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The Mobile Screen Time Crunch

Posted Jan 24, 2017

Time spent on mobile devices has been slowly overtaking other media for several years now, but as time on mobile devices increases, so too does the competition for the small screen.

Recently, we wrote about the first half of mobile and app’s growing time as part of digital media consumption habits. The second half of this complex interaction and habit shift taking place is within mobile devices.

According to Comscore’s 2016 U.S. Mobile App Report, last year desktop usage as a percentage of digital media time dropped 11%, while mobile app and mobile web grew 11 and five percent respectively, continuing their trend over the past several years.

Category Champions
In that jump from last year though, a number of app categories experienced sizable changes.

Amazon dominates the retail category, with 34% of user app time spent. The online retail juggernaut puts a lot of thought and resources into the mobile experience, and users have clearly responded to its straightforward interface. Amazon’s emphasis on fast delivery through its services like Prime, Prime Now, and other services like Prime Fresh has helped them capitalize on giving users the feeling of instant gratification mobile devices bring many users.

Last year, Amazon’s efforts paid off big: Amazon Prime members now outnumber their non-prime customers.

Other categories that saw sizable jumps were map/navigation apps, and personal apps such as Tinder, Bumble, and Match.

These jumps tell us a lot about how mobile users’ opinions have evolved.  A decade ago, meeting someone online was something many couples would do their best to cover up. Now, swiping left or right isn’t just a way of life for dating app users; rather, it has become broadly synonymous for approval and disapproval.

Food apps and Beauty/Fashion apps from both had respectable jumps in time spent on mobile devices versus time spend in other media. These two categories are also emblematic of the shift from desktop to mobile – it’s easier and more convenient to find a recipe while in the grocery store or preview Fall fashions while shopping, than it is to look them up prior.

Time Scrunch
According to ComScore, the average mobile user downloaded 3.5 new apps per month. While that may seem low, the number of those installs directly influenced by ads jumped up nearly 3 full percentage points from 2015.

Better ad technology, more sophisticated ads, and thoughtful targeting have clearly helped many apps grow in 2016 — and will into the future — but there is competition coming for attention – from inside mobile devices.

As we talked about recently, time spent in apps is changing. On average, 45% of mobile time was spent in a users’ favorite app. The drop for the #2 app is large – down to 18% of time spent.

This crunch for time in today’s mobile market means mobile publisher will need to take advantage of users’ receptiveness to ads and double down on high-quality, highly-targeted user acquisition campaigns with trusted partners.

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