I Have the App, and I’m Not Afraid to Use It

App for That

By Jason Kelley
November 3, 2011

Media Consuption

“There’s an app for that” has become part of the cultural mainstream. In fact, there are apps for banking, learning Chinese, finding Chinese food, playing Scrabble, and a host of other activities. In fact, people are downloading apps more than ever.

The share of adult cellphone owners who have downloaded an app nearly doubled in the past two years –from 22% in September 2009 to 38% in August 2011 – according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

Still, only about half of U.S. adults with cellphones have apps on their phones, and only about one in four cellphone owners age 18 or older has ever paid for an app, whose prices typically start at about one dollar.

Key Findings:

  • The most commonly downloaded apps are those that provide regular updates about everyday information such as news, weather, sports, or stocks (74% of downloaders)
  • Also popular are apps that help people communicate with friends and family (67%) and apps that help the user learn about something in which they are interested (64%)

Interestingly, the survey found only two-thirds of people with apps on their phones ever use them.

“While mobile apps are a fairly new approach to accessing online content, the main functions they fill for users are the same we’ve seen with previous technologies—namely, information gathering and communication,” notes Kristen Purcell, author of the report and Associate Director for Research at Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. “It’s too early to know if, by providing instant, direct connections to information, apps are a game changer. While they are a significant change from using search engines and web browsers, the basic functions apps fill are not revolutionary.”

These findings are from a survey conducted from July 25-August 26 among 2,260 adults ages 18 and over, including surveys in English and Spanish and on both land-line and cellphones. The margin of error for the total sample is plus or minus 2 percentage points.