Pew Survey Finds Predictable Trends Among Mobile Phone Users

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Pew Internet has just completed a survey of nearly 2000 mobile users in the US and has come up with some not particularly startling statistics about phone and app usage. Still, it’s good to have some cold hard numbers to look at, even if the sample size seems a bit small.

Here are a few highlights from the survey and writeup:

  • 23% of Americans are now landline-free
    Higher than I expected. I suspect a fair amount of people with land lines these days are more or less required to have them as part of a internet or cable deal.
  • 24% of mobile users are active app users
    That is, 24% use their apps regularly, as opposed to simply having apps sitting there on their phone.
  • Apps rank low on non-voice activities
    Pew mentions that many apps are used for such things as text messages, picture taking, and so on, but the structure of the survey didn’t allow for this kind of flexibility.
  • 13% of users have paid for an app
    Whether this is high or low is kind of a matter of perspective. Two years ago this number was probably more like 2%.
  • Median number of installed apps is 10, average is 18
    You seem to be either a light or a heavy app user, not too many people in between. This stat likely owes a lot to the age gap as well. The young people have way more apps than the geezers.
  • Games are the most popular apps, followed by news/weather, maps, and social networking.
    That’s what I’d expect. Games are a gateway drug to “hard” apps. Plus people tend to have more than one, whereas they rarely have more than one Twitter or Facebook client.
  • Men and women appear to app differently.
    Women use both game and social networking apps more heavily than men; men use productivity and finance apps more, and delete unused apps faster. Draw your own conclusions.
  • App users tend to be young, affluent males
    Shock! Probably the same population segment as early adopters and iPad owners.
  • App users are far more likely to use the other functions of the phone, i.e. photos, internet, music
    Another shock. Understanding phones as being small computers is really the underlying theme here.

The take-away is what Pew refers to as a “Rise of Apps Culture.” Essentially they mean that younger people are adopting apps as a natural extension of the mobile phone, and that’s a change that’s not going anywhere. Us young folks will soon be old folks, and the trend will engulf the 30-40 and 40-50 demographics.

I think a more interesting survey would be to look into use of apps within the app generation. I know we see studies now and then, and of course Apple and Google are keeping meticulous tallies of download counts, app survival rates, and all that good stuff. But we don’t often get to see the results of crunching that data, since it’s obviously valuable to advertisers and analysts. Remember: you are the product.

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