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Americans spend almost two full days a month using apps

Laurent Delhourme

We know we're crazy for apps. But recent findings suggest that we're getting crazier.

A Nielsen report on app usage trends in the second quarter of 2014 found that Americans 18 and over spend an average of 43 hours and 31 minutes each month using apps or absorbed in mobile browsing. That's nearly two days' worth of thumb-tapping out of 30, and 10 hours more than was observed in the same period a year ago.

According to the U.S. Mobile App Report released by Internet tracking company comScore in August, apps have outpaced all other forms of digital media growth. Mobile app usage, the report said, grew 52 percent between June 2013 and June 2014, compared with a meager 1 percent uptick for desktop computing. App activity now accounts for more than half of all our digital media time.

For every eight minutes we spend on our phones, comScore reported, we spend seven tinkering in an app.

And chances are, it's Facebook. The social network topped comScore's list of most-visited apps in June, followed by YouTube, Google Play, Google Search and Pandora Radio. Instagram, Twitter, Google Plus, Snapchat and Pinterest helped round out the top 20.

The preponderance of social media apps belies -- or perhaps makes up for -- the fact that people use apps in a decidedly antisocial way. Of the respondents to Nielsen's survey, 70 percent reported using apps while alone and 68 percent said they use them to kill time (time that could, conceivably, be spent interacting with humans in the physical world). Nearly 30 percent admitted to using apps while with friends.

Facebook isn't just eating up your time -- it's eating up your battery, too. In its Android App Trend Tracker Report, released Thursday, online security company AVG Technologies found that Facebook's app is the worst drain on your phone.

"With its constant background notification checks, which run even when the app is not open, the social networking app from Facebook emerged as having the biggest impact on your mobile device when it comes to overall performance," AVG said in a statement.

Instagram and Spotify were also among the top five apps most likely to leave your phone sluggish.

The New York Times Breaking News app, however, took up the most memory, while CNN and the Daily Mail's apps tended to do the most damage to data plans. Four of the 10 most battery-draining games came from King, the makers of Candy Crush Saga.

For all the time and space we dedicate to our apps, we don't even use most of the ones we have. Nielsen found that while average app downloaders have around 42 apps on their phones, the majority use fewer than 10 on a daily basis. Almost half of tablet owners said they download apps to their tablets just because they have them, or ones like them, on their phones.

Yes, we're app hoarders.

No wonder apps that promise to help curb cellphone addiction, like UBhind, Momo and Moment, are starting to crop up. Think of them as parental controls -- for yourself. Apps to get your app usage in check.

BreakFree, an iOS and Android app that launched in February, helps people take control of the time they spend on their phones with management tools that disable the Internet and notifications during set periods. The app also tracks usage statistics, alerts you when you've been lost in an app for too long, and calculates an "addiction score."

The creators hope that seeing your stats will scare you straight. As they said on the BreakFree website, "If you know you've launched WhatsApp 30 times in a day, then it is time to cut back and use your time wisely."

  • Amanda Schupak

    Amanda Schupak is the science and technology editor at CBSNews.com