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Survey: Mobile apps prevalent but often unused

About 35 percent of U.S. cell phone users surveyed by Pew have mobile apps on devices, but only 24 percent use them and 11 percent don't know if they have them.

Though more mobile apps are finding their way onto cell phones, their owners aren't all necessarily using them.

Among the 2,252 U.S. adults surveyed for a new Pew Internet study, 1,917 said they use cell phones. Out of those people, 35 percent have mobile apps on their devices. However, only 24 percent of the 1,917 said they actually use those apps, and 11 percent were in the dark, not even knowing if their phones had any apps.

Pew Internet

Released Tuesday, the "Rise of Apps Culture" study was based on phone interviews of people ages 18 and older conducted between April 29 and May 30, 2010. The survey found that app users tend to be young, male, college graduates making $75,000 or more a year.

By gender, 57 percent of the app users were male versus 43 percent who were female. By age, people 18 to 29 total only 23 percent of the U.S. adult population, but they make up almost half (44 percent) of the app user community. And while people 50 and older account for 41 percent of the adult population, they represent only 14 percent of all app users.

Further, 10 percent of all adult cell phone users downloaded an app in the past week, while 20 percent of users under 30 did the same thing, according to Pew. Overall, 47 of all downloaders have paid for an app, with most of them spending under $3, while the rest say they only go for apps that are free.

"An apps culture is clearly emerging among some cell phone users, particularly men and young adults," Kristen Purcell, associate director for research at the Pew Internet Project, said in a statement. "Still, it is clear that this is the early stage of adoption when many cell owners do not know what their phone can do. The apps market seems somewhat ahead of a majority of adult cell phone users."

What are the most popular apps among those who actually use them? Beyond tapping into its own surveys, Pew also included feedback from Nielsen's Apps Playbook, a December 2009 survey of 3,962 cell phone owners who had downloaded an app during the previous 30 days.

Game apps were by far the most popular, according to Nielsen's study, grabbed by 60 percent of the downloaders questioned. Next on the list were news and weather apps, followed by map and navigation programs, social-networking apps, and then music apps. Among the downloaders, 57 percent said they use their apps every day, while 24 percent use their apps more than 30 minutes a day.


The latest edition of Nielsen's Apps Playbook based on an August study and released last week, echoed similar results over which types of apps proved most popular. But it did break down the results further, finding that the average number of apps owned by downloaders is now 27, up from 22 last December. Further, iPhone users top the list, owning an average of 40 apps, while Android users have on average 25 and BlackBerry users store about 14 apps on their phones.