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Summary:

The modern era of mobile apps is just over four years old, but their usage continues to grow, according to new survey data released Wednesday. Time spent in apps grew 35 percent in the last year, while TV watching remained steady and web usage dropped.

When it comes to entertainment, watching television is still where those in the U.S. primarily turn on a daily basis: on average, we watch TV for almost three hours per day. But mobile app usage continues to grow at a pace that is coming closer to rivaling television, according to new data released Wednesday. We spend more than two hours a day using apps on our phones or tablets, which suggests that eventually what is now considered the “second screen” is inching closer to overtaking the first screen.

Mobile analytics firm Flurry released its 2012 update on mobile app usage on Wednesday, with data gathered from the more than 250,000 applications it monitors every day, as well as information from ComScore and Alexa. It shows that between December 2011 and December 2012, while we watch TV for 168 minutes per day (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics latest stat, which is from 2011), the firm’s own data shows that we spend 127 minutes per day using mobile apps — either playing games, shopping, checking social media feeds, etc. The 127 minutes is a significant step up from the data measured between December 2010 and December 2011, when we were averaging just 94 minutes per day in smartphone or tablet applications. That’s an increase of 35 percent. At the same time, we are spending a diminishing amount of time browsing the web: Flurry found an average use of 70 minutes per day on the web over the last year, versus 72 minutes per day from the year before.

Flurry_US_Web_vs_App_TV_Consumption-resized-600

As the chart shows, the amount that mobile app usage increased is far greater than the decrease in average web use. So while some of our time is shifting from the web to apps, Flurry says the shift is also due to how many more apps are out there today that we’re using more than ever. Plus those apps are doing things we turned to television for:

In fact, we ultimately expect apps on tablets and smartphones to challenge broadcast television as the dominant channel for media consumption. Compared to the 60-year-old television industry, apps are just over 4 years old.  In particular, tablets will drive growth in app consumption in 2013 as TV-style content and major programming moves to the tablet. Most TV Networks have already adjusted to a dual screen world and are synchronizing their TV content with their tablet app content.

This also explains why companies like Netflix, professional sports leagues, and companies built around entertainment content are focusing one “second screen” apps. They know you are, more than ever, probably using apps anyway while you’re watching TV — or even instead of.

  1. It would be interesting to study and compare how many minutes of mobile browsing and in-app time are spent during work hours, or for professional purposes rather than entertainment or personal.

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