App usage - smartphones versus tablets

How does app usage behavior differ between mobile platforms? Here are insights based on consumer research on app usage on smartphones and tablets.

Smartphone and tablet

New consumer data shows that 34% of U.S. smartphone owners use a messaging app on a monthly basis. This activity is a growth area as consumers use OTT apps to avoid SMS fees from their carriers, but it is nowhere near the main app activity for users on their smartphones.

The most popular apps on smartphones are social network apps, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc., followed by gaming and music apps. Video-based apps are further down on the list, although the survey was completed before the iPhone 6 release, so we have yet to see if the larger screen on this popular model has impacted video consumption on the phone.

 Smartphone Monthly App Usage

Several specific and significant demographic segments are driving app usage on smartphones. Smartphone owners aged 18-24 spend 20 hours per week using smartphone apps. Female smartphone owners spend 16.7 hours per week using apps on their device, compared to 12.6 hours for male owners. There is a substantial gap in particular in usage of social networking apps between males and females, where men spend 2.6 hours per week and women spend almost 4 hours per week.

The story is a little different for tablets. Games and social networks swap places in the top spots, and music apps tumble down the list, while usage of video-based apps increases. Overall there is less of a social aspect to tablet use and a slightly different profile for media consumption (less music, more video and news/books).

 Tablet Monthly App Usage

These factors could contribute to the differing replacement cycles for these two devices. Over 60% of U.S. broadband households now have a tablet, and 52% own both a smartphone and a tablet, up from 25% in 2011. But what we are finding is that smartphones have a shorter replacement cycle compared to tablets. Mobile consumers are buying new smartphones, but they are willing to continue using their 'old' tablets.

With fewer people buying tablets, there is more competition, and less revenue, in the tablet market. Apple has tried to change the trajectory of the tablet market, and the integration of Apple Pay into its new iPad release could complement consumers' media habits on their tablets by further simplifying media purchases. So what will the full impact of Apple's latest tablet ultimately be? We will find out soon enough. 

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