Christmas and New Year celebrations were dim this year. The resurgence of Coronavirus cases along with travel restrictions and new curfews crushed many Americans’ plans to celebrate the holidays in-person with family and friends. According to a survey by NCSolutions, 79% of Americans said they would spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve at home. In this report, we look at the remarkable spike in holiday mobile app messaging as many Americans turned to virtual celebrations to cope with restrictions on holiday gatherings.
Flurry Analytics, owned by Verizon Media, is used in over 1 million mobile applications, providing aggregated insights across more than 2 billion mobile devices per month. For this analysis, Flurry measured sessions, meaning the number of times users opened their mobile app, across a sample of Messaging and Photo & Video apps. For both categories, we use the first Sunday of December as a baseline, setting that value to 100. This removes any unrelated gain or drop in sessions that happened earlier in the year and gives a cleaner year-over-year comparison.
Let’s start by looking at holiday mobile app messaging levels during 2020 versus 2019.
In the chart above, we show daily sessions across mobile messaging apps in December, with a focus on Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. We compare messaging app sessions this year in blue versus last year in gray.
On Christmas day, usage of messaging apps grew by 25% compared to last year. We think Americans who weren’t able to spend Christmas in-person with relatives turned to their smartphone this year to connect remotely and send greetings.
On New Year’s Eve, fireworks were scarce or virtually live-streamed. Plus, with nighttime curfews in place and mandatory social distancing, more Americans spent New Year’s Eve home than ever before. As a result, more people connected virtually to celebrate the end of the year, driving mobile messaging up by 10% year-over-year. This increase coincides with the record-breaking volume of messages exchanged on WhatsApp during New Year’s Eve. The widely used mobile app experienced its highest number of calls since the app launched ten years ago.
With more pronounced spikes in mobile messaging this holiday season, we next looked at how photo & video activity fared.
In the chart above, we show daily sessions across mobile photo & video apps in December, with a focus on Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. We compare photo & video app sessions this year in blue versus last year in gray.
During Christmas Eve, usage of photo & video apps remained similar to prior years, slightly decreasing by 3% compared to last year. By contrast, on New Year’s Eve, photo & video apps experienced a sharper decline, down 9% over last year. With many New Year’s Eve parties and fireworks canceled this year, we think photo & video app usage dropped due to fewer social moments and memories to capture.
COVID-19 changed the way people celebrated Christmas and New Year. Usage of messaging apps spiked as many Americans connected remotely, while usage of photo & video apps dropped given muted celebrations due to COVID-19 restrictions. With the upcoming Saint Patrick’s Day parade canceled, we anticipate more celebrations this year to go virtual and drive pronounced spikes in mobile messaging. For the latest reports, subscribe to the Flurry Analytics blog and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.