The Pandemic Year in Mobile Apps

Time spent on personal finance and social media apps soar, sports apps drop based on Global Wireless Solutions’ analysis of how the pandemic impacted consumers’ mobile app usage.


The pandemic drove usage increases in nearly every category as mobile devices became further cemented as the link between consumers and the world at large.

At a time when many Americans are reeling financially due to the pandemic many have turned to smartphones as a tool to bring money management to their fingertips.

Every generation increased usage of finance apps, but Gen Z lead the charge.

Social Media
With stay at home (or close to home) mandates taking effect across the country, Americans turned to social media to connect with family and friends, to keep up to date, and as a form of entertainment.

Every generation increased usage of social media apps, even the silent generation.

More Americans turned to food delivery services and online shopping to weather quarantine periods, possibly shifting some consumers' behavior for good.

Food delivery becomes a daily essential for many.

Likely, thanks to same-day pickup and grocery offerings, Walmart and Target app usage grew more than that of Amazon shopping.

Americans watched 42 minutes of video per day on their mobile devices, with growth in time spent on video apps paced by Gen Z (up 44%) and Baby Boomers (up 10%).

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Mobile Gaming
Multiplayer online gaming served as a much-needed connection point for many during the pandemic.

With all major sports leagues shutting down, delaying or shortening seasons, fans had little use for their sports or betting apps creating a categorical decline in usage.

Gambling and fantasy apps took a huge hit from the pandemic.

Methodology and Panel Description

Data results are based on GWS’s OneMeasure Consumer Panel (OMCP). OMCP is an opt-in consumer panel that measures mobile app usage and content, mobile network performance, and consumer perceptions. OMCP collects consumer data on Android smartphones 24 hours a day, seven days a week, whenever and wherever consumers use their devices.

OMCP panelists are primarily recruited from the top 41 metropolitan areas across the U.S. along with consumers located in less populated areas. The number of panelists per metro area depends on the area’s geographical size. Total sample size of the panel averages 200,000 U.S. consumers annually. The demographic profile of panelists is approximately balanced to mimic the U.S. population. All information collected is weighted to a user’s demographic representation of the U.S. population (aged 18+).

GWS’s OMCP data, unless stated otherwise, is collected and managed by Embee Mobile on behalf of GWS. Data is reported in an aggregated and anonymous fashion for market research purposes only.

Generational age ranges align with Pew Research’s definitions. In 2020, Gen Z was 18-23, Millennial was 24-39, Gen X was 40-55, Baby Boomer was 56-74, and Silent Generation was 75+.

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