New data from ‘The Pandemic Year in Mobile Apps’ report conducted by Global Wireless Solutions (GWS) shows that consumers spent an average of four hours per day on their smartphones during COVID-19––up ten minutes per day when compared to mobile usage pre-pandemic. When looking at types of apps––such as social media, video, games––time spent on personal finance/trading mobile apps grew the most during the pandemic year (63%). This growth was fueled by Gen Z consumers who clocked an 102% increase in total hours. Time spent among all consumers on social media apps increased by 25% during the pandemic, and accounts for the most amount of time consumers spent on their phones––more than an hour per day.
GWS’ report offers unique insights into consumer mobile behavior during the first year of COVID (March 2020 – February 2021), highlighting how usage has changed when compared to the prior 12 months. GWS obtained this data through its opt-in OneMeasure Consumer Panel, which evaluates the mobile app usage and content of ~80,000 consumers located across the U.S.
“When Coronavirus took hold, smartphones became further cemented as a link between isolated consumers and the world at large, thus their usage is increasingly becoming an accurate reflection of human behavior on the whole,” said Dr. Paul Carter, GWS Founder and CEO. “We expect that sustained consumer mobile behavior changes will have a lasting effect on how consumers engage with businesses over the long term, and will be a major aspect to establishing what normal looks like now.”
Other key takeaways from The Pandemic Year in Mobile Apps report include a more in-depth look at a day in the life of a consumer as seen through interactions with their smartphones. In particular, the following provides key insights into how consumers spent their time accessing certain types of apps during the pandemic. And since not all consumers are the same––some may focus more on lifestyle apps (such as shopping, dining, and directions), games, or finance––GWS looked at “power users” for these categories as well (i.e., consumers who spent 20% more time than the national average in a given category):
People look to better manage their money
While consumers flocked to day trading and crypto trading apps, financial hardship was evident through massive usage growth of food stamp mobile apps. Every generation increased time spent on finance apps, with Gen Z leading the charge more than doubling the amount of time they spent checking out their finances (102%) and, in particular, their investments (127%).
- Investment app usage soars. Mobile trading apps, including those that enable consumers to trade cryptocurrencies, accounted for 35% of time spent by all consumers on finance apps during the pandemic year.
- Robinhood leads the way. Time spent on the no-commission-fees trading app increased by 183% during the pandemic. And financiers (power users who spend more time on finance apps than the average) spent 28% of their finance app minutes on two apps: Robinhood and Square’s Cash app.
- Food stamp app usage reflects COVID financial hardship. Time spent on food stamp management app, Fresh EBT increased 152% during the pandemic.
TikTok dances take over social media
With stay at home (or close to home) mandates taking effect across the country, Americans turned to social media to connect and entertain.
- TikTok became a must-have pandemic app, with time spent creating videos increasing nearly four times (380%).
- Nextdoor helped neighbors stay connected and informed, with time spent on the app increasing 53% during the pandemic year.
- Socialites (the power users of social media apps) spent 358% more time on TikTok, 28% more time on Snapchat, 19% more time on Instagram, 15% more time on Twitter, and 10% more time on Facebook during the pandemic year.
Shopping and dining shift to mobile apps
More Americans turned to food delivery services and online shopping to weather quarantine periods––shifts that may endure beyond the pandemic.
- Gen Z paces mobile app usage. Gen Z increased time spent on lifestyle apps the most (50%), while every other generation increased time spent at nearly same rate (17% on average).
- DoorDash and Uber Eats lead the way. During the pandemic year consumer’s time spent on DoorDash increased 166% and Uber Eats increased 121%.
- Consumers embrace mobile app one-stop shopping. Time spent on the Walmart app increased 74%, Target app increased 62%, and the Amazon Shopping app increased 58% during the pandemic.
- Consumers embraced mobile apps, but not mobility. Power users of lifestyle apps spent less time moving around town: time spent on maps and navigation apps like Google Maps was down 17%. What’s more, time spent on Grubhub driver, Uber Eats driver and Dasher (Door Dash drivers) increased 61% while Uber and Lyft driver apps dropped by 40%, showing a market shift from time driving for ride share to time driving for food delivery.
Everyone is a star (or wants to be)
Americans watched nearly 42 minutes of video per day on their mobile devices, with growth in time spent on video apps paced by Gen Z (up 44%) and Baby Boomers (up 10%).
- HBO maximizes launch. From its May 2020 launch, time spent on HBO Max grew 513%; total time spent on Disney+ grew 92%.
- Consumers have itch to Twitch. The live streaming platform, popular with gamers, saw total time spent on the video app jump 91% during the pandemic year, while YouTube grew by 12%.
- Videophiles (power users of video streaming apps) spent an average of 156 minutes per day watching videos; 31 minutes per day on subscription-based mobile video apps; and nearly two hours per day watching videos on YouTube (115 minutes/day).
Gaming brings consumers together
Multiplayer online gaming served as a much-needed connection point for many during the pandemic.
- Among Us users played 33% more minutes per day during the pandemic.
- ROBLOX users played 19% more minutes per day and the number of new users grew by 38% during the pandemic.
- Pokémon GO users played 9% more minutes per day during the pandemic.
- Discord (a voice, text and video messaging app designed to connect gamers) users chatted 18% more minutes per day during the pandemic.
- Gamers (power users of game related apps) spent 19 more minutes per day on their smartphones overall.
Stuck on the sidelines
With all major sports leagues shutting down, delaying or shortening seasons, fans had little use for their sports or betting apps.
- Sports fans pivot to trading. Sports fans (power users of sports related apps) increased time spent on finance apps by 73% during the pandemic.
- Sports app usage by fans decreased by three minutes per day or 22 minutes per week.
- Fantasy and betting hit hard. Deepest dips in time spent by all consumers were felt by ESPN Fantasy (38%), DraftKings (37%) and Bleacher Report (35%).
To dig deeper into GWS’ data and trends, please see The Pandemic Year in Mobile Apps report.
Methodology and Panel Description:
Data results are based on GWS’s OneMeasure Consumer Panel (OMCP). OMCP is an opt-in consumer panel that measures mobile app usage and content, mobile network performance, and consumer perceptions. OMCP collects consumer data on Android smartphones 24 hours a day, seven days a week, whenever and wherever consumers use their devices.
OMCP panelists are primarily recruited from the top 41 metropolitan areas across the U.S. along with consumers located in less populated areas. The number of panelists per metro area depends on the area’s geographical size, but on average there are roughly 1,200 panelists per metro area. Total sample size of the panel ranges from 75,000 to 100,000 consumers. The demographic profile of panelists is approximately balanced to mimic the U.S. population. All information collected is weighted to a user’s demographic representation of the U.S. population (aged 18+).
GWS’s OMCP data, unless stated otherwise, is collected and managed by Embee Mobile on behalf of GWS. Data is reported in an aggregated and anonymous fashion for market research purposes only.
About Global Wireless Solutions, Inc.:
Founded in 1996 and headquartered in Dulles, Virginia, Global Wireless Solutions has set the industry standard for network benchmarking, analysis and testing. Its proprietary OneScore network ranking combines high-level network testing data with real-world network usage scenarios to make the results of testing relatable and easy to understand. Working with some of the world’s largest wireless network providers, GWS offers high-quality network engineering and consumer behavior analysis through a suite of benchmarking products, services and OneMeasure diagnostic apps that include drive, venue and in-building testing. At last count, GWS has driven 13 million data collection miles for its customers. For more information, visit gwsolutions.com and follow us on Twitter at @gwsolutionsinc.