Nation & World

People spend more time on mobile devices than TV

The way people use their phones has evolved

People use their mobile phones as they wait before crossing a street in central Kiev, Ukraine May 23, 2019.  REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
People use their mobile phones as they wait before crossing a street in central Kiev, Ukraine May 23, 2019. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

SAN FRANCISCO — Americans now spend more time on their phones and tablets than they do watching TV.

In the United States, adults will spend an average of three hours and 43 minutes each day on their smartphones, feature phones and tablets this year — eight more minutes than they’ll spend watching TV, according to a forecast released Wednesday by research company eMarketer.

The change has been years in the making, as smartphones have become more ubiquitous and the ways people use their devices has shifted.

Phones now let viewers do more than steal quick glances at social media, and streaming shows and movies on the smaller, portable screens has become commonplace.

“There is far more content today than there was even a couple of years ago,” said Monica Peart, a senior forecasting director at eMarketer, referring to the growth of streaming platforms such as Netflix and Hulu. “All of this is driving the need or desire to be on the smartphone.”

The gap between the amount of time spent on mobile devices and TV has narrowed dramatically over time. Last year, American adults spent nine minutes more watching TV than looking at their phones and tablets, eMarketer said.

But TV watching used to be more dominant — just five years ago, adults spent two hours more watching TV than using mobile devices, the company said.

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The forecast follows other reports, including one by Nielsen, that indicate audiences are spending less time with traditional television. In the third quarter of 2018, Nielsen said American adults on average spent four hours and 14 minutes each day on live or time-shifted TV — 11 minutes less than a year earlier.

Time spent on apps and the web on smartphones and tablets in the third quarter was three hours and 14 minutes, which was 17 minutes more than a year earlier, Nielsen said.

The difference in time was even more pronounced for younger Americans, with people 18 to 34 spending one hour and 51 minutes on live and time-shifted TV and three hours and 25 minutes on the web or apps on smartphone and tablets in the third quarter of last year, Nielsen said.

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