by Tom Kaneshige

iPhone and Android Owners Most Sophisticated Apps Users

Sep 15, 2010
Enterprise Applications

A Pew Internet Research Center survey underscores two types of smartphone users.

It’s surprising that the iPhone spawned a billion dollar industry for mobile apps when only 35 percent of U.S. adults have apps on their smartphones, according to a Pew Internet Research Center survey released earlier this week. More shockingly, only 25 percent of adults regularly use the apps.

Do Pew’s dismal statistics signal a death knell for the great mobile app Gold Rush? Or have mobile apps simply leapt so far ahead of traditional consumer behavior that they now must wait for customers to catch up?

[ Android devices are the hottest smartphones on the market today, but will Android smash the iPhone? ]

Pew’s survey seems to suggest the latter. “An apps culture is clearly emerging among some cell phone users, particularly men and young adults,” says Kristen Purcell, associate director for research at Pew. “Still, it is clear that this is the early stage of adoption when many cell owners do not know what their phone can do.”

So if people aren’t firing up apps, what are they doing with their cell phones besides voice calls?

Among 2,000 cell phone-using adults surveyed by Pew, three out of four take pictures. Almost the same number send or receive text messages. Then the drop off is pretty severe: 39 percent access the Internet, 34 percent play a game, 34 percent send or receive email, 34 percent record a video, 33 percent play music, 30 percent send or receive instant messages, and, lastly, 29 percent use an app.

Unfortunately, Pew didn’t ask what type of phone people were carrying. Purcell says she might include this question in the next survey. My guess is that Pew’s findings don’t reflect iPhone owners.

Consider this tidbit: One out of 10 cell phone users are not sure if their phone can handle apps. These folks surely aren’t iPhone owners. After all, apps are the main reason to buy one—not AT&T’s service.

Another proof point centers on the number of apps the average adult has on the phone. “The mean number of apps is 18,” says Pew. “However, the median number of apps is 10, indicating there are heavy apps users on the high end of the response scale who have a disproportionate number of apps on their phones. This is particularly true among the youngest adults.”

A recent Nielsen study points out that the average iPhone owner has 40 apps, whereas the average Android owner has 27 apps. This suggests that iPhone and Android owners likely download more apps than other cell phone users because the iPhone, Android and their respective app stores deliver such good mobile app experiences.

That is, many phones and their app stores have failed to deliver a good mobile app experience—at least nothing comparable to the iPhone and, to a lesser degree, Android.

Tom Kaneshige covers Apple and Networking for Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Tom at