The coronavirus pandemic had a massive effect on consumer habits, especially with customers stuck at home for long stretches. And perhaps unsurprisingly, this led to a big increase in total data usage.
Comscore released data on Friday which showed that total in-home data usage by Americans increased 18 percent in 2020, compared to 2019.
The research listed different types of technologies, and how the data changed from month to month. The overall data usage, per Comscore, increased by double digits every month, but especially when the first stay-at-home orders were in place in spring.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers had adapted to a modified way of life. As lockdowns had eased, data consumption growth appears to have begun to slow in comparison to the peak months in early 2020,” the report said. "Comscore will continue to monitor these changing consumption habits on its Coronavirus Insights Hub.”
Overall in-home data usage jumped 28 percent in March, 36 percent in April, and 30 percent in May, although by summer the increases stabilized, to 14 percent in June, 13 percent in July, and 19 percent in August. By December, the usage had increased just ten percent.
As for individual product categories, smart TV usage jumped 41 percent in March, 49 percent in April, and 55 percent in May. The increases went into the 20s for the next several months, before reaching 44 percent in October. Gaming console use had more podcast increases, rising 15 percent in March before going flat in June and even declining by 11 percent in October. As for PC usage, it dropped in January and February, before rising 9 percent in March and hitting 29 percent in April, reaching the 30s by fall.
Streaming box/stick usage, also unsurprisingly, rose 36 percent in March and 49 percent in April.
In terms of total gigabytes consumed in-home, streaming boxes and sticks took up the most, with 32 percent, followed by smart TVs and gaming consoles, both with 23 percent. PCs took up 11 percent and tablets 4 percent.
“Despite the cross-device year-over-year growth in data consumption, there was not much of a shift in how data consumption was allocated across devices in 2020 versus 2019,” the report said. “With the exception of a slight shift away from gaming consoles in favor of smart TVs in 2020, households continued to consume data in very similar ways to how they did in 2019.”
The Fair Internet Report said late last year that broadband speeds in the U.S. nearly doubled in 2020, due in part to customers signing up for faster Internet due to the pandemic.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.