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Smartphone Usage before and during COVID-19: A Comparative Study Based on Objective Recording of Usage Data

journal contribution
submitted on 2024-04-21, 10:24 and posted on 2024-04-21, 10:24 authored by Khansa Chemnad, Sameha Alshakhsi, Mohamed Basel Almourad, Majid Altuwairiqi, Keith Phalp, Raian Ali

Most studies that claimed changes in smartphone usage during COVID-19 were based on self-reported usage data, e.g., that collected through a questionnaire. These studies were also limited to reporting the overall smartphone usage, with no detailed investigation of distinct types of apps. The current study investigated smartphone usage before and during COVID-19. Our study used a dataset from a smartphone app that objectively logged users’ activities, including apps accessed and each app session start and end time. These were collected during two periods: pre-COVID-19 (161 individuals with 77 females) and during COVID-19 (251 individuals with 159 females). We report on the top 15 apps used in both periods. The Mann–Whitney U test was used for the inferential analysis. The results revealed that the time spent on smartphones has increased since COVID-19. During both periods, emerging adults were found to spend more time on smartphones compared to adults. The time spent on social media apps has also increased since COVID-19. Females were found to spend more time on social media than males. Females were also found to be more likely to launch social media apps than males. There has also been an increase in the number of people who use gaming apps since the pandemic. The use of objectively collected data is a methodological strength of our study. Additionally, we draw parallels with the usage of smartphones in contexts similar to the COVID-19 period, especially concerning the limitations on social gatherings, including working from home for extended periods. Our dataset is made available to other researchers for benchmarking and future comparisons.

Other Information

Published in: Informatics
See article on publisher's website:



  • English



Publication Year

  • 2022

License statement

This Item is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Institution affiliated with

  • Hamad Bin Khalifa University
  • College of Science and Engineering - HBKU

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