How Are Smartphone and PC Internet Users Different? - eMarketer

Newsletters Sign-Up

Plans & Pricing

Does My Company Subscribe?

How Are Smartphone and PC Internet Users Different?

Time spent on email near equal on PCs vs. smartphones

January 8, 2013

eMarketer estimates that 1.7 billion people around the world will access the internet via a mobile device in 2013. By 2016, there will be a staggering 2.5 billion mobile internet users worldwide. As internet usage increasingly takes place on mobile devices—and particularly on smartphones—it is important to understand how consumers’ internet behavior is adapting to these new devices.

An analysis conducted in July 2012 by GfK Group examined US consumers' web activity on a smartphone vs. on a PC. The research found that in a number of categories, consumers on the two kinds of devices behaved quite similarly.

Both PC and smartphone internet users spent a little under one-fifth of their internet time on email, and both allocated roughly a 10% share of time each to gaming and search.

Share of Internet Time Spent on PCs vs. Smartphones by US Internet Users, July 2012 (% of total)

The most striking difference GfK found was that PC internet users were considerably less social than their smartphone counterparts. PC internet users spent a sizeable 18% of their internet time on social media activities, but on smartphones, social media truly dominated, accounting for a 31% share of internet time—nearly twice as much as the amount of time spent on email, the next most popular smartphone web activity. Clearly, social media is a prime reason smartphone users access the internet via mobile.

On the other side, PCs remained the platform of choice for watching video, although the gulf between PCs and smartphones was considerably less wide. PC users spent 13% of their computer internet time watching video, while smartphone users spent just 9%. The other internet category consumers spent significantly more time on via PC? “Other.” This suggests that there are still a number of miscellaneous internet tasks that users don’t yet feel comfortable navigating on smaller-size phone screens—at least for now.

eMarketer estimates that mobile accounted for 11.7% of daily media time in 2012, compared to about 25% spent online on nonmobile devices.

Share of Average Time Spent per Day with Select Media by US Adults vs. US Ad Spending Share, 2012 (% of total)

As mobile usage grows, the activities internet users perform via their smartphone will account for a greater share of overall time spent online across all devices. Categories like mobile social usage will be the drivers and beneficiaries of this trend.

Corporate subscribers have access to all eMarketer analyst reports, articles, data and more. Join the over 750 companies already benefiting from eMarketer’s approach. Learn more.

Check out today’s other articles, “When Doing Good to Drive Sales, Authenticity Matters” and “Total Ad Spend in Latin America Growing at Fastest Pace Worldwide.”


  • Go beyond the articles:

    eMarketer Products

    You've never experienced research like this.

  • Hear from our clients:

    Customer Stories

    Nearly all Fortune 500 companies rely on us.

  • Want to learn more?

    Contact Us

    Inquire about corporate subscriptions today.