Consumer Insights

Americans Spend More Time On Smartphones Than Watching TV

New data shows that, for the first time, U.S. adults will spend more time using their mobile devices this year than they will watching TV.

According to eMarketer, the average American will spend three hours and 43 minutes on mobile devices this year, just above the three hours and 35 minutes spent watching television. Of the time spent on mobile, consumers will spend two hours and 55 minutes on smartphones, a 9-minute increase from 2018.

Last year, time spent on mobile was at three hours and 35 minutes, while time spent watching TV stood at three hours and 44 minutes.

“We’ve expected that mobile would overtake TV for a while, but seeing it happen is still surprising," said Yoram Wurmser, an eMarketer principal analyst. "As recently as 2014, the average U.S. adult watched nearly two hours more TV than they spent on their phones."

The firm does expect mobile use to plateau by 2020, as consumers become increasingly uneasy about overusing their mobile devices. In the meantime, consumers are spending the bulk of their time on mobile devices, using apps over web browsers, with the average person spending two hours and 57 minutes in apps versus 26 minutes on a mobile browser. Within those apps, people spend the most time listening to digital audio.

“Digital audio apps continue to add minutes because people are streaming more music on their phones, and podcasts have taken off in popularity in the past few years,” Wurmser added.

Over the long term, eMarketer predicts that smartphones will remain the most popular devices for consumer media, while tablet use among U.S. adults continues to lose ground — having peaked at one hour and 11 minutes daily in 2017 before falling to a little over an hour this year. This trend will continue through 2021.

The data comes as more American consumers are using their smartphones to shop. According to the Remote Payments Study, conducted by PYMNTS in December of 2018, more women (54.3 percent) than men (45.9 percent) use smartphones to make purchases. More women also purchase using smartphones while at home, work or out with friends.

In addition, higher-income consumers shopped more on smartphones than lower-income consumers. One in five (21.1 percent) consumers said they discovered their most recent purchases while browsing on a smartphone.

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