"I'm just on my phone and they're watching TV": Quantifying mobile device use while watching television

Christian Holz, Frank Bentley, Karen Church, and Mitesh Patel. Proceedings of ACM TVX 2015.

In recent years, mobile devices have become a part of our daily lives—much like television sets had over the second half of the 20th century. Increasingly, people are using mobile devices while watching television. We set out to understand this behavior on a minute-by-minute quantified level as well as users’ motivations and purposes of device use while watching television. We conducted a novel mixed-methods study inside seven households with fourteen instrumented phone and tablet devices, capturing all app launches and app use durations, correlated with the moment in the television program when they occurred. Surprisingly, we found little difference between the volume of device use during programs and commercials. Our two main findings are that 1) participants often joined family members in the TV room to physically be together; when they lack interest in the program, they spend the majority of the show on a secondary device and watch TV only during key moments. 2) Virtually none of participants’ app and web use during TV consumption was directly related to the running show. With our study, we set the stage for larger-scale investigations into the details of mobile interactions while watching television. Our novel method will aid future work of the community as a means of fully understanding multi-device use alongside television consumption.