Mobile app users prioritize performance over price

Dimensional Research HP mobile app study

The majority of people care much more about mobile app performance than affordable pricing, according to a new study commissioned by HP, which also looked at a variety of other factors that influence or discourage mobile app use.

How much patience do you have with mobile apps? And what do you do if an app tests that patience?

Those are the key questions posed in a new mobile app study that was conducted by Dimensional Research for Hewlett-Packard. The survey results were released today, and they include responses from 3,011 mobile app users in Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. The goal was to gauge user satisfaction with mobile apps and study the respondents' behaviors when they're dissatisfied with apps.

Here's a quick look at the survey's key findings:

  • Survey participants use apps a lot. Eighty percent of respondents said they use mobile apps up to 15 times a day.
  • Ratings and user reviews are more important in choosing an app than price. Thirty-four percent choose apps based on star ratings and user reviews. Of equal importance was "promised functionality" (what the app is supposed to do), also at 34 percent. Twenty-nine percent chose a mobile app for its price.
  • App speed and responsiveness are everything, and 96 percent of respondents said app performance is important. The majority, 55 percent, said performance is "very important," while 21 percent said it is "critically important."
  • Most users — 61 percent — expect apps to load in four seconds or less, and 39 percent of respondents expect apps to fire up in four seconds or more.
  • After an app loads, 49 percent expect it to respond in two seconds or less, while 51 percent expect it to take three seconds or more.
  • When asked on average how often they experience issues with mobile apps, 30 percent said never; 22 percent said multiple times a year; 19 percent said multiple times a month; and 29 percent said multiple times a day or week.
  • Fifty-three percent said they experienced "severe" app issues during the last six months, which were defined as crashing, lack of responsiveness or other issues.
  • After using an app that ran slowly on a regular basis, 48 percent of respondents uninstalled or removed it; 33 percent stopped using it; and 32 percent looked for alternative apps. However, only seven percent gave the troublesome app a negative star rating and six percent wrote a bad review; 16 percent continued using the app and took no action.
  • Eighty percent of users said they will attempt to use a problematic app three times or fewer.
  • Performance issues aside, when asked about the types of mobile apps they use most frequently, 74 percent or respondents said email; texting, 69 percent; camera, 65 percent; weather, 62 percent; and phone, 61 percent. (Insert joke about how people use phones for everything except talking.) Next came social media, with 59 percent; clock functions, 54 percent; games, 51 percent; maps, 49 percent; and calendar, 49 percent. Toward the bottom of the list were transportation apps, such as Uber and Lyft, at only 6 percent.

So what does this all mean?

Here are a few takeaways. Mobile apps are often free or only a few bucks, so users are typically more concerned with wasting time on subpar apps than wasting money. And even though most mobile app users don't regularly experience major app problems, they also don't have a lot of patience for apps that do misbehave. This study should also give developers an even greater sense of urgency to ensure app performance issues are fixed as quickly as possible. 

I have my own anecdote to illustrate this last point. On both my iPhone and iPad, The Wall Street Journal iOS app has been among my "pending updates" for over a week now. I tap the update button, and the circle next to it indicates the app will start downloading, but the circle just reverts back to the update button. It is maddening. In hopes of exiting this endless loop, I deleted the app on my iPad, but now I can’t reinstall it. Ironically, the update that's causing the problem, v6.3, allegedly includes "key improvements," such as crash fixes.

Ultimately, I’m now paying for a publication I can't read — and I'm wasting time and money. When the problem is fixed, I'll reinstall the app on my iPad but not my iPhone. At least where The Wall Street Journal's iPhone app is concerned, you can count me among the impatient users who've abandoned problematic apps.

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