Most Mobile Phone Owners Don't Use Mobile Apps

New and more compelling mobile applications are driving the ravenous demand for new smartphones but most mobile phone users aren't even using the apps they already have.

That's the scoop from a new Pew Research Center study, titled "The Rise of Apps Culture," which found that 11 percent of adult mobile phone owners aren't even sure if they have applications embedded in their mobile devices.

The study found that 82 percent of American adults have a mobile phone but only 35 percent of them have applications for playing games, listening to music or browsing the Internet. And of the 35 percent of users who do have applications on their phones, only about 24 percent of them ever use them.

"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 the report. "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."

The survey, which queried 1,917 American adults, found that most are still using their mobile phones -- "smart" or otherwise -- for the basics like taking pictures, sending text messages and browsing the Internet. Seventy-six percent take pictures with their phones and 72 percent send and receive text messages and only 38 percent use it to access the Internet.

Thirty-four percent use their mobile devices to play games, record videos or listen to music.

Only 29 percent have downloaded new applications to their phone and only 13 percent have paid for new applications.

"This is a pretty remarkable tech-adoption story, if you consider that there was no apps culture until two years ago," said Roger Entner, who co-authored the report. "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."

While adoption in this survey appears to be slower than some may have predicted, sales data from online app stores operated by Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) suggest the best is yet to come for mobile app developers.

Apple, which last week relaxed the restrictions it had previously placed on developers building apps for its iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad mobile devices, said its App Store recently hurdled the 6.5 billion-download mark and now offers more than 250,000 apps for sale.

IT researcher Gartner currently projects annual mobile application download sales of almost $30 billion by 2013, up from $4.2 billion in 2009 and an expected $6.2 billion this year.

Larry Barrett is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


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