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How COVID has changed smartphone usage – temporarily or permanently

The coronavirus crisis has changed many things. People working from home, school closures, hospitality restrictions and more. It’s no surprise, then, to find that smartphone usage has also changed.

A Kantar study found that some of these changes were temporary, shifting back and forth in line with lockdowns – but other changes appear permanent, or at least longer-lasting …

One obvious change is that use of map apps and GPS dropped during the stricter lockdowns and returned to more normal levels in countries and regions where restrictions were eased. In Europe, for example, usage fell in the early days of the pandemic, but has since returned to normal despite remaining travel restrictions. In the US, there has been no sign of recovery in map and GPS usage as yet.

The use of instant messaging also increased, as people sought alternative ways of communicating with family and friends when they couldn’t see them in person, but subsequently returned to normal levels this quarter.

Some shifts in behavior, however, are longer-lasting – especially in Europe. The boost in the popularity of streaming music services like Apple Music and Spotify has shown no sign of returning to pre-COVID levels. The same is true of streaming video services like Netflix and Apple TV+, where a 14% increase in viewing levels hasn’t changed.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, at a time of greater focus on health and fitness, the use of fitness tracking got a boost early in the pandemic, and has continued to grow since.

Equally unsurprising is the growth in the usage of mobile wallet apps and other forms of contactless payment. Fewer people want to handle cash, or physically hand over a card to a store assistant. Usage increased by 8% early in the crisis, increasing later to 16% – and that shows absolutely no sign of changing.

How has your own iPhone usage changed during the crisis? Do you expect any of these changes to be permanent? Please let us know in the comments.

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Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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