Mobile app usage: active all day, spikes in prime time

Marketers call segmenting sections of the day that attract the largest audience “day parting,” and it works for mobile apps too. Just like TV, mobile app usage is highest during prime time, peaking at 9 p.m., according to new analysis from app analytics firm Flurry.

But the interesting thing is not just that usage is highest in the evening, which is true of Internet usage as well, but also that mobile use is relatively higher throughout the day than both Internet and TV and eclipsed only by TV in prime time. That shows that mobile app use is incredibly popular, and consistently so, grabbing people’s attention more generally throughout the day. It’s not surprising when you think of mobile devices, which can be used at any moment, unlike TV and to a lesser extent the Internet, which is still accessed mostly in fixed locations with computers. But in comparing the numbers, Flurry is showing that mobile app use is extremely sticky throughout the day, which has some interesting implications for advertisers and developers.

Now, Flurry’s analysis doesn’t compare aggregate numbers of users. It measured usage on a set of mobile apps that reach 15 million iOS (s aapl) and Android (s goog) users and plotted their relative usage during the day. And then it compared it to day parting data on Internet and TV usage compiled by Michael Zimbalist, the VP of Research for the New York Times (s nyt). Flurry has a good reason to tout mobile usage numbers, because it can help lure over advertisers, who are still in the process of shifting their budgets to mobile.

If the Flurry numbers are accurate, however, it does show there’s plenty of incentive for advertisers to look at mobile. They can focus on hitting users during prime time and can consider campaigns that are geared toward this part of the day, perhaps in conjunction with TV campaigns, which is something Shazam, Yahoo and others are trying to exploit. (s yhoo)But it also means that there is an opportunity to reach users throughout the day more effectively than through the Internet and TV advertising.

Flurry said there are an estimated 110 million iOS (s aapl) and Android (s goog) devices in use in the U.S. Using the day parting information, that means there are about 33 million consumers, or 30 percent of iOS and Android users, using an application at 10 a.m. And throughout the day, from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., mobile apps reach more than 20 million U.S. consumers per hour.

Again, mobile is still somewhat young, so there are likely more TV and Internet users throughout the day. But with the fast growth of smartphones, it shows that mobile day parting is a ripe opportunity for advertisers. And developers should consider these numbers, too.

As we can see, mobile apps are often used at home in the evening. And it’s likely that just like they do with laptops, people are probably using mobile apps in conjunction with TV viewing. So developers should look at ways to leverage this information and think of how to complement other media, perhaps as a second-screen experience. Many apps can find value in gearing themselves toward the fact that a lot of mobile usage happens in the home. That’s one of the takeaways I had in my talk with Ville Vesterinen, the maker of location-based game Shadow Cities, who found that home and office use were especially high, despite the game revolving around location-awareness.