With recent years seeing an unprecedented surge in smartphone usage, there has been a dramatic and observable shift in human behaviour in the last 13 years. One out of two times, users pick up the smartphone without knowing why they fired it up, meaning 50% time (s)he has no clarity of intent, a report conducted by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) India suggests.

"Around 31% of waking time is spent on smartphones, while 84% of users check their phone within 15 minutes of waking up. On average, users check their smartphone at least 80 times per day," says the BCG report titled 'Reimagining Smartphone Experience -- How ‘surfaces’ can play a key role in making the phone smarter'.

In India, the first access to the internet for most of the population has skipped the usual desktop phase, seen in developed countries, it says. "Users leapfrogged directly to mobiles, due to the affordability of smartphones and the availability of cheap data," the report says, adding that it has led to smartphone volume and usage growing by an order of magnitude from 2010 to 2023.

As people use smartphones to do more, the number of apps has also gone up by 35x, the report finds. "With more affordability and uses, smartphone penetration has also gone up, resulting in – 5X growth in sales. With more affordability and uses, smartphone penetration has also gone up, resulting in – 5X growth in sales."

In terms of usage, smartphones have seen a steep increase in time spent from 2 hours to 4.9 hours. Streaming content also seems to have brought a dramatic increase in the total time spent on smartphones, occupying 50% of the share of time spent.

Time spent across use cases also remains largely uniform across cohorts, with 5-8% time spent on "gaming apps" across cohorts; 5-8% on online shopping; and 25-29% on streaming long-form content.

In an interesting analysis, the BCG finds that 45-50% of the time people are not clear about why they are firing up their smartphones. "1 in 2 times people pick up their phones – they do so without knowing “why”...45-50% of times people are clear on both action and app; 5-10% of the time, clear on action but not app; and 45-50% not clear on either action or app."

This report also delves into the concept of 'Surfaces,' defining them as AI-powered engines, driving interaction between users and apps. "Although the phenomenon is still in its nascence, it still boasts a user base of 220 Mn MAUs in India, with 16 minutes average time spent/user," says BCG.

The report says the surface ecosystem comprises four key stakeholders: app developers, OEMs & telcos, brands & advertisers, and content creators. The report aimed to explore how 'Surfaces' can present an opportunity for each stakeholder to deliver consumers a more seamless experience on their phones.

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