Smartphone Apps Approach Majority of All Digital Media Time Spent

comScore released its 2015 Mobile App Report Tuesday, taking stock of a phenomenon that now accounts for 54 percent of all U.S. digital media consumption time and three-fourths of its growth.

The study is based on comScore’s Media Metrix data, accumulated and custom-analyzed from digital audiences across desktop computers, tablets and smartphones, as well as survey results from 1,084 smartphone users.

All activity on smartphones and tablets – meaning both application and browser-based usage – now accounts for 62 percent of digital time spent. While desktop digital media usage is still rising, up 16 percent since 2013, time spent on mobile apps has grown 90 percent in the same period, and mobile browser use has grown 53 percent. 

comScore found that across the 18-to-44 age bracket, smartphone use is nearly three times that of tablets. That ratio shrinks, however, the older the audience. While 18-to-24-year olds spend an average 90.6 monthly hours on a smartphone app and only 34.7 hours on a tablet app, the 55-64-year old spends 41 and 34 hours per month, respectively.

comScore measured mobile apps’ and desktop and mobile “Web properties” – i.e., browser-accessed sites – for their relative ability to build large audiences. So far, the mobile Web leads, followed by the desktop. This is because Web properties more easily direct new visitors through linking, while app operators must get users to go to the store icon and download. Once they do that, though, the relationship is much stickier; app audiences spend 18 times more time on apps than mobile Web visitors spend via browser.

Business Application Implications

Of importance to those developing apps for business, push notifications – a channel often used for customer interactions – are accepted as often as not, according to comScore. Only 9 percent never accept them, and 11 percent say they always do. And there’s good news for those planning to build geo-sensing into their apps, since 41 percent say they’re comfortable letting their app know where they are. Twenty-eight percent are neutral on the issue, leaving only 31 percent uncomfortable.

Of the top 25 mobile apps, Facebook tops the list in users and time spent. Three are in retail: Walmart, eBay and Amazon. Further down in rankings but still with an impressive 6 million unique visitors is Dunkin Donuts’ app, which grew 456 percent over two years. And Starbucks, whose app gained notice for being early to the mobile payment game, has 15 million unique visitors and grew 100 percent in that same time period.

Then there’s the omnichannel play: Retailers Walmart, Cartwheel and Kohl’s all have raised their app usage through in-store incentives like coupons. 

Retail claims only 3 percent of mobile-app time spent, but considering an average monthly usage per app of 73 to 90.6 hours for U.S. residents 18-44, that’s still a lot of influence over people who may be out and about and ready to spend. For proof, consider that while retail is a small slice of mobile digital consumption as a whole, mobile apps account for 44 percent of all digital interaction in the retail category. And mobile ads work measurably better than desktop ads, comScore finds, lifting brand metrics such as intent to buy and likelihood to recommend.

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