How Much Time Do We Really Spend On Our Smartphones?

The amount of time the average phone owner spends with a device has grown steadily for years.

Think back to the last time you took a look at your phone. Odds are, you’re not having a tough time remembering. Why? Studies show that the average American checks his or her phone every 12 minutes, so it’s a safe bet that you’ve had a phone in your hand within the past few minutes. But that wasn’t always the case. Here, we’ll explore just how much time is spent on phones in comparison to the early years of mobile tech, as well as how most phone users are spending that time.

Quick answer: The average American spends more than 3 hours on a smartphone per day, and most usage is dedicated to messaging and social media, as well as navigation.

Friends sitting together on their phones

The time spent

Research conducted a few years ago discovered that a decade ago, the average person spent approximately 90 minutes a day using their phone. More recent research, however, found that the average American adult spends nearly 3 hours on a mobile device, showcasing a significant increase in daily usage.

This increase is supported by yet another study, which indicated that the average American adult spent just 46 minutes on a phone per day in 2011. Six years later, that number was replaced with 3 hours and 8 minutes.

While this may seem problematic, it’s important to remember that smartphones now serve multiple purposes, offering an easy opportunity not only to communicate, but to conduct research, read books, and much more. Which leads to another question – where are smartphone users spending most of their time?

How the time is spent

In 2016 alone, messaging and social media app use grew four times over.

There’s a whole lot more to today’s smartphone than run-of-the-mill phone features, and there’s no better proof than the plethora of research that’s been conducted to figure out how people use their mobile devices. As it turns out, those hours we spend with phone in hand let us accomplish a surprisingly wide variety of tasks.

One universal driver of phone usage is communication. Rather than dialing a friend or sending a text, that communication is often conducted through social media. In 2016 alone, messaging and social media app use skyrocketed, growing four times over.

But there are other motivators, too. Navigation is one of them – whether you’re strolling through town or driving, there’s a good chance you’re using your smartphone to find your destination. Other popular time-killers include reading articles, viewing video content, and shopping.

Tracking your usage

Wondering how your numbers stack up against the general populace? There are plenty of convenient apps that make it simple to track your own usage. Here are a few favorites.

  • Social Fever (Android) – This versatile app provides in-depth usage reports and several other handy features, including the ability to set usage goals, as well as alerts that let you know when you’ve used an app for a certain amount of time.
  • Moment (iOS) – Much like Social Fever, Moment lets you track your usage both in general and with specific apps. It also adds the benefit of multi-device capability, which may come in handy for parents aiming to limit children’s screen time.
  • Forest (Android, iOS) – While Forest does offer tracking features, it focuses less on gauging screen time and more on helping you avoid it. It accomplishes this by granting you your own virtual garden, where you can grow trees and shrubs that get bigger and more complex as you spend more time away from your phone.

If you're ready for a new smartphone, you may find yourself in need of one of these tracking apps to keep an eye on the time spent with your latest device. While you're at it, be sure to secure an affordable mobile service plan from Straight Talk as well – that way you'll never need to worry about data restrictions, no matter how long you spend with your device.