Games Taking a Back Seat to Social Networking on the Phone

For the first time in four years, games are not the top category of applications on the phone.

In fact, consumers are now spending equal amounts of time social networking and playing games, according to Flurry, which provides tools to app developers to track consumer behavior.

In the first quarter, Flurry found that the average consumer spent 24 minutes on games and social networking — each — every day. In the same period a year earlier, consumers spent 25 minutes playing games and only 15 minutes social networking.

In a blog post, Flurry’s Peter Farago explains that while time is now evenly split, the shift is more severe when you calculate the percentage of time spent on each type of application. By doing so, you can see that time spent on gaming has dropped as overall usage on phone applications has increased from 68 minutes a day to 77 minutes a day.

In the first quarter, consumers spent 31 percent of their time playing games, falling from 37 percent a year ago. Likewise, social networking has soared from 22 percent to 37 percent.

Social networking on the phone would include Facebook and other applications like Instagram (which Facebook just acquired for $1 billion). Games include everything from Rovio’s Angry Birds to Zynga’s Words With Friends. Other popular phone categories include news and entertainment.

Flurry also discovered that advertisers have followed the change in behavior with more ad revenue being generated by social networking apps than games. In April, 37 percent of ad revenue went toward social networking apps versus 36 percent going toward games. Just two months earlier, games were generating 35 percent of ad revenue and social networking was generating only 24 percent.

One limitation of the study is that it is looking only at smartphones and does not take into account behavior on tablets, where a lot of gaming is taking place.

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