Is That A Nielsen Box In Your Pocket?

A new mobile analytics software installed on Americans' mobile devices is giving Nielsen a better way to gather metered data on how people use their smartphones.

Nielsen, the group that has tracked and reported consumer information on radio, television, and the web, has a new way of tracking what goes on in people’s mobile life.

Nielsen’s newest study results gleaned from the system, called Nielsen Smartphone Analytics, compared the mobile web browsing to mobile app usage among U.S. Android users and found that, whether they're checking their mail or the weather or maybe gaming, users spent two-thirds of mobile time on apps, and the rest on the mobile Internet. The top 10 apps used up 43% of the total time people spent on apps, too.

The data is juicy enough and perhaps fresh fodder for the dead-web-or-not debate. But the revolutionary part here is how Nielsen gathered the data. Instead of the time-honored method of asking people to take surveys and report back on their preferences and habits, Nielsen used a new metering software for smartphones that tracked app usage by time, and by app (installed, of course, with permission).

Tracking user habits this way has a number of advantages, all leading up to better accuracy and better detail. Monica Bannan, Nielsen’s VP of Product Leadership for Mobile Media, says Nielsen Smartphone Analytics has "tremendous benefits" compared to tracking data by "recall," or surveys.

Going beyond just app usage, Nielsen can use this software to monitor other habits as well, like messaging, camera usage, battery and power consumption, and how many times a day, for how long, applications or phone features are used.

The ability to watch these metrics in detail will likely give Nielsen a more loyal following in the mobile space and add device manufacturers and carriers to the lists of advertizers, publishers, and media companies who already use its detailed metrics.

It's not quite on the level of innovation as Nielsen’s recent big move in the digital space: The Online Campaign Ratings system, which has Nielsen teaming up with Facebook to give advertisers a fine-grained view of the kinds of people that views their ads. It’s a first in the online space, where there’s yet to a way to track not just how often ads are viewed, but who sees them. The Online Campaign Ratings system is due out later this month.

[Image: Flickr user drewleavy]

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