- Cellular data consumption on smartphones surged 75% in March from a year earlier and was up 27% from the prior month as people used their mobile devices more often during pandemic lockdowns. Social media, video conferencing and over-the-top (OTT) video apps drove the increased time spent on mobile, researcher NPD Group said in an announcement shared with Mobile Marketer.
- Consumers also boosted the usage of the mobile hotspot feature on their smartphones to connect other devices like laptops to the internet. Hotspot usage jumped 25% in February from a year earlier to a record 30% of mobile users, per NPD.
- More than 70% of mobile data traffic, including cellular and Wi-Fi connections, consisted of video content. Video usage was correlated with smartphone screen size. People with a screen size of 5.5 inches or more consumed 53% more data than people with screen sizes of 4.5 to 5.5 inches, according to NPD.
Consumers have made their smartphones a central part of connecting with the outside world during the coronavirus pandemic, as seen in the surge in data usage monitored by NPD. For mobile marketers, the expanded usage of smartphones ramps up opportunities to reach consumers on mobile websites, social media apps and streaming services that offer advertising.
NPD's report is notable for highlighting the record usage in mobile hotspots, a feature that turns a smartphone into an internet connection hub for other connected devices. The growing popularity of mobile hotspots may indicate that more consumers are using their smartphones instead of internet service providers (ISP) including cable and phone companies for data connections.
This study confirms other reports of expanded social media usage and video consumption among homebound consumers. Social media companies like Facebook and Snap reported significant jumps in usage in March, when lockdowns took effect in many parts of the U.S. and Europe, while social video app TikTok saw its downloads surge to a record 2 billion. It's too soon to tell how the gradual lifting of lockdowns will affect mobile usage. While consumers are likely to carry their smartphones everywhere and use them to stay in touch with others, they may have less time for watching videos while resuming former activities like work or school once lockdowns relax and people head back to work.