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You know Photoshop, but probably ignore it on your phone

Nearly seven years after Photoshop arrived on phones, adoption of Adobe's mobile apps for creative types remains lackluster, a CNET survey reveals.

Adobe Lightroom works on phones and tablets.

Adobe Lightroom works on phones and tablets.

Photo by Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

The Photoshop name is so well established you probably consider it a generic verb for manipulating photos. But when it comes to tweaking the look of the photos on your phone, you're more likely to use Instagram to apply a quick filter.

A new survey from CNET and RBC Capital Markets of people using Adobe Systems' software shows lukewarm adoption of the company's mobile apps. Among respondents who subscribe to Adobe's Creative Cloud collection of software, 43 percent don't use any of Adobe's mobile apps. Only about one in four use the Photoshop Fix app, designed for editing photos, and one in five use the Photoshop Mix app, for combining photos.

The results show how much our use of computing devices has changed over the past decade with the arrival of powerful phones and then tablets. When new computing technology arrives, we're more willing to throw out our old brand loyalties and try something novel. In the mobile era, that's often something like Instagram, which pairs basic image editing with a powerful social network. And it's not as if Adobe has just awakened to the mobile market: Its first Photoshop for phones arrived in 2009.

A total of 287 people responded to the unscientific survey released three week ago. Of the 150 Creative Cloud subscribers who described their use of Adobe mobile apps, the top-ranked software was Adobe's Lightroom Mobile app for editing and cataloging photos, used by 31 percent. Photoshop Fix was tied for next place at 24 percent with Capture, an app for converting real-world images into color swatches, illustrations and brushes for digital painting. Photoshop Mix was at 21 percent, and Photoshop Sketch, for drawing, was at 17 percent.

Adobe app survey results

Those who subscribe to Adobe's Creative Cloud subscription often don't use the company's mobile apps.

Photo by CNET/RBC Capital Markets

Part of the issue is that Adobe hasn't yet released versions of all its mobile apps for Android devices. The company has chosen to tap Apple's iPhones and iPads first.

Rivals, meanwhile, have sprouted up like weeds. Instagram has been installed more than 500 million times on mobile devices powered by Google's Android operating system. VSCO Cam and Google's Snapseed, with more advanced editing abilities, each have been installed between 10 million and 50 million times on Android devices.

Adobe Photoshop Express, a basic tool for editing and sharing photos, has been installed on Android devices between 50 million and 100 million times. But Photoshop Lightroom and Mix each have been installed just 1 million to 5 million times. (Apple doesn't release installation numbers for apps on iOS, the operating system that powers iPhones and iPads.)

The mobile transition hasn't been easy for Adobe, but the company overall has persuaded many of us to go along with another change: the shift from paying a one-time fee for software to paying monthly for a Creative Cloud subscription. The photography-specific subscription, which includes Photoshop, Lightroom, and Lightroom Mobile, costs $10 per month, and the full panoply of Adobe software, such as Illustrator, Premiere Pro and After Effects, costs $50 per month.

In the four years since Adobe introduced the Creative Cloud, it has lured 6.17 million subscribers. The new survey shows signs that customers are happier, with 100 percent saying they think Creative Cloud's value has improved over the past year. That's up from 27 percent in our July 2015 survey.

So far, however, only 44 percent think the mobile apps add value to the Creative Cloud subscription. There's still work to be done to win you over.

Editors' note: Adobe is not involved in these independent surveys in any way.

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