Time spent consuming digital media on a smartphone has doubled in the past three years, according to the 2017 US Cross-Platform Future in Focus report from comScore Inc. But the actual penetration of smartphones is fast approaching market saturation, with younger consumers almost all now possessing a smartphone.
According to the report, the number of minutes US consumers spent consuming digital media on a smartphone in December 2016 was 99% more than the equivalent in December 2013. Smartphones are the main growth driver for usage of "digital" platforms for media consumption. (comScore defines "digital" as a combination of desktop, tablet and smartphone devices.)
Mobile usage (including tablets) is now two hours and fifty-one minutes per day for US consumers over 18. That's also double the time spent consuming digital media on a desktop -- at its peak. If further evidence of the smartphone's impact on current media consumption is needed, the report found seven of every ten digital media minutes in an average month are now spent on mobile, with smartphone apps alone accounting for more than half of all digital minutes. (See It's Mobile or Bust, Says Ooyala's Global Video Index.)
In fact, consumers are abandoning the desktop altogether, with one in eight web users using mobile devices only to get online. Women aged 18-24 are the most likely to drop the desktop.
But smartphone penetration is leveling off, mostly because almost everyone who might want a smartphone already has one. More than 80% of adult (18+) US consumers now have a smartphone, and the numbers are even higher for the youth segment: Among those aged 18-34, 94% have smartphones, so there's not much runway left. Even among those 35-54, 86% now have smartphones.
Social media and video are the main drivers of usage, with video in particular helping to drive adoption of larger smartphones. Today smartphones with screens larger than 4.5 inches outnumber smaller screen sizes by a factor of four.(See Mobile Is Taking Over Video: AOL Study.)
YouTube Inc. has been particularly affected by this shift towards mobile video consumption, with 70% of its videos now seen on mobile devices. But a closer look at the data also shows how viewership is very different to TV, and even desktop viewing. Mobile devices account for 847 monthly minutes of viewing on YouTube for an average user, but the average duration of these videos is just 3.7 minutes -- it's not being used for long-form content.
The report also helps highlight reasons for the buzz around Snapchat. Now rated among the top ten apps in the US, it has leveraged the growth in video communication by attracting sought-after younger audiences. It is the youngest-skewing app according to comScore, with more than half its users in the 18-24 demographic segment. Almost eight out of every ten smartphone users in that segment have Snapchat on their phone, as do just under half of all smartphone users in the 25-34 segment as well. Even adoption within the 34+ segment has grown in the past year, according to comScore.(See TV Shows, in a Snap!)
Overall, the study highlights the emphasis on mobile delivery that OTT providers and pay-TV operators need to factor into their distribution plans. While actual viewership of 60-minute dramas is still likely to be on larger screens, promotion and engagement with consumers via mobile devices is increasingly becoming essential. We have known for a while that this is the case for 18- to 24-year-olds, but this report suggests it is also becoming important for 24- to 35-year-olds as well.
— Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation