US Mobile Time Spent 2020

Lockdowns Augment Gains in Time Spent with Mobile Devices

Executive Summary

With mobile devices serving as a lifeline to the outside world amid stay-at-home orders, time spent on smartphones and tablets has jumped. Though the pandemic has accelerated some long-term trends, such as increased time with mobile video and gaming, this unfamiliar situation has also reversed other trends and introduced new behaviors that may last beyond 2020.

How has mobile time spent changed over the past year?

Some trends we expected this year were already evident prior to the coronavirus pandemic, including increasing time spent with streaming audio, video, gaming and social media. COVID-19 has, if anything, accelerated many of these trends.

How has the coronavirus pandemic influenced daily time spent on mobile devices?

The average US adult will spend 23 additional minutes per day on their smartphones in 2020, a big increase from our pre-pandemic estimates. Tablet time will also gain 2 minutes, a reversal from the slight decrease we had expected before the pandemic.

Which content categories have gained the most minutes?

All major app categories are up, but social networking has gained the most extra minutes: 11 minutes per day for the average adult, followed by mobile video with 10 minutes. Messaging is expected to rise by 4 minutes. By comparison, digital audio will gain just 2 minutes—well below its pre-pandemic trajectory—and the “other” category, which includes maps, dating, weather, news, shopping and ride-sharing apps, will lose 2 minutes.

What lasting impacts will the pandemic have on mobile usage?

Though some changes will be temporary, such as the large increase in voice calling, we still expect the baseline to be raised for most app categories. Mobile will gain just a few minutes in 2021, but our long-term figures for 2021 through 2023 will remain mostly above our pre-pandemic predictions.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report reviews our latest forecast for US mobile time spent, highlighting the coronavirus effect on our numbers while examining trends that pre-date and will persist beyond the current crisis.

KEY STAT: The big rise in mobile usage has mostly come on smartphones, which have gained 23 minutes daily for the average US adult.

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Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Coronavirus Accelerates Move to Mobile
  3. Pandemic Boosted Time with Most Content—but Not All of It
  1. How Long Will Behavioral Changes from the Pandemic Last?
  2. Key Takeaways
  3. eMarketer Interviews
  1. Read Next
  2. Sources
  3. Media Gallery

Interviewed for This Report

Greg Archibald
Senior Vice President, North America Media
Interviewed May 1, 2020
Andrew Boni
Interviewed April 28, 2020
Alyssa Jarrett
Director of Brand Content Marketing
Interviewed April 28, 2020
Andy Norman
President, North America
Interviewed April 23, 2020
Todd Wooten
Interviewed April 16, 2020

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Yoram Wurmser


Ross Benes
Mark Dolliver
Principal Analyst
Chris Keating
Research Director
Oscar Orozco
Senior Forecasting Analyst

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