One Click Wonders – the multimedia apps at the fingertips of 16-24s

  1. One Click Wonders – the media and entertainment apps people have to have at their fingertips
  2. One Click Wonders – the multimedia apps at the fingertips of 16-24s
  3. One Click Wonders – the most popular smartphone media apps in the UK

Following on from last week’s post, here we’re taking a closer look at media and entertainment apps 16–24-year-olds have to have at their fingertips.

Before we get into the One Click Wonders for 16-24s, let’s take a moment to appreciate that anyone currently aged 16-24 has probably never known a world without smartphones. We (Claire and Syann) were born in the 80s, we won’t give the exact year because it’s good to keep some mystery around these things, but it’s relevant because we grew up largely without mobile phones, let alone smartphones. If you met a friend in town and they weren’t there, you popped to a pay phone to call their home and ask their mum how long ago they left. Then you wandered the shops or sat on a step watching people pass by until they arrived. There were no smartphones to stay up to date on travel progress and scroll away the wait.

If you take the introduction of the first iPhone in 2007 as a marker in time (although IBM brought the first smartphone to market in 1994 it wasn’t really until the iPhone in 2007 that a fully internet-enabled smartphone was readily available), those aged 16 today were two and those aged 24 today were 10, making the smartphone a likely companion for the formative years of anyone who is now aged 16-24. Couple this with an average of six hours leisure time a day for those aged 16-24 in a pre-pandemic world1, and it isn’t surprising that 16-24s have the greatest appetite for media and entertainment apps, averaging 19 apps accessible within one click compared to an average of 14 apps across all adults and only 8 apps for those aged 55+.

I see you

The home screens of younger adults are curated to allow for instant access to a broad range of content, largely visual, in a mix of short and long formats and from multiple creators (friends, brands, celebrities etc.) as well as offering the opportunity to create visual content themselves. The top 10 One Click Wonders therefore look a little different for 16-24s, with Facebook dropping from first place among all adults (65%) to eighth among 16-24s (56%) – instead Instagram (71%) takes the top spot, followed by YouTube (64%).

More messaging and video sharing apps also make the top 10 for 16-24s: Snapchat (63%), TikTok (59%) and FaceTime (50%) rank third, fifth and tenth respectively, bumping out BBC News, Twitter and BBC iPlayer, while Netflix and Spotify hold their own. And when it comes to apps they can’t live without, those aged 16-24 were twice as likely to choose Instagram or Snapchat than they were Facebook.

And there’s evidence that 16-24s have a need for both breadth and depth of content within one click that isn’t seen among older audiences. Instant access to streaming and audio apps is just as likely as instant access to social apps, with 9 in 10 having at least one video streaming app (93%), social media app (92%) or audio (music / podcasts / audiobooks / radio) app (92%) as a one click wonder. This trend isn’t seen among all adults, who are far more likely to have a social app as a one click wonder than a video streaming app, and even less likely to have an audio app within one click.

Game on

Smartphones have become the go-to device for gaming, ahead of games consoles and computers. 92% of 16-24 year olds reported playing electronic games in 2020, no doubt in part a way to pass the time during lockdown2. Although life is slowly returning to normal, younger audiences are 1.5 times more likely than the average adult to have a gaming app as a one click wonder (77% of 16-24s vs. 50% of all adults), suggesting gaming habits that might have been built during lockdown could be sticking around.

Social deduction game, Among Us (23%) and long-time classic Call of Duty (23%) are the top gaming One Click Wonders for 16-24s, while 1 in 10 (11%) have the creative, virtual universes of Roblox within one click. This is in stark contrast with those aged 55+ – none of this audience has Roblox within one click (instead, 12% have Candy Crush) adding fuel to the fire that Roblox could be one to watch as it builds momentum with younger audiences embracing the opportunity to develop as well as play games.

Attachment theory

Our data also suggests that 16-24s don’t just use their smartphones more but are also more attached to their smartphones. 86% of 16-24s like to check their smartphone as soon as they wake up (vs. 68% of all adults) and almost the same amount (84%) would rather put up with a smartphone that had an unreliable battery than use a phone with no apps / internet (vs. 69% of all adults). The restrictions on our lives over the last 15 months may have played a part in fostering this sense of attachment, with 2 in 3 16-24s (67%) saying they’re more attached to their smartphone now than they were before COVID-19.

As important as access to their smartphone is for 16-24s, they’re more likely than the average person to value tech-free time with loved ones – 4 in 5 would choose to spend a weekend with only a loved one and no smartphone over spending a weekend with only their smartphone without seeing anyone (82% of 16-24s vs. 75% of all adults). Young adulthood is typically a time when many have an abundant social life – limited responsibilities are vying for time and money and there are plentiful opportunities to meet others through higher education, work and other adventures as you find your footing in life. For a cohort who have lost this over the last 15 months, their smartphones are a vital and valuable tool for sharing their lives, communicating with others and passing the time. But it sounds like given half a chance they would happily sit on a step wondering when to call their friend’s mum to see if they’ve left the house yet.

A note on the data: between 4th – 7th June 2021 we ran an online survey among 1,002 smartphone owners aged 16+, representative in terms of age and reflective of the UK across gender, region, SEG and ethnicity. 136 of these were aged 16-24. App categories asked about included social media, messaging, video calling, video streaming, music, podcast, audiobook, radio, sport, health/wellness, news and gaming.

1 ONS (2017), Leisure Time in the UK 2015
2 Ofcom (2021), Online Nation 2021 Report