Minecraft is more popular than Facebook. Surprised?

Such data finds will shock many Millennials--and most people over 30--for whom Facebook signaled the rise of Web2.0. But, for many teens, Facebook is a hallmark of the past; halfway between Xerox and their new iPhone 6S.

Understanding how teens actually use their smartphones--what for, for how long, and why--has both great personal significance (my own second startup was in teen phone safety and I have a teen brother) and profound implications for both marketing and teen safety.

Usage Statistics

According to data from Pervasive Group, which I helped co-found and utilized its MMGuardian application to anonymously collect data on the android phone usage of 5,000 unidentified teen mobile devices, the most popular app teens use on their phone is Kik, the hip new(ish) social media chatting app, which teens used on average for 74 minutes per day.

Consider: Teens spend more than an hour on a single chat app every day. Following closely was YouTube, with 66 minutes, and, somewhat less closely, Netflix and Minecraft with 55 minutes each and Snapchat with 45.

Facebook lagged with 43 minutes, tied with Instagram, which markets itself as a more "special" place for your best photos - trading some audience volume time for a more 'premium' brand among teens. 

In a clear indication of changing trends, the most popular apps used by Millennials over 25--internet browser (27), phone contacts (13), Spotify (24), and Pandora (21)--were all used for less than 30 minutes per day.

"The data gives surprising and actionable insights into the real daily habits of teens on their mobile devices, not simply those they self-report to marketing surveys," said Richard Bromham, Chief Product Officer of Pervasive Group.

Key Takeways

There are a few clear and fascinating marketing and safety takeways from this information.

First, branded visual sharing apps should be the clear cut targets for marketers looking to reach this demographic. Kik, with its strong brand, ease of use, and fast sharing, should be the top marketer target but YouTube and Snapchat, which also feature regular content sharing and are reliable catch alls, should also be major targets.

Similarly, mobile games, which have been a hot commodity lately but still go overlooked by many digital marketers, should take high priority: Minecraft (55 minutes), Madden NFL (49), and Clash of Clans (31) all dramatically outperformed traditional darlings for marketing dollars Pandora and Spotify.

Second, teens overwhelmingly use specific, brand apps to communicate, rather than the generic tools favored by older generations.

For example: Teens clearly use textual communication far more than other mediums--indeed, phone calls barely register by usage--but the messaging is dominated by brand apps Kik and Snapchat. Traditional text messaging, with only 34 minutes, lags behind; meaning teens prefer to engage and chat with one another through the closed medium of the app than the generic function of the device.

This is likely for a mixture of convenience--these apps also allow users to share and comment on content in groups--and privacy, as few parents know about, let alone know how to monitor, Kik.

The big conclusion: pay attention! Teens' mobile interests are changing so quickly that the top apps barely registered a year ago, and name recognition for major brands such as Facebook no longer matters.