Smartphone users touch, tap, or swipe their devices an average of 2,617 times a day, according to research by an American company also confirmed by recent Flemish studies.
American research company Dscout analysed nearly 100 Android users by installing an app on their smartphones that registered every touch, 24 hours a day, for five days.
The results, which date back to 2016, showed that users spent an average of 145 minutes on their smartphones per day, divided into an average of 76 sessions. By adding up all touches, this totalled an average of 2,617 per day.
"This seems spectacular but it is very plausible," professor of media, technology and innovation Lieven De Marez at the University of Ghent, told Knack magazine.
De Marez is the driving force behind the annual Digimeter study, which gauges digital trends in Flanders. For its latest edition, just under 3,000 Flemish people were surveyed about their possession and use of digital media. The MobileDNA app, which measures smartphone use in detail, was also linked to the survey.
"The number of 'touches' on the smartphone is not registered in our app," said De Marez. "But we do look at the total time people spend on their smartphone. Before the pandemic, that was 150 minutes per day for the average Flemish person. That has now risen to an average of 188 minutes per day."
Additionally, the MobileDNA app also registers the number of smartphone sessions: a new session starts each time the phone is unlocked. "Before Covid, there was an average of 80 sessions per day. During Covid, the number of sessions rose sharply to an average of 140. But in the meantime, this has stabilised again at around 80 times a day."
However, while there now are about as many sessions as before the pandemic, they do last longer. Researchers noticed that during a session, a so-called "train" is formed: for example, people first unlock their phone to look at an incoming Whatsapp message, then open their Facebook app, play a game, and so on.
"A total of 2,617 touches certainly does not seem exaggerated to me: to play a game or to tap a message, you need quite a few touches," De Marez said. "Social media also requires a lot of touching, in the form of scrolling and liking."
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Professor of Media, Technology and Innovation Mariek Vanden Abeele (UGent) agreed that this number is perfectly plausible: "At first glance, this figure seems worrying. But it is the number of touches, not the number of unlocks."
Dscout's report, which dates back to 2016, registers an average of 145 minutes a day on the smartphone spread over 76 sessions. "Divide those 2,617 touches by 76 and you arrive at 34 touches per session, which is certainly not excessive."
Additionally, as the latest Digimeter results show that Flanders now has an average of 188 minutes and 80 sessions per day, Vanden Abeele "would not be surprised" if the number of touches is even higher.
"Still, that number actually says very little: the duration and the number of unlocks are much more relevant from a social-scientific point of view."