SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2012 | PDF | Subscribe | Home

App-ocalypse Now!
Are apps a life-changer, a black hole, or just pleasant diversion?

According to The Wall Street Journal, Apple alone offers about 640,000 apps and consumers have so far downloaded some 30 billion apps. We thought it would be app-ropriate to ask our readers if they are app-oplectic or app-gnostic.

So, we created a survey about smartphones, tablets — app-friendly devices of every kind — and their life-changing (or not) app-lications. We even invited the opinions of those who don’t have an app-friendly device and have never downloaded an app. Most of our respondents were Gen Xers (44%), followed by Baby Boomers (38%), Millennials (12%) and Silent Generation (6%). Fifty-three percent were female and 47 percent were male.

Non-users were a very tiny minority — with 96 percent reporting that they use an app-friendly device of one kind or another. Of those, 97 percent said they had downloaded at least one app. Eighty-one percent said they used the Apple platform, with 20 percent on Android, 13% on BlackBerry and just two percent on Windows (some respondents use more than one platform).

Those who said they did not have an app-friendly device were evenly split on whether they felt they were missing out on something. Of those who are hooked, a 27 percent plurality said they had downloaded “maybe two dozen” apps, while 43 percent said they actively used “fewer than ten” apps.

The next question was, what kinds of apps are most popular? As it turns out, Bob Dylan was right: You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows; you just need an app. Weather apps were picked as the most popular type of app by 74 percent of survey respondents, making them by far and away the most popular kind of app. Social, at 63 percent, was next most popular app type, followed by news (54%), games (53%) and travel (45%).

Shopping apps, at 33 percent, were next to dead last on the list. Grocery shopping, in particular, fared even worse, with 48 percent of respondents saying they “never” used apps while at the supermarket. Twenty-six percent said they used apps “rarely” while food shopping; 18 percent said they used them “sometimes”; and only eight percent said they used them “frequently.” To the extent that grocery-shopping apps are used at all, list-making apps were cited most often. However, there does app-ear to be an app-etite for supermarket apps that provide a bit more utility than is perhaps currently available.

For example, as one respondent suggested: “House my recipes and build a grocery list based on what I pick for the menu for the week and aggregate the amounts … For example, if I have two recipes that call for a pound of broccoli, I want my list to reflect that I need a total of two pounds of broccoli.” Another requested a “recipe app that allows me to plan a whole week of meals and make me a shopping list that’s organized by sections of the store.”

While basic functions like news, weather, and traffic are currently most popular, a number of respondents yearned for impossibly abstract or absurd apps, such as an app that would “soothe my baby,” “slow the world down” or “transform text messages into beef jerky.” Others pine for highly unlikely albeit possibly plausible apps, such as one that would “organize my closet and give me great outfits to wear every morning.”

In the meantime, most respondents seem content with apps for Facebook, Pinterest, Evernote, TripIt, Instagram and Words With Friends. And while 66 percent see apps as “fun or useful,” just 23 percent view them as “life-changing.”

One respondent described using apps as like “having an occasional piece of chewing gum. A mindless distraction.” Another foresaw a darker future: “My concern is one day becoming too reliant on my phone and then being forced to live without it.” A third resolved to resist apps and “cling to my twentieth-century ideas about interaction with humans being a core part of being human.”

However, nearly all respondents — 97 percent — agreed that, in the future, “everyone will be using apps.”

For full survey results, visit:

SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2012 | PDF | Subscribe | Home