We spent nearly 5 hours a day on our mobile devices in 2021

Mobile usage hit record highs in 2021, with global consumers collectively spending 3.8 trillion hours looking at their mobiles.
Written by Allison Murray, Staff Writer

It's no secret we use our mobile devices too much, but a new study reveals that we collectively spent 3.8 trillion hours looking at the phone in our hands in 2021.

According to App Annie's State of Mobile 2022 report released this week, mobile device use hit record-breaking numbers last year. The study found that the top 10 mobile markets (which include the US, Canada, Mexico, and Japan) spent an average of 4.8 hours a day on our phones -- or one-third of a single waking day -- which is up 30% from the past two years. 

App Annie's CEO, Theodore Krantz, called mobile the "Greatest of All Time," adding that it would be the go-to device of the future.

"The big screen is slowly dying as mobile continues to break records in virtually every category -- time spent, downloads, and revenue," Krantz said in a statement.

The study found that out of all that time spent on our phones, seven out of every ten minutes were spent on social or photo/video apps. More specifically, Gen Z tended to skew towards photo/video apps, while Millennials favored shopping, finance, and food/drink apps. In addition, Gen X and Baby Boomers used their screen time to browse medical, news, and weather apps.

Lexi Sydow, the Head of Marketing Insights at App Annie, told ZDNet that our daily lives have changed dramatically with remote, mobile-first services.

"In the next five to ten years, mobile will continue to transcend demographics, becoming an irreplaceable tool that acts as the control center to our daily lives from banking, shopping, entertainment, health, fitness, and more," Lexi Sydow, the Head of Marketing Insights at App Annie, told ZDNet. "The market is ripe, and demand is high for mobile content, services, and entertainment as consumers downloaded a record 230 billion apps."

For consumers, this data proves that we probably spend far too much time on our phones. But for developers and advertisers, these numbers mean broader reach and engagement, considering global consumers download 435,000 apps per second. The report notes that mobile ad spending reached $295 million in 2021, and App Annie expects that number to hit $350 billion by the end of 2022.

Given these statistics and predictions, the notion that we are entering a mobile-only future doesn't seem too far-fetched. Sydow said that almost every industry has adopted a mobile-focused mindset and that we would see more of that in the future.

"Remote work has led to an increase in workplace and productivity app usage, and we'll likely see this trend continue as more employers embrace a hybrid work environment," she said. "Amid rapid innovation, we expect mobile devices to continue to play a critical role in the workforce as a means to manage tasks and keep workforces connected."

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