September 16, 2010, 4:03 PM

35% of adult mobile phone users have apps

But only 24% actually use them, a new Pew/Nielsen survey finds.

Lead Photo

In the mobile realm, apps are all the rage. And a significant number of adult mobile phone users, 35%, have apps, free or paid, on their phones, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and The Nielsen Co.

But only 24% of those with apps use them.

The findings are based on a survey of 1,917 U.S. adult mobile phone users age 18 and older conducted between April 29 and May 30, 2010. 82% of U.S. adults have mobile phones.



“An apps culture is clearly emerging among some cell phone users, particularly men and young adults,” says Kristen Purcell, associate director for research at the Pew Internet Project. “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.”

All smartphones—such as BlackBerry, iPhone and Android devices—run apps. Some conventional phones, such as the popular Motorola RAZR, have Internet access and can run apps. Many of mobile phone users have downloaded shopping apps from retailers large and small. And retailers considering apps should understand the demographic landscape, experts say, to see if their core customers are likely to want an app.

Other findings in the new Pew/Nielsen survey that shed light on the demographics of apps users include:

• Apps users are mostly male (57% male versus 43% female), and are more likely than other adults and other mobile phone users to be college graduates (39%) and to have incomes of $75,000 or more (36%).

• Among mobile phone users with apps, the average adult has 18 apps on his phone.

• Mobile phone screen real estate is valuable. Most apps users say they organize their apps so that the most frequently used are easily accessible (59%), and that they delete apps from their phones that are not useful or helpful (56%).

• Individuals between the ages of 18 and 29 make up only 23% of the U.S. adult population but constitute 44% of those who us apps. In contrast, while 41% of the adult population is age 50 and older, that age group makes up just 14% of apps users.

“This is a pretty remarkable tech-adoption story, if you consider that there was no apps culture until two years ago,” says Roger Entner, co-author of the report and senior vice president and head of research and insights in the telecommunications practice at Nielsen. “Every metric we capture shows a widening embrace of all kinds of apps by a widening population. It’s too early to say what this will eventually amount to, but not too early to say that this is an important new part of the technology world of many Americans.”

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