How you spend 8 years of your life on your smartphone

It’s no secret to anyone that people love their mobile devices. In recent years we’ve been spending more and more time on our smartphones and tablets and for generations like Millennials it has already surpassed TV watching. The average person uses their mobile device approximately 2.4 hours per day, which comes down to about 10%. Extrapolate that number to get the amount of screentime over a lifetime, and you end up spending 8 years of your life on mobile assuming time spent will not grow dramatically. Apps are increasingly where consumers spend more and more of their time, not to mention their money. Although mobile web can be a backup for publishers who have not built an app, we are seeing consumers spend anywhere from 70-86% of their time in-app, creating a compelling case to go this route. However, the average user spends 88% of her time in just 5 of her favorite apps which makes it essential to deliver real value to a niche audience to earn a top spot. These are the best performing app categories.


Social media is one of the most popular categories as it takes approximately 28% of total time spent on mobile, translating to 2 years and 3 months of your life. It’s no surprise that Facebook is the dominating global social platform with more than 1.5 billion active accounts. This year’s other break-out social stories came from Tumblr and Instagram. It’s unclear as to how many of Tumblr’s users are active, with many critics saying this platform primarily has passive users, however, Instagram’s 400 million users are said to be highly addicted to the single-use photo app.

In China, Tencent continues to extend its dominance of Chinese-language social networks, including Qzone’s 700 million+ active accounts. In neighbouring Russia, Vkontakte is a leading social media platform with estimates of 100 million MAUs.

Globally, research conducted by GlobalWebIndex reports the average user spending 2 hours and 53 minutes on social media per day on mobile and desktop combined, with some countries such as Argentina and the Philippines exceeding 4 hours per day. Which is why advertisers spent an estimated $23.68 billion in 2015 for a 33.5% increase and are expected to reach $35.98 billion, or 16% of all digital ad spending by 2017. It is important to note Facebook does not have a presence in China, the 3rd largest worldwide market for social network ad spend, meanwhile still claims 65% of all ad spend.



With 12% of time spent messaging is another favorite thing people do on their mobile devices, spending almost an entire year over a lifetime. WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, grew 50% in the past year and is passed the 1 billion user mark in February this year. Data from GlobalWebIndex indicates WhatsApp is leading Facebook in a number of markets, and this is expected to occur on a more frequent basis throughout 2016. Facebook Messenger also continues to grow, with the app surpassing 800 million active users in Q1 2016.

In Asia, many messaging apps offer full-featured platforms, which create new revenue streams such as mobile payments, media content and even gaming. LINE, which is popular in Japan, leads messaging apps in the App Store and is the second highest-grossing iOS app of all time (outside the gaming category). In addition to LINE offering games, WeChat in China and KakaoTalk in South Korea do the same. In fact, WeChat has seen early success in m-Commerce by offering users the ability to purchase movie tickets, taxis and other municipal services. This trend is extending to the rest of the world as Facebook has turned Messenger into a platform where new services like its digital assistant “M” will help you buy things online, make reservations, note appointments, and more. Similarly, Whatsapp has abolished its $0.99 subscription fee and will start connecting users with companies to facilitate their customer service.


Mobile commerce

M-commerce is growing steadily and especially in Asia consumers simply love to shop on their mobile devices. In South Korea over half of all e-commerce transactions already comes from mobile and this share is still growing. In the US m-commerce takes a 33% share of total and is expected to grow to over 50% of total in the coming 4 years. Furthermore, m-commerce plays a vital role in omnichannel strategies which increases its importance way beyond the aforementioned sales data makes it seem. Many people start their purchasing journey by getting some basic information about a desired product on their mobile devices but end up converting in a physical store.

Alibaba, China’s e-commerce giant, saw 69% of its orders on Singles Day (roughly the equivalent of Black Friday) coming from mobile devices for an approximate total value of $10 billion. In the US we see the major retailers Amazon, WallMart, Target, eBay, and BestBuy receiving around 50% of their total traffic coming from mobile apps and websites. In India, online retailers like Flipkart and Snapdeal see the vast majority of their revenues coming from mobile.


Streaming video

The combination of cord-cutting trends and improvements in mobile hardware along with cheaper data plans has created an ideal environment for mobile video streaming – and more importantly, paid subscriptions. In what has been a relatively tough market for subscriptions, both HBO Now and Showtime introduced mobile apps without requiring a paid cable service and have fared well. Also, Netflix introduced in-app subscription purchases on iOS in late September 2015, while YouTube launched YouTube Red. In China, video streaming services Youku, Tencent Video and iQIYI did well in terms of revenue.

On average, we now watch 29 minutes of video on our mobile devices each day and according to eMarketer this number is poised to grow as it steals time from watching traditional television. Mobile video traffic now accounts for more than half of all mobile data traffic at 55 percent in 2015. The top 20 percent of power users generated 59 percent of mobile data traffic. The key driver will be mobile apps that cater to the strong consumer demand for video on the go.

The impact of 4K, or ultra-high definition (UHD), is set to cause a dramatic shift in the level of video traffic across devices. The bit rate of 4K is at 18 Mbps or double the HD video bit rate and 9x more than standard-definition video bit rate. Cisco predicts that by 2019, 31 percent of installed flat-panel TV sets will be UHD, up from 2.7 percent in 2014. In addition, popular on-demand video apps will contribute to an increase in traffic despite the total time watching video remaining the same.



Gaming continues to steadily lead mobile app revenue, claiming 90% of Google Play revenue and 75% of iOS App Store revenue. During 2015, game revenue was more dispersed with less concentration among the top game publishers. Even with these gains, gaming is still projected to go through some major shifts for an increase in popularity, including the introduction of new mobile GPUs and processors which allow developers to create games with immersive gameplay and graphics, especially boosting the gaming category in South Korea and China.

Gaming is also the more crucial category to migrate from offline to online (cloud). Gaming on demand and streaming gaming platforms have seen many newly released in 2013 and 2014, however, the graphical processing has been done locally on the gamer’s computer or console. What cloud gaming proposes is to produce the game graphics on a remote server. This would greatly increase internet traffic in this category.


IoT apps

An upcoming category is IoT apps, connecting our mobile phones to a wide variety of things, most notably the thermostats, lights, and locks in our homes, our cars, our watches and other wearables, retail stores, and even entire cities (smart parking, etc.). Interestingly, by using IoT apps consumers expect to spend less time on their devices because it automates everyday mundane tasks. For example, when you are in a certain radius of your home the thermostat will activate, the door unlocks when pulling up the driveway and upon walking in the lights turn on and you don’t even need to take your phone out of your pocket to do all this.

Companies like Nest and AlertMe are the frontrunners when it comes to smart home applications but Apple’s HomeKit is a strong contender to becoming a standard platform and consolidate the now fragmented market. Wearables and their corresponding apps grew strongly in 2015 with over 118%, with Fitbit leading the market with between 10 million and 50 million downloads on Android alone.

Beacons will play an increasingly important role to interact with nearby objects such as retail stores. A major development in this field is that Google updated its Chrome for Android browser to communicate with the “physical web”, as they dubbed it.


All these developments have a clear common denominator: mobile is becoming an increasingly integrated part of our lives. Although sales of smartphones and tablets might have reached their peak, their use cases are set to become even more prevalent in daily life and will continue to replace traditional devices such as desktop and TV.


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