(Credit: Irina Strelnikova/Shutterstock)

While the Google Play Store and iOS App Store provide plenty of charts that give you a snapshot of the most popular apps in a given category, it can be difficult to collect a whole year's worth of that data and make sense of it. Thankfully, third parties like App Annie have access to those charts and much more, and this market research firm has produced another State of Mobile report that contains some interesting insights.

We've already used this report to map out how much people use music and video streaming apps (and how much money those apps make) but a report this sizeable has a variety of juicy details, and another one involves our use of social networks and chat apps. And according to App Annie, about half of the time we spend in apps is spent here.

SEE: Best 'Time Well Spent' apps to help limit social media use on Android

Whether it's Instagram, Snapchat or Reddit, no other app category comes close in terms of how much time we commit, even while mobile games continue to be the biggest money earners, and while streaming apps generally collect most non-gaming revenue.

And According to App Annie, our interest in social media and chat apps has only grown in the US over the past couple years, by an impressive (or foreboding) 30 percent to nearly 60 billion hours a year.

Interestingly, the market in the United States isn't even the biggest one, despite our relatively high disposable income enabling access to a variety of gadgets that can hook us up to Facebook or Twitter around the clock. According to App Annie, Brazilians spend nearly 100 billion hours a year in social media and chat apps, and India's population tips the scales at about 110 billion hours.

As a citizen of Brazil might tell you, WhatsApp (download for iOS or Android) is deeply ingrained into the social fabric. About 120 million Brazilians are estimated to regularly use it, in a country with a population of about 209 million. If you want to chat or exchange videos and pictures, WhatsApp is the de facto platform there.

This has largely to do with the fact that WhatsApp messages can be sent and received for free over a Wi-Fi connection, in a country where the cost of a phone call or SMS text message can vary wildly from one mobile carrier to another (and the price is usually high).

The app's end-to-end encryption is reportedly another factor -- one that sometimes leads to the platform being temporarily blocked within Brazil when law enforcement's attempts to collect private user data are rebuffed by the California-based developer.

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Is it too much of a good thing?

While WhatsApp clearly plays an important role in the everyday lives of millions of Brazilians, users elsewhere can run the risk of becoming addicted to social media, whose purveyors are regularly accused of sprinkling their platforms with psychological tricks to keep you hooked and "engaged" for as long as possible.

Obsessing over likes, follows, retweets and other social media currency can cut into your regular life and your sleep time. And sleep deprivation can quickly lead to problems that impact your job, personal relationships, and physical health.

So if you suspect that you're falling into this pattern, maybe it's time to buck the trend and spend half of your app time elsewhere. We can recommend several app to help you transition.


  • Market research firm App Annie has produced an annual report of global mobile app usage stats, and it reports that users spend half of their app time in a social media or chat app.
  • While these apps are sometimes necessary for everyday activities, excessive use can lead to health problems -- and a category of apps dedicated to helping you battle addiction.

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.