mobile Prepare to be astonished: On average Americans spend 2.7 hours per day using mobile Internet, with 91% using it for social purposes, according to a survey by Ruder Finn, a global PR agency. Breaking down the usage patterns, 62% use the mobile Internet to send or receive instant messages, 58% email, and 45% post comments on social networks (among other activities tracked by the survey).

First of all, I find the figure of 2.7 hours to be remarkably -- perhaps even implausibly -- high. Sure mobile Internet use is popular, and getting more popular -- anyone who goes to a media conference can't fail to notice that. But 2.7 hours per day?

My god, where is everyone doing this?

Imagining a half-hour commute each way, plus half an hour at lunch, that's still just 1.5 hours on the mobile Internet. Do people then go home and spend another 72 minutes on the mobile Internet? Frankly, I am skeptical about this number, especially since according to Nielsen the average American spends a total 68 hours on the Internet per month, or about 2.3 hours per day. Either Nielsen was off by over 50%, or something else is amiss.

Any statisticians or demographers out there care to speculate about what the issue might be?

However, setting aside the hourly numbers, the Ruder Finn (I'm picturing a belligerent Lapp) study seems more plausible in suggesting the usage patterns for the mobile Internet, and specifically the intent of the user -- meaning, their goal in getting online -- which was the study's main thrust anyway. In this area it's interesting to note the large number of people who use mobile Internet to get on social networks to post comments (45%) or "Connect to people on social networking sites" (43%).

In a way this makes perfect sense, as mobile devices are above all designed for communication on the go, and human beings are naturally social animals (well, except me). But given all the issues which unfortunately still seem to attend mobile Internet -- dodgy coverage, slow connections, compatibility problems -- it's a testament to the draw of social media that nearly half of people will get online with the main goal of posting comments on a social network site. That has to equal a lot of time cursing at your phone just so you can write something snarktastic on MediaPost.

7 comments about "iJunkies ".
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  1. Lisa Foote from MixMobi, February 17, 2010 at 4:02 p.m.

    I understand your skepticism. However, consider that this is an average. I suspect some demographics are spending way more than 2.7, and other none/less. If you're in the latter group, the number probably seems strange.
    My guess: a large number of very short visits daily add up for some demographics. In addition to social networking checkins, younger males may be checking sports sites frequently each day, for example. Mobile banking is likely a contributor, too; frequent balance checks, etc, could add up quickly over a day.

  2. Andrea Danehower from AD, February 17, 2010 at 4:50 p.m.

    Did you really mean of all Americans? Or of those with "smart" phones? Probably less than 25% of Americans own "smart" phones. You should note that this study surveyed 500 American adults 18 years of age and older who "use their mobile device to go online or to access the Internet".

  3. Meredith Speier from JWT, February 17, 2010 at 5:36 p.m.

    Eric, I'm not astonished at all by the 2.7 hours per day. In fact, I think you missed a critical time period in your attempt to calculate the math on when these folks are conducting their social business, which is likely why you were astonished. At work.

    I would estimate that better than 50% of the people I work with have smart phones and that I routinely see many of them in use during the work day. I see people use them when they are waiting for a meeting to begin, while sitting at their desks, and even walking in the halls throughout the day. I wouldn't be surprised if, at least in my work environment, people log more than 2.7 hours of mobile internet usage.

    Additionally, you aren't taking the weekend into consideration, when mobile users aren't saddled with work, and rely on their phones for things like locating restaurants, directions, game play, and mobile content in addition to Facebook and Twitter.

    When taken together, it's easy to see, and far less astonishing to buy into, that Ruder Finn was right on, and perhaps even a bit conservative in their 2.7 hour per day estimate.

  4. Randall p. Whatley from CYPRESS MEDIA GROUP, February 17, 2010 at 5:38 p.m.

    I agree with you that the numbers seem high but I think it also gives us a glimpse of how the mobile Internet and social media sites are turning marketing as we knew it upside down. We have to question old assumption and pay attention to what consumers are doing and how they are living now.

  5. Ken Mallon from Ken Mallon Advisory Services, February 17, 2010 at 9:07 p.m.

    Like most of these things -- nearly no one is average. There are a bunch of people who don't use the mobile internet at all. Then there are some who use it constantly. I'd like to know how e-mail is counted. Quite a few people are on blackberry pretty much all day. Mine is downloading e-mail 24-7, so if e-mail counts, I'm contributing a bunch of 24s.

  6. Matt Noe, February 17, 2010 at 10:50 p.m.

    While I may be part of the agency-employed "bleeding" edge crowd, I easily top this number. I'm with Meredith in her point of overlap or concurrent usage. I cannot tell you how many friends and peers have their smartphone, mainly iPhone, in hand during working hours. I can look through my inbox and see smartphone replies ("sent from my iPhone/Verizon Blackberry/etc") as well as Facebook comments stamped with "Facebook Mobile."

    The other consideration that again includes folks like me is the concurrent usage during prime time TV. During commercial breaks (don't tell my clients) and throughout the evening I'm triaging and replying to messages in my various inboxes as well as commenting and replying to comments on FB and tweeting/RT'ing.

    In the end, our society prides itself on "multi-tasking" which accounts for much of the increased online and mobile online usage, while TV time remains fairly solid.

    Good stuff and I appreciate your post and opening it up for (somewhat researched) opinions. ;)

  7. Gene Keenan from isobar, February 19, 2010 at 10:41 a.m.

    its not all americans. it's those who are using the mobile internet which is a much smaller sub segment <60 million. When you consider overlap (which none of these studies ever do) then it is easy to see 2.7 hours is quite plausible.

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