Americans spend more time on smartphones than on television

LOS ANGELES • Americans now spend more time on their smartphones and tablets than they do watching television.

In the United States, adults will spend an average of three hours and 43 minutes each day on their smartphones and tablets this year, eight more minutes than they will spend watching television, according to a forecast released on Wednesday by research firm eMarketer.

The change has been years in the making, as smartphones have become ubiquitous and the ways people use their devices have shifted.

Smartphones now let you do more than steal quick glances at social media, and streaming shows and movies on the smaller, portable screens has become commonplace.

"There is far more content today than there was even a couple of years ago," said Ms Monica Peart, a senior forecasting director at eMarketer, referring to the growth of streaming platforms such as Netflix and Hulu.

The gap between the amount of time spent on mobile devices and television has narrowed dramatically over time.

Last year, American adults spent nine minutes more watching television than looking at their smartphones and tablets, eMarketer said.

But watching television used to be more dominant - five years ago, adults spent two hours more watching television than using mobile devices, the firm said.

The forecast follows other reports, including one by Nielsen, that indicate audiences are spending less time with traditional television.

In the third quarter of last year, Nielsen said American adults on average spent four hours and 14 minutes each day on live or time-shifted television, 11 minutes less than a year earlier.

Time spent on apps and the Web on smartphones and tablets in the third quarter was three hours and 14 minutes, 17 minutes more than a year earlier, Nielsen said.

The difference in time was even more pronounced for younger Americans, with people aged 18 to 34 spending one hour and 51 minutes on live and time-shifted television and three hours and 25 minutes on the Web or apps on smartphone and tablets in the third quarter of last year, Nielsen said.

Over time, eMarketer expects the trend to continue.

In 2021, eMarketer estimates adults will spend three hours and 54 minutes on their mobile devices, compared with three hours and 22 minutes watching television.

The eMarketer estimates did not factor in voice calls on mobile devices but considered most other mobile uses.

On smartphones and tablets, adults spend about 30 per cent of their time on audio-related apps that allow them to listen to radio and podcasts, eMarketer said.

Social network apps take up about 24 per cent of a user's mobile time and video apps took up 19 per cent this year, the firm said.

For its television-watching data, eMarketer's report focused on time spent on television sets that were not Internet-connected.

Time spent on other connected devices, which include Roku and Google Chromecast, were broken out into a separate category in eMarketer's forecast, representing an average of just 53 minutes of an American adult's day this year.

That amount of time is expected to grow to one hour and four minutes a day in 2021, the firm said.

Among the most striking statistics in the eMarketer report is the rise of digital video streaming, which is up eight minutes from last year.

As more viewers cut the cord, digital video is replacing traditional television-watching time, eMarketer said.

Consumers "are becoming more and more choosy about what they are going to watch at what time", Ms Peart said.

"It's much more a case of choosing when and how you would like to view (shows and movies) as opposed to needing to sit there as the programmers have designed it."


Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2019, with the headline Americans spend more time on smartphones than on television. Subscribe