Shift to expanded telework reveals new app winners and losers; GWS survey also finds surprising impact of demographics on consumers’ communications behavior

DULLES, VA – August 20, 2020 –  While video calling and conferencing usage has surged since the onset of the COVID-19 and expanded telework, Zoom has experienced the biggest gains – leaping ahead of Facebook Messenger, Apple FaceTime and Microsoft Skype to become the most popular service – according to a survey of 5,000 U.S. smartphone users released today by Global Wireless Solutions (GWS).

The GWS survey is a thorough examination of consumer communication habits, including behavioral shifts during COVID-19, consumer satisfaction with their wireless carriers and mobile devices, and variances based on demographics such as location (urban/suburban/rural) and age group. The data shows a dynamic story of the products and technologies Americans are turning to during the pandemic, as well as rapidly evolving priorities and preferences shaped by more time living, working and communicating from home.

Key GWS Survey Findings and Themes:

Most video calling and conferencing applications see usage rise during the pandemic but…Zoom was the top choice among video calling and conferencing tools during the COVID-19 stay-at-home mandate, with 24% of survey respondents picking it as their favorite, followed by Facebook Messenger (21%) and Apple FaceTime (18%). Zoom also experienced the greatest increase in consumer adoption, and GWS found it to be the most widely used video calling and conferencing app. Before the pandemic Zoom was used by 20% of consumers at least once a month or more. That figure more than doubled to 42% during the stay-at-home mandate. See Table 1 for more details.

In terms of preferences, younger respondents age 18-24, picked Apple FaceTime (36%) as their favorite, while older age groups (35+) preferred Zoom and Facebook Messenger. And while Zoom was also favored in the urban and suburban areas, Facebook Messenger was chosen by rural consumers as their most favorite video calling and conferencing app, followed by Apple FaceTime, and then Zoom. See Table 2 for more details.

While video calling and conferencing usage surged, voice calling still reigns supreme.

Despite the broader use of video calling and conferencing, voice calling remains vital to workforce communications during the pandemic. When asked which one mobile phone capability consumers would keep for at home telework, the top choice was voice calling (33%), followed by texting (28%), then video calling and conferencing (20%), emailing (15%), and lastly team collaboration (for example, Slack) (4%).

Consumers remain attached at the hip…and fingers…to their smartphones

Mobile devices have long been core to consumers’ day-to-day lives, and that has certainly been the case during the pandemic. If consumers could only keep one product/service during the COVID-19 stay-at-home mandate, the top choice for consumers was their smartphone (45%), followed by their PC (19%), a streaming service like Netflix (12%), their TV (10%), and near the bottom – their car (7%). Yet perhaps surprisingly and on the positive side given these stressful times, alcohol ranked at the bottom – only 2% of consumers would consider it essential to keep their liquor cabinet stocked more than anything else.

Consumers not only rely heavily on their smartphone during the pandemic, but most are sticking with their current mobile devices:

  • 72% of consumers have not purchased a new smartphone yet this year, and of this group half said the reason why is that they are satisfied with their current device.
  • Going forward, 38% of consumers plan to buy a smartphone in the second half of 2020, 26% plan to do so in 2021 and 11% in 2022 or later.

 Behind every successful smartphone is a strong carrier

Expanded telework (approximately 42% of the U.S. labor force now works from home), has tested wireless carriers and, according to our survey, carriers have done a great job at meeting consumer expectations in the U.S.

A whopping 84% of survey respondents said that their carrier has met their mobile communications needs in terms of wireless performance ‘always’ or ‘most of the time.’ In fact, when needs are further broken down by network coverage, voice calling quality and reliability, and data throughput and reliability, 80% or more of the respondents felt that their carrier met each of these needs most or all of the time.

In addition, when given the option to stay with their current operator or switch to a new one, more than three-quarters (76%) of rural and suburban survey respondents would keep their current operator because it offered the services and/or devices they want; meanwhile barely half (51%) of urban residents would stick with their current operator for the same reasons.

Wireless carriers delivering on what matters most to consumers

Strong consumer satisfaction suggests that carriers are delivering on capabilities most important to their subscribers. In particular, the three most important factors for consumers when selecting a carrier are (in order): network coverage, reliability, and then network speed. Further down (less important) on the list are considerations like monthly contract cost, device availability, and device cost (see detailed results in Table 3).

“The coronavirus pandemic has driven sweeping and most likely enduring shifts in the technologies and tools that individuals consider most essential for remote work,” said Dr. Paul Carter, Founder and CEO at GWS. “Our survey not only captures how essential the smartphone has become to consumers’ day-to-day lives, but offers instructive insights on changes in consumers’ communications preferences and habits that have occurred during this unprecedented time.”

Table 1. Which video calling and conferencing apps do you occasionally or frequently use (once a month or more)

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Table 2. Which of the following video calling and conferencing apps is your favorite:

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* WhatsApp was also selected as a favorite by 15% of urban respondents.


Table 3. Which of the following would you say are the most important factors when selecting a cellular operator (whether that means staying with your current operator or choosing a new one)?

Methodology and notes to editors:

All survey figures, unless stated otherwise, are from a study commissioned by GWS and conducted by Toluna. Total sample size was over 5,000 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between June 16th and July 3rd, 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of Americans (aged 18+).


About Global Wireless Solutions, Inc.:

Founded in 1996 and headquartered in Dulles, Virginia, Global Wireless Solutions has set the industry standard for network benchmarking, analysis and testing. Its proprietary OneScore network ranking combines high-level network testing data with real-world network usage scenarios to make the results of testing relatable and easy to understand. Working with some of the world’s largest wireless network providers, GWS offers high-quality network data and engineering analysis through a suite of benchmarking products, services and OneMeasure diagnostic apps that include drive, venue and in-building testing. At last count, GWS has driven 13 million data collection miles for its customers. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter at @gwsolutionsinc.

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Global Wireless Solutions, Inc.