The Impact of COVID-19 on Smartphone Behavior


The Impact of COVID-19 on Smartphone Behavior

Product 2021-02-25
COVID-19 has impacted nearly every facet of our daily lives. From disrupting more than 436 million businesses to bringing about an isolated quarantine lifestyle, the pandemic has altered the way we use and interact with our technology. Over the past year, OneLab, our in-house branch of researchers and designers, has collected and analyzed the smartphone behavior of users worldwide. With the data in hand, let’s discuss five behavioral trends and shifts in the post-pandemic world.

1) The Social Media Takeover

With social distancing and quarantine protocols in place, there has never been a greater need to stay connected and foster positive relationships with family and friends. That said, we’ve seen an increase in the amount of time users spend on social media apps like Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, and more – 15 minutes more than the average daily usage pre-pandemic, to be exact [1]. The transition to working from home has also brought about a spike in video-calling apps like Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

2) Bringing New Meaning to Homeschool

The transition from in-person schooling to remote learning has led to a rise in online educational platforms such as Coursera and Unacademy [1]. Going into Q3 of 2020, education and business apps saw a 35% increase in downloads on Google Play [2]. Students and learners are now able to access information right from their smartphones and tablets and the convenience of free online programs means that people can learn new skills at their own pace. However, not all educational apps retained consistent usage over the year, like ClassDojo. “We think this is because ClassDojo has a more focused user group of young children, and they will no longer use virtual classrooms during the summer break. But as for adults, there are several channels for them to pick up new hobbies and skills during the time at home.” says Owen Hu, UX/UI designer at OneLab.

3) Gaming and Podcasting Reach New Heights

It can be inferred that people have more time and leisure now which is why there has been an increase in time spent playing mobile games (40 more minutes per day on average) and multimedia consumption [1]. That said, in just the first quarter of 2020, consumers spent over $23 billion throughout mobile app stores, with $17 billion of the sum specifically on games [2]. Another sector that has seen an upward trend over the year is podcasting, with over 20% just from March to April [1]. The rise of audio storytelling can be attributed to the accessibility that apps like Spotify and Google Podcasts provide, and the abundance of genres available to all listeners.

As the media and technology industry take to remote production, we’re also seeing some explorative ways that brands are marketing and interacting with users at home. Last year, OnePlus celebrated the launch of the OnePlus 8T with the Go Farther virtual scavenger hunt, and this month, hosted The Drop, a virtual music experience featuring Grammy-nominated artist, Ty Dolla $ign.

The Popularity Quadrant of app usage between February and April 2020

4) The Rise of Aggregated Platforms

The need to keep up with the outside world, whether its politics, weather, or pandemic updates, have brought about a surge in viewership in news apps and platforms. Due to the longevity and unforeseeable nature of the pandemic, it’s become a habit for users to check their phones and mobile devices for the latest stories and updates. Interestingly enough, smartphone users are looking more towards aggregated news platforms like Google News and Reddit, then traditional television channels like Fox. The subreddit “r/coronavirus” started out with 1,000 members last January and had amassed over two million members by the end of 2020.

5) A Renewed Push for Physical and Mental Health

It has never been more important to maintain good physical and mental health then now. The lockdown of gyms and recreational centers has created a growing trend of no-equipment workouts and virtual fitness classes at home. We’ve seen advancements in wearable technology and health measuring applications over the years and it all contributes to healthier living overall, especially during the pandemic. A few months ago, OnePlus introduced Zen Mode 2.0.1, bringing ambient white noise features to the productivity-enhancing app. The update served to provide a calm and mindful ambience to help users stay focused when working, and relaxed when mediating. It is among the many initiatives OnePlus has planned for the better of our digital wellbeing.

Looking Ahead

As we continue to transition to a more digital-centric society, propelled recently by the pandemic, OnePlus and OneLab continue to research, analyze, and develop new tools and features to create a healthier and more efficient mobile lifestyle for our users. Our goal has always been to develop products that fit seamlessly into your day-to-day, allowing you to adapt, connect and thrive in any environment. To learn more about OneLab’s research on the coronavirus and its impact on user behavior, click here.

1. OneLab “The New Normal: Life in the Post-Coronavirus Era”. Retrieved 1 January 2021.
2. App Annie “Weekly Time Spent in Apps Grows 20% Year Over Year as People Hunker Down at Home”. Retrieved 2 April 2020.

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