Social Media Dominates Smartphone Internet Time, Accounting for Almost One-Third of Minutes

New GfK analysis identifies key differences in online behavior by device, plus past-year trends

Share of Time Activity by Device, 2012 (Graphic: Business Wire)

NEW YORK--()--As consumers increasingly rely on smartphones as a major source of Internet access, a new GfK analysis shows that social media represents by far the largest share of online time via these devices. Social sites and activities account for almost one-third (31%) of smartphone online minutes – double the proportion for email, which ranks second at 16%.

The analysis also points out differences in online activities when using PCs (laptops and desktop computers) versus smartphones. Social media represents only 18% of time spent on the Internet via PCs – the same percentage as email, and only slightly higher than online video (13%) and search (11%).

Phones now account for 17% of total time spent with the Internet across all devices, compared to 12% in 2011, according to research from GfK’s MultiMedia Mentor®. Desktop and laptop computers, by contrast, have dropped off considerably, representing 73% of Internet time, compared to 83% a year ago. Tablets account for 6% of online time – double the 2011 figure of 3%; and Internet TVs also doubled, from 2% of online time in 2011 to 4% this year.

Trend data show that the purposeful Internet use encouraged by smartphone apps – checking social sites and email – may be affecting how consumers approach online time via PCs, as well. The percent of time devoted to uncategorized “Other” Internet activities on PCs has dropped by almost half in just a year, from 37% in 2011 to 20% in 2012. Meanwhile, time spent accessing online video via PCs has essentially doubled, from a 7% share to 13%, and time with social media and email also grew.

“Reading in-the-moment status updates and posting short comments, replies and likes are activities tailor-made for smartphones,” said Robert DeFelice, Vice President on GfK’s Media team. “Apps encourage a targeted, deliberate approach to online time that consumers may not even clearly associate with ‘the Internet’. On a PC, by contrast, people open browsers to access social media, email, and a variety of other sites; but their interest in going beyond a familiar repertoire of activities, even on the PC, seems to be dwindling.”

The new findings from MultiMedia Mentor® -- which tracks use of eight major media – are based on interviews with 2,616 members of KnowledgePanel®, the only commercially available online panel derived from a statistically projectable sample of the U.S. population. Interviewing for this latest wave of Mentor data was conducted between February and July 2012 with panel members ages 13 to 64.

In addition to time spent with media, the MultiMedia Mentor research captures hundreds of consumer characteristics, including use of product categories. Clients have on-demand, online access to Mentor findings through exclusive reporting and optimization software.

To learn more about MultiMedia Mentor®, contact DeFelice at

About GfK

GfK is one of the world’s largest research companies, with more than 11,500 experts working to discover new insights into the way people live, think and shop, in over 100 markets, every day. GfK is constantly innovating and using the latest technologies and the smartest methodologies to give its clients the clearest understanding of the most important people in the world: their customers. In 2011, GfK’s sales amounted to EUR 1.37 billion. To find out more, visit or follow GfK on Twitter:


GfK Marketing and Communications, Consumer Experiences North America
David Stanton, +1-908-875-9844

Release Summary

New GfK research shows that social media is the predominant Internet activity on smartphones, and that use of apps and other mobile habits may be reshaping Internet use on other devices.


GfK Marketing and Communications, Consumer Experiences North America
David Stanton, +1-908-875-9844