Hour-by-Hour Examination: Smartphone, Tablet, and Desktop Usage Rates

Hour-by-Hour Examination: Smartphone, Tablet, and Desktop Usage Rates

  • 26 March 2013

Recent analyst estimates point to mobile Internet usage overtaking desktop-based Web traffic as early as 2014. This isn’t a tremendous surprise. With smartphones, users have become accustomed to immediate communication and ubiquitous Web access, and with the advent of higher data speeds, users get a broadband-type Web experience via their mobile phone. Moreover, easy accessibility and portability of mobile devices supports their usage around the clock. With mobile having made Web browsing a truly 24-hour affair, Chitika Insights wanted to quantify mobile and desktop usage as a function of hour of the day.

To quantify this study, Chitika Insights examined a sample of tens of millions of mobile- and desktop-based online ad impressions within the Chitika Ad Network. This data was drawn from a date range of March 5th to March 11th, 2013, and focuses on impressions from the U.S. and Canada only. In each case, an index is created. “100%” refers to the hour at which mobile or desktop traffic (depending on the graph) is maximized. If a point is “70%”, for instance, that means that the amount of traffic at that time is 70% of the traffic volume at the peak. For reference, we’ve included North American time zone conversions above each graph.

Chitika Insights Graph, Hour-by-Hour Examination of Mobile Usage Rates

As seen in the graph above, U.S. and Canadian mobile traffic peaks around 2:00a.m. UTC/10:00p.m. EST, and dips at around 9:00a.m. UTC/5:00a.m. EST. It’s understandable that the trough coincides with sleeping hours and the peak tends to be during the evenings after work. The secondary peak, at 84%, is seen at 4:00p.m. UTC/11:00a.m. EST, indicating that mobile usage rises during commuting hours before dipping during the remainder of the work day. Looking at the hourly usage rates of tablets and smartphones individually, other differences emerge:

Chitika Insights Graph, Hour-by-Hour Examination of Mobile Usage Rates

 

Chitika Insights Graph, Hour-by-Hour Examination of Tablet Usage Rates

As viewed above, the bump in usage during commuting hours is much higher for smartphones (>90% of daily high) as compared to tablets (~65% of daily high). Additionally, smartphone browsing's peak is more extended during the evening hours as compared to tablets, and the trough is not as deep (~43% as compared to ~26%).

Chitika Insights Graph, Hour-by-Hour Examination of Desktom Usage Rates

In the case of desktops, the level of fluctuation is quite significant – hitting its highest levels during the work day and earlier night time leisure hours, before dipping down substantially during traditional sleeping hours. Alternatively, for smartphone Web usage in particular, the drop is not as sharp through those early morning hours, indicating that mobile device usage is focused around leisure times, rather than working hours, as is the case with desktops.

This data emphasizes how, within North America, mobile browsing remains a more leisure-focused activity, while desktop Web browsing is utilized much more substantially during working hours. This knowledge can help marketers time specific campaigns dependent upon their target audience, and focus on a specific device segment to get the most “bang for their buck.” For instance, a B2B software company may be most interested in running desktop-specific campaigns during working hours, while an online shopping site should take a more mobile-focused approach during leisure and commuting hours in particular. These usage patterns also speak to the evolving nature of mobile Web traffic, which will continue to grow in scope for the foreseeable future.