Australian Smartphone and Tablet Data

Apps Dominate Smartphone and Tablet Usage

According to data from multiple sources, apps are now dominating mobile and tablet device usage.  Users are spending as much as 89% of their time on apps, rather than on the mobile web, prompting some analysts to predict the demise of the web altogether.  Whether this is a passing trend or a sign of things to come, we are certainly in the golden age of apps right now.

In March this year, Nielsen released the final quarter report on Cross Platform usage in the U.S. for 2013.   The report covered usage by Americans of video and internet content across multiple devices including  TV, smartphones, tablets, game consoles and multimedia devices.  One of Nielsen’s most interesting findings for me, was the breakdown of time spent by smartphone and tablet users.  This is the first year Nielsen have used Electronic Mobile Measurement to track device and app usage, rather than obtaining results by survey.   By actually recording smartphone and tablet usage, Nielsen was able to identify for the first time exactly how time was split between web and apps. What they found was that almost 90% of smartphone users time spent was through apps.

By actually recording smartphone and tablet usage, Nielsen was able to identify for the first time exactly how time was split between web and apps.

In the past, Nielsen and other analysts have only been able to collect users’ own subjective views of how much time they spent accessing different types of content on their mobile device.  This can be misleading, as users themselves are often not sure.  It can also be skewed by the fact that many users do not know when they are using web or app content.  For example, last year’s local research from the AIMIA Mobile Phone Lifestyle Index asks users which they use more – apps or mobile sites.  This detailed blog post explains the results which essentially found that apps and sites were equally accessed by respondents in 2012 and 2013.  Although things may well have changed in the last 12 months, it’s also possible that users simply did not know what content they were using.  By using Electronic Mobile Measurement (EMM), Nielsen has been able to answer this question far more convincingly. 

Nielsen Time Spent on Smartphone – Apps versus Mobile Web

Nielsen Time Spent Apps v Sites


Nielsen also looked separately at Tablet usage and found that while tablet users have a slightly greater focus on web content, the breakdown of time spent is still largely focussed on apps, with 81% of tablet users’ time spent on apps.

Nielsen Time Spent on Tablet – Apps versus Mobile Web

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Nielsen’s findings supported findings from Ad Network Flurry in April this year that found of the 2 hours and 42 minutes users were spending on mobile devices,  2 hours and 19 minutes were on apps.  Flurry based its research on their network of nearly half a million mobile apps installed on devices worldwide, comparing it to data on mobile browser usage from comScore and NetMarketShare.  Though the findings from Flurry combine data from different sources, it’s telling that the very specific data from Nielsen delivers almost identical findings.  Flurry’s data identified that in 2014 86% of time spent on mobile devices was on apps, up from 80% in 2013.

Flurry : Time Spent on Mobile Apps versus Mobile Web 2013 – 2014

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Although this data is based on a U.S. audience, we will soon have our own local data to support this story in Australia as well.  Late last year the IAB and Nielsen announced a partnership to launch a similar mobile audience panel measurement pilot.  Nielsen were able to share some of the first insights when they presented at the Mumbrella360 conference recently.   The data presented at Mumbrella360 included information about how Australians are spending significantly more time on apps for smartphones and tablets than we are browsing the internet on these devices, as shown by the following charts from Mumbrella’s report:

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Although all of the U.S and local data comes down firmly on the side of applications in terms of how we spend our time on mobile devices, there are still questions about the nature of the app usage, and the kinds of content and functionality that people are using.  This also raises questions for advertisers who want to reach customers on mobile devices.

Looking at how Australians use apps, the following chart from Nielsen (also shared by Mumbrella) shows how Australian usage is dominated by social media, gaming and productivity, whereas the browser has more widespread representation in areas like shopping, banking and news, with a great deal of time spent also on social media and search. More information about the Nielsen data that was shared by Mumbrella can be found in our recent post Australian Smartphone Usage Still Early Days .

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What does this all mean for advertisers and marketers?  Certainly at the moment, if you are keen to reach customers on their mobile and tablet devices, an app-centric strategy would be the way to go.  Analysts like Mary Meeker predict a shift towards the unbundling of apps into feature and function specific mini-apps (see slide below). Mary Meeker’s recent internet trends report demonstrated how we originally saw a movement towards replicating our multi-purpose web sites as multi-purpose mobile sites and apps.  Now we are seeing more and more specific mobile apps, focussing on doing one thing well.   Apps are increasingly focussed on achieving a very specific goal, with users accessing each for a single purpose, like editing an image, chatting to a friend or sharing an experience.

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As advertisers we need to become smarter about how we engage with customers in this single purpose environment.  Effective native social advertising is of high value while services like Facebook and Twitter claim a large portion of time on apps.  However there is a significant amount of time spent outside of the social environment, and this requires a targeted approach to reach the right customer at the right time.   Advertisers need to be proficient at understanding their customers movements in this world, and be able to track, target and retarget them as they move about.  Last year’s series of educational articles about mobile targeting may be a good refresher.



The Targeting Mobile Series

Targeting Mobile – Cookies We discuss the difficulties with tracking customers on mobile devices and the limitations with cookies.

Targeting Mobile – ID Please We review some of the techniques the mobile industry is using to track mobile customers for the purposes of advertising and identified and explored the problem of cross domain tracking.

Targeting Mobile – Building Profiles We discuss the need for advertisers and networks to create behavioural profiles,  reviewed techniques such as fingerprinting and the use of complex algorithms to build up profiles, and overviewed the kinds of data that mobile advertisers want to track to make advertising more effective.

Targeting Mobile – The Holy Grail We look at pre-packaged and customised mobile audience profiles and investigate the practice of mobile retargeting . Finally we delve into a future where mobile wallets make it possible to target, track and retarget customers all the way through the sales funnel from awareness to purchase.


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