You, Your Phone and YouTube: Some Fascinating Watch Time Stats

YouTube, above all other websites, might be the one that takes the most of our time. And we gladly give it. There are videos on practically every topic on the platform, ranging from beautifully shot videos of street food vendors in Korea to monster makeup tutorials. If there is an interest, however niche, there are content creators that cater to it. And that’s fantastic. People can easily find a community online that fits them.

And where do people watch YouTube videos? More often than not people are watching YouTube videos on their phones these days, given how people have places to be and don’t need to sit in front of the TV or computer. And there are videos of every length, whether you have an hour or a minute. And while there are competitors such as TikTok and some streaming services vying for people’s attention, YouTube remains universal and has by far the largest library of content. There is no limit to it, and with your phone, it feels like the whole world is in the palm of your hand.

Here are some statistics and facts that will give you a clearer idea of how YouTube fits into our lives and online environments, especially where it concerns smartphones:

Basic Stats on YouTube

Starting out, let’s get the breakdown of which devices people use to watch YouTube, with data from just last year:

By Device

  • As you can tell, the mobile share of viewing time beats out every other method combined.
  • People still watch YouTube videos on desktops, but not nearly as much as they used to. There are simply so many other options available, and the screen quality on smartphones and tablets has risen to a degree that it will be the same as on a dedicated monitor. The best most videos offer is 1080p, and that’s a given with any device released today.
  • Tablets are an interesting point. They allow for a crossroads between a smartphone and other devices. They’re portable enough to be watched in bed, making them the perfect device to lounge around the house with a video or keep on the counter while you’re cooking. These types of use cases explain why tablets are used more than you might think.
  • And naturally, people like to watch videos on the best screen possible if they can, much like a show or movie. The TV remains a standby of entertainment.

Additional Basic Stats and Usage Numbers

  • There are a total of 2.56 billion unique monthly users of YouTube, totaling 14.3 billion visits each month. This is even more than the most popular social networks. People have a vested reason to keep coming back to YouTube, even more than keeping up with their friends. Alternatively, YouTube provides something barely any other site can.
  • This makes YouTube the world’s second most visited website. Given some of the competition, this is a huge achievement.
  • Interestingly, this popularity makes YouTube the second most popular social network in the world, coming in just behind Facebook. You might not think of YouTube as a social network, but it meets all of the qualifications and has plenty of social options for people. It’s just not what you might be used to or personally use for social reasons. And given how more people are using YouTube with their phones than ever before, there might be more in store for the social features of YouTube in the future.
  • However, if someone is using YouTube, they are not going to be unique to the platform. Only one percent of users are unique to YouTube. Everyone uses another social network as well.
  • Out of the people that spend time on YouTube, people spend an average of 19 minutes a day. Naturally, the actual variation is much greater, but people like to spend a chunk of their day on the platform, at least averaging a part of a lunch break. It’s the equivalent of every user watching a single episode of a sitcom per day, every day.
  • And how many people are using the site every day? As of the last available data, 62 percent of United States users go on YouTube daily. About 92 percent of users go on it weekly. An astonishing 98 percent of users go on it at least once a month. That is some strong retention for any platform. Of course, some of that might be attributed to how accessible the platform is and how easy it is to use.
  • For every minute of real-time, there are 694,000 hours of content streamed on YouTube. That is more than even Netflix, and there is no other streaming service that can even compare. Eventually, we might even find that people spend more time watching YouTube and other streaming services than they do on a standard TV. With so many people cutting the cord, it might be an inevitability.
  • In the United States, 81 percent of internet users have at least tried using YouTube. This is more than practically any other website. Worldwide this is certainly not the case, as other video-sharing sites are popular in other countries (specifically Asian ones). However, YouTube does still have a worldwide audience, and as you can tell be previous stats there is a presence in almost every country.
  • What about the number of channels themselves? As of this writing, there are currently 37 million YouTube channels. Many are created and deleted each day, but as a general rule the number of channels is going up. That is far more than anyone can possibly keep up with, including YouTube itself. This leads to a need for AI help and algorithms which we will discuss in the article here.
  • Out of all the services and sites in the world, YouTube is responsible for about 25 percent of all global mobile traffic.
  • Finally, are you curious about how much you use YouTube yourself? There are certain apps to track it over time and even remind you if you are going over your planned allowance, but YouTube itself can tell you. In 2018 that platform announced a tool that can tell you how much you watched today, yesterday, over the last week and your daily average.

There is so much more you can learn about YouTube in general, and professionals and interested parties should certainly look more into the data, especially as there is always more information coming out.

Some YouTube Demographics

There are plenty of people watching YouTube and plenty of videos getting watched, but who exactly is doing the watching? Is it a perfect representation of the world population, or are some people statistically more likely to use the platform?

  • As of January 2022, 53.9 percent of users were male and 46 percent were female. There usually is some split on networks and sites, and this is a relatively minor split.
  • Age isn’t as much of a factor, if only because at least in the United States, just about everyone is using YouTube. Even among people who wouldn’t have tried other social media networks or streaming platforms, everyone has tried YouTube. 95 percent of 18-29-year-olds have tried it. 91 percent of 30-49-year-olds do as well. Even the 65+ demographic, which relatively wouldn’t touch social media networks, has a usage rate of 49 percent and growing. It is easy enough to use and search for things on the platform that everyone can use it. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s the default option in most cases.
  • Just because we don’t have an exceptional amount of data on children using YouTube, doesn’t mean that most children don’t. About 80 percent of United States parents say their child (age 11 or younger) watches videos on YouTube. Many online platforms and websites have a requirement that users be at least age 13, though realistically this doesn’t stop a lot of clever children from using the platform.
  • Among that group, half watch videos daily. There are controls and kids options on the platform, but the site has been a concern for parents and teachers. There are quite a few children and teens that might even get addicted to the platform, and many others still want to become influencers on the platform when they grow up (perhaps not realizing the work and instability that comes with that).

Why keep track of the demographics? Outside of research purposes or pieces for interest just as this, marketing is all about demographics, and YouTube is important to marketing. In fact, advertising and marketing is practically YouTube’s business model (and it's barely profitable as it currently is). YouTube will constantly be seeking to understand its user base. If you work in marketing, so will you. If you do not, then you will want to better understand the forces at work that decide which ads you watch.

What Do People Watch on YouTube?

One way of looking at it is to look at the most subscribed channels. As of this writing, these are the most popular ones:

Some of these might not come as any surprise to you, but others could be complete strangers. Unless you are inherently interested in the top channels available and check such things regularly, you wouldn’t be expected to know who they are.

In terms of categories, the following stats might be helpful:

  • Gaming content is huge on YouTube. Two of the top five channels are at least partially gaming related. YouTube gaming is also a Livestream platform that tries to compete with the likes of Twitch. While it doesn’t have the same reputation yet, it does have a dedicated userbase and YouTube has spent a significant amount of money to draw some of the biggest content creators and streamers to the platform. 
  • Makeup and beauty content is also huge on YouTube, with there being more makeup tutorials on the site than any single person can want. If there is a look or style, you can learn more about it and how to wear it on the site. Furthermore, the content goes beyond what you might see in the magazines, ensuring everyone can get style tips, regardless of body type.
  • Music is almost its own entire thing on YouTube, and music alone would probably make YouTube a contender for one of the top sites on the internet. Music and music-related topics dominate the top of the search charts on YouTube. Whether people are looking for a specific song or a general genre, music is to be found on YouTube. There is even YouTube Music to back this up, though that service is not nearly so successful.
  • Sports content is interesting. There is certainly a strong following on YouTube for sports, but it is mostly sports-adjacent content (analysis, news, etc.). What about actually watching sports, ideally live sports for most people, on the platform? That seems to be coming around the corner. 
  • How-to videos are another huge section, though they might not follow the same rules as everything else in terms of viewership. About one-third of people using the internet have watched a tutorial video in the last week. And people will look up what they need and watch the top results (remember YouTube itself is a massive search engine).
  • You may also consider learning or educational videos their own category. There are effective full courses on YouTube, and people in school can use the platform to help them review concepts.
  • Part of this and the more informational side of YouTube is product reviews and demonstrations. People (68 percent of users) will spend time on YouTube to help them make a purchasing decision.
  • Of course, not everything might fit neatly into a category, and not all successful content has to. There are niches within niches on YouTube, and content creators that do well within them. Some content creators might be a niche within themselves, and personality-driven content is a staple of the platform.

Something you should also be heavily aware of is that once people get mostly caught up in one category, they are more likely to be given more recommendations from the same category. For example, if someone is mostly subscribed to beauty or gaming content, they are going to be recommended that thereafter, at least in the short term. There might not be as much natural discovery between different content categories as people would like.

In fact, about 70 percent of what people watch on YouTube is driven by algorithmic recommendations. That makes content creation a matter of gaming the system as much as anything else. When you watch YouTube on mobile next, think about how quickly you just go onto what is recommended next if you have time, instead of searching for something in particular.

Yet after all of the options above and considerations, which are the most popular categories? They are comedy, music, entertainment/pop culture, and “how-to”. We do not expect this to change for some time.

YouTube and Your Phone

So what about the YouTube app, and how do people use it? Here are some quick stats on the matter:

  • YouTube has been around longer than most smartphones, though it also happens to be one of the older apps available. The platform itself launches on February 14, 2005. The mobile app was launched in June 2007. Note that the app was nothing like it is today, and not even all videos on the site were available to watch. 
  • While YouTube has more watch time total via mobile, not as many people access the site via mobile. About 22 percent of site visits are from mobile devices. People might be making quicker checks on mobile devices. However, mobile users will visit many more pages compared to their desktop counterparts. There is a balance to be considered between all the users. Fortunately, YouTube has the resources to accommodate everyone, as opposed to other platforms.
  • The YouTube app is one of the most popular ones of all time, on all platforms. Last year it reached over 10 billion downloads. That’s more downloads than there are people on the earth. And note that many numbers might be deflated a little in terms of how many devices have it installed. A great number of devices have YouTube installed by default, especially Android devices. This makes sense, given that Google owns both Android and YouTube. Perhaps one of the main reasons people like to use YouTube is because it is already there and works well. People like convenience more than anything else.
  • Even going back as far as 2018, the YouTube App was installed on 5 billion Android devices. That is not even counting iPhones or the rare phone that uses another operating system.
  • Even when people have a larger screen available, they might prefer to use their phones. A total of three in four adults will watch YouTube at home on their mobile devices.
  • Further proving the point, much of home mobile watching occurs during prime time. YouTube gets to more people than any cable network broadcasting at the same time.

Changing Trends and News Stories

Was there anything in the last year or so that was worthy of your attention? Any news stories that will be affecting the landscape of YouTube for the foreseeable for you?

  • In November of 2021, one of the more controversial things that YouTube did was remove the dislike counts from videos. One could still dislike a video, but people couldn’t know the ratio of likes to dislikes or get a proper count. While YouTube said that based on its own research dislikes were often being used as a form of harassment, opponents said that it would be harder to determine whether a video was unhelpful or not. In some cases, people felt that a large downvote count was a way to combat misinformation, which has always been a problem for the platform to some degree. At the moment, it looks as though YouTube is going to stand by its decision.
  • The other trend that people interested in different content of all types should keep track of is people cutting the cord for alternative forms of video and entertainment, YouTube is included in that. While premium streaming features and options from YouTube haven’t necessarily taken off in the way that Netflix or Facebook has (exclusive content generally isn’t acclaimed or watched much), YouTube allows people who cut the cord access to a lot of entertainment (for free), making it much easier. Furthermore, there is YouTube TV, which is an outright replacement for traditional TV that provides quite a few channels. As of late 2021, YouTube TV has more than 4 million subscribers.
  • Otherwise, there isn’t too much that happened in terms of news stories that hit the public spotlight, though that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ongoing debates and potential issues that could arise. Things to look out for include:
  • Problems with monetization leading content creators to either leave the platform or seek out alternative sources of income from their audiences. Crowdfunding and options such as Patreon are popular, and there are alternatives to this as well. Such audience support is the most stable form of income, making more niche content that satisfies the fans perhaps more important than ads run or total watch time of videos. We might see watch time decrease in importance for creators over time, at least realistically, as a result of this.
  • There will always be improvements to the technology and networking behind YouTube. After all, it is in everyone’s benefit if the site runs more efficiently. We might also see more 4K content as a result of this, as the related technology becomes cheaper.
  • Livestreaming has been a part of YouTube for some time now but hasn’t been the most popular option. This has been changing over time, and you might find that more people watch live content on the platform. In fact, 30 percent of internet users watch live streamed content online weekly.

The Future of YouTube

What can we expect from YouTube, and what is there available in the pipeline?

  • You will likely see some additional features or infrastructure support on the platform itself. YouTube is constantly changing (even if you don’t notice it), and measures must be taken so that it can support the audience and creators alike. Some of these features will be surface level and quickly forgotten, only meant to drive traffic or as an experiment. All of this is to increase engagement (and therefore watch time), and it will be interesting to see what comes out as a major feature by the end of 2022.
  • Regarding watch time, we have to consider how YouTube is going to grow. Most people know of the platform, and people already watch a lot of YouTube each day. More mobile friendly features will help, but it also comes down to content creation. We will see in the coming years whether watch times have plateaued or not.
  • However, YouTube is often as much about the background behind it as the content itself, and there is an ongoing battle about usage rights, DMCA, and free use. Much of the content on YouTube is a reaction or adding to other content, either from YouTube or another artform. There are channels completely or mostly dedicated to the Marvel Cinematic Universe or cartoons. Discussing these things is important to the creators, yet doing so without clips or even stills can be difficult. And there are automated systems in place. 
  • While there are reports that there could be a creator exodus to another platform as a result of this, this is mostly an exaggeration. There is simply nothing that can compete on multiple levels with YouTube. Google’s infrastructure gives the platform an advantage. YouTube also wasn’t or isn’t (depending on how you look at it) profitable for years. Could a competitor weather that type of storm on such a worldwide scale? Not easily, and not anytime soon. YouTube is here to stay, and though there might be blips on the radar, they are the ones writing the rules for content creators. 


How often do you watch YouTube on your smartphone? What do you like to watch, and when? We hope that this article has given you a chance to introspect on your own habits. We hope you continue to enjoy the platform wherever you are, but similarly, we hope that you can enjoy it in exactly the ways you hope to. Similarly, we hope that you are mindful of your viewing and your efforts to expand your horizons. There is more to YouTube than a bunch of videos, and it’s a fascinating topic to study. May you continue your explorations and gain a better understanding of them in the near future.