The coronavirus pandemic has increased our collective screen time, and this is especially true on mobile devices. According to a new report from mobile data and analytics firm App Annie, consumers around the world now spend an average of 4.2 hours a day using apps on our smartphones, a 30% increase from just two years ago. In some markets the average is even higher – more than five hours.
In the first quarter of 2021, daily time spent in apps exceeded four hours for the first time in the United States, Turkey, Mexico and India, the report notes. Of these, India saw the biggest jump, as consumers spent 80% more time in smartphone apps in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the first quarter of 2019.
To put this in perspective in the US market, Nielsen reported last year that consumers spent around 4.5 hours watching live or delayed TV, but only 3 hours and 46 minutes using smartphone apps.
However, we must point out that Nielsen and App Annie’s analysis cannot necessarily be compared directly, as App Annie only measures time spent on Android devices – and many Americans use iPhones. Nielsen, on the other hand, relies on panels to carry out representative sampling. Nonetheless, the big picture here is that mobile apps seem to be a more popular medium of entertainment than the good old American hobby of watching TV.
The new report also notes that three markets – Brazil, South Korea and Indonesia – saw the average daily time spent in apps jump to more than five hours in the last quarter.
It can be difficult to determine which apps are causing these changes, as the most downloaded apps tend to stay the same quarter after quarter. The top rankings are dominated by common names like TikTok, YouTube, and Facebook, for example. That’s why App Annie now tracks what it calls “breakout apps,” which are the ones that experienced quarter-over-quarter downloads on iOS and Android.
In the first quarter of 2021, Western markets saw a sharp increase in secure messaging applications, Signal and Telegram. Signal, for example, ranked first in the UK, Germany and France, and fourth in the US as an “escape app” for the quarter. Telegram was # 9 in UK # 5 in France and # 7 in US
Investing and trading apps were also popular during the quarter, with Coinbase’s crypto app ranked 6th in the US and UK on this list, while Binance was ranked 7th in France. The Upbit crypto trading app, meanwhile, was # 1 in South Korea. The payment app, PayPay, was the No.1 breakthrough app in Japan. And Robinhood was No. 2 in the United States
Clubhouse also made an appearance on the breakout charts, as it gained ground in non-US markets like Germany and Japan, where it placed 4th and 3rd respectively.
China’s breakdown graph was different, with an emphasis on video apps like TikTok, Kwai, CapCut, and iQIYI.
TikTok’s influence on gaming was also apparent during the quarter. Istanbul-based Rollic’s High Heels game (now owned by Zynga) received a lot of publicity on TikTok, leading the title to rank No.1 in the US and UK. Uni, as well as No. 3 in China, No. 7 in Germany and No. 6 in Russia.
Other hyper-casual games also performed well, including Project Makeover, DOP 2: Delete One Part, and Phone Case DIY.
Crash Bandicoot: On the Run also erupted during the quarter. Despite launching on March 25, the game recorded 21 million downloads in four days, becoming the # 1 app in Germany, # 2 in the US, # 3 in the UK and # 9 in France.