We're all wedded to the idea that Wireless Shall Set You Free, breaking the chains — well, the cables — that restrict our freedom to roam. However, it turns out that most of the time, "mobile" means "around the house". In fact, it's not so much "mobile time" as "me time", and it's a safe bet that it includes a lot of couch, bed and bathroom time.
Contrary to popular perception, 68 percent of mobile internet access takes place in the home, according to research unveiled by AOL and BBDO at last week's Advertising Week 2012 conference in New York. Or as the companies put it: Joint Study From AOL And BBDO Turns Traditional View of Mobile Space on its Head.
In a US-based study conducted by InsightsNow, smartphone users kept a seven-day video diary, and Arbitron Mobile tracked their phone use for 30 days. After that, email, SMS and voice calls were excluded and the remaining interactions analysed to find the "underlying needs" being met. The categories and proportions are not surprising:
a. Accomplish - managing activities and lifestyle to gain a sense of accomplishment (11 percent)
b. Socialize - active interaction with other people (19 percent)
c. Prepare - active planning in order to be prepared for upcoming activities (7 percent)
d. Me Time - seeking relaxation and entertainment in order to indulge oneself or pass the time (45 percent)
e. Discover - seeking news and information (4 percent)
f. Shop - focusing on finding a product or service (12 percent)
g. Express Myself - participating in passions and interests (2 percent).
AOL and BBDO say:
Me Time is by far the biggest "Mobile Motivation". Me Time accounts for almost half (46 percent) of all smartphone app and website motivation, averaging 864 minutes per month per user, per Arbitron Mobile. Seventy percent of these moments are lean-back experiences.
That "Me Time" amounts to almost half an hour a day.
There is an obvious mismatch between image and reality, and it's one that most mobile users will immediately recognise. The sales pitch (and purchase justification) for a device might be that you can use it to summon help when lost in the mountains, or do server maintenance while marooned in your 5-star hotel in Timbuktu.
Both things may well be true. However, the reality is that, roughly two-thirds of the time, people use their mobile devices to do things like post cartoons or cat videos on Facebook, and to tweet from the couch during TV shows. (At least this is better than shouting at the screen.)
This fits with known web usage patterns, as shown in a recent slide deck, State of the Internet: 2012, by Business Insider's Henry Blodget. According to Slide 711, PCs dominate web use during office hours, but smartphones and tablets overtake the PC after 6pm. Tablets dominate the evenings.
It also makes sense because using mobile devices on home Wi-Fi networks avoids any congestion or speed problems on cellular networks, and any caps on data use.
BBDO is aiming its message at advertisers. Its point is that mobile ads might be unappealing or even intrusive if they appear during "Me Time". Simon Bond, BBDO's chief marketing officer, says: "In the end, it's all about helping agencies and creatives create the most compelling content. And based on our findings, that compelling content should be me-based, home-based, entertainment-based, not solely geo-location based."
Since "Me Time" looks pretty much like "time wasting", mobile advertisers might want to pay more attention to cat videos and gaming. Or at least make sure that their "geo-location" offerings recognise the fact that "on the sofa in front of the TV set" is one of the prime locations for both smartphones and tablets.