Desktop use off 11% in past year. Winner: smartphones

Mobile use gains over desktop use at a 'rapid rate'

Desktop use off 11% past year. Winner: smartphones
Credit: Intel

Co-workers peering at their smartphones more than ever isn’t an optical illusion, and you’re not imagining seeing a bunch of shiny bald pates or lustrous weaves of hair where there were once friendly faces. Smartphone use increased more over the past year compared to tablets and PCs.

That’s among the tidbits in a new comScore study on application use.

Other revelations from the report corroborate why audible alerts from smartphones are less common and it's become unusual to hear the beeps of text messages in some places—such as commuter railway cars: Large numbers of people are rejecting notifications, comScore suggests in research it published this month. “Push notification fatigue” is to blame, it says.

Apps help shift use to smartphones

The multi-screen audience measurement company says “digital media time” in the United States is escalating and has grown over 50 percent in the past three years. But it says almost all (90 percent) of the growth is “attributable” to the mobile app.

“Mobile has grown so fast that it’s now the leading digital platform,” comScore says in a press release. “Total activity on smartphones and tablets, accounting for two-thirds of digital media time spent, and smartphone apps alone [are] now capturing roughly half of digital media time.” PCs, in other words, are being left in the dust.

Those apps have created a massive shift away from desktop use to mobile. Desktop use is off 11 percent over the past year (although it is actually up 3 percent compared to June 2013).

And that's despite new operating systems, such as Windows 10, coming on scene. Desktops just haven't been able to provide the same convenience.

And apps are slaying desktop overall. Those apps are up 111 percent in terms of total minutes spent, and mobile web is up 62 percent, in minute terms, over the three-year period. The growth numbers, though healthy, are actually a bit weaker for mobile overall over the last year, comScore points out.

But, looking at the broader three-year period “with desktop engagement finally in decline, it is now losing share to mobile at a rapid rate,” comScore says. “The convenience of smartphones and tablet devices, and the innovation around mobile apps have completely shifted the digital media landscape in favor of mobile.” 

The internet’s digital media is now primarily accessed via smartphone apps, comScore says.

“Smartphone apps have become the primary access vehicle to the internet, representing half of total digital media time spent,” it reports. And indeed, apps account for three out of every four minutes on mobile.

Interestingly, the biggest growth area for app use is with older folk. Users aged 55 to 64 are “seeing the greatest year-over-year increase,” with a 37 percent jump.

Tablets aren't faring as well as smartphones

In much the same way as the smaller-factor smartphones aren’t doing the business anymore, tablets aren’t doing as well as smartphones overall these days, either. Large-screened and cheaper smartphones are “encroaching on their territory,” comScore says.

And the big winner in all this? Digital media. “Huge gains” in mobile audiences means “the average Top 1,000 digital media property’s audience is up 36 percent.”

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