SVOD has also contributed to time spent increases for CTV.

Social networks and messaging apps, which are mainly used in smartphones, are a huge contributor to the increase in mobile media consumption. US daily time spent with social media/messaging apps was 2:12 in H1 2022.

Mobile user preferences

Users are spending more time with apps than browsers on their mobile devices. Mobile app use grew to 3:22 per day in 2022 and will grow to 3:28 per day in 2023, up from 2021’s 3:14. The app experience will become more important as users spend less time accessing content through browsers. Daily time spent with mobile browsers will hold steady this year at 52 minutes, before falling to 51 minutes next year.

That said, the distinction between browsers and apps has been blurring for years. Much of browser time occurs in webview windows within apps. For instance, if you click on an article in the Facebook app, you’ll likely see the article in a browser rather than Facebook’s native Instant Articles format. Even beyond webview, mobile browsers will remain important for certain activities, such as shopping.

The key to successful web apps, however, is delivering an app-like experience. For many applications, this will remain possible only within native apps; in fact, we expect native apps will continue to increase their share of mobile time spent throughout the forecast period.

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Top mobile user activities

As has been the case for many years, digital media—via mobile devices in particular—will account for the bulk of US adults’ daily media time. Digital and mobile both surged in 2020 and continue to make significant gains, albeit at a slower pace.

Within the mobile category, time spent with smartphones saw a major milestone last year. In 2022, for the first time, US adults spent more time per day with their smartphones (3:19) than watching TV (3:07). This transition point was inevitable, and over time smartphones will continue to widen their lead. By 2024, adults will be spending 43 more minutes per day on smartphones than with TVs.