US Time Spent with Mobile 2021

Pandemic Gains Stick Even as Growth Cools

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About This Report
The pandemic accelerated the increase in time spent with mobile activities in the US. Most of these gains will stick as people return to a more normal life in 2021.
Table of Contents

Executive Summary

As the US begins to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, Insider Intelligence expects growth in mobile time spent to slow. This year’s relatively slow growth follows the huge move toward mobile in 2020, when the pandemic accelerated long-term trends of increased time spent with most mobile behaviors. Nearly a third of all media time will be on mobile this year.

How has the pandemic changed consumer behavior on mobile devices?

The pandemic accelerated the growth of time spent with mobile, in some cases by years. Time spent with mobile increased by an average of 31 minutes per US adult in 2020, reaching 4 hours and 16 minutes. Growth will only hit 2.5% in 2021, but that’s on top of a higher baseline.

Which pandemic gains in mobile time spent will be most persistent?

All five of the major app categories—audio, social, video, messaging, and gaming—gained minutes in 2020, led by social apps, which gained 9 minutes. Most gains will stick in 2021 except for small dips in mobile messaging and gaming time, both of which will lose less than a minute. The big loser in terms of time spent in 2020, travel apps, will likely rebound in 2021 as well.

Which trends did the pandemic obscure?

For the most part, the pandemic accelerated existing trends. The big exceptions were in travel-related apps, which saw a large decrease in time spent during the pandemic, and digital audio apps, which grew but without a noticeable spike in 2020. These apps will return to faster growth in 2021.

What’s the midrange outlook for mobile time spent?

Throughout our forecast period, we expect overall mobile time spent and smartphone time spent to continue to add minutes at a steady rate—but tablets will shed minutes slowly. The arrival of 5G and introduction of advanced mobile capabilities should keep mobile time spent from plateauing for at least the next few years.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report reviews our latest mobile time spent forecast, focusing on whether the pandemic-induced changes will stick.

KEY STAT: The average time spent with mobile increased by 31 minutes in 2020 to reach 4 hours and 16 minutes for US adults—and the gains are sticky. Growth will slow this year, but from a much higher baseline.

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    Table of Contents

    1. Executive Summary
    2. Mobile Time Spent in the US
    3. How Are People Spending Time Using Mobile Devices?
    1. Key Takeaways
    2. Insider Intelligence Interviews
    3. Read Next
    1. Sources
    2. Media Gallery

    Charts in This Report

    Interviewed for This Report

    Dock Kim
    Moloco
    Global Vice President, Revenue
    Interviewed April 15, 2021
    Lexi Sydow
    App Annie
    Head of Marketing Insights
    Interviewed April 19, 2021

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    authors

    Yoram Wurmser

    Contributors

    Paul Briggs
    Principal Analyst
    Chris Keating
    Director, Research
    Oscar Orozco
    Director, Forecasting
    Audrey Schomer
    Senior Analyst