Rise of the ‘Apps Culture’ — Pew Research Center Publications

Cell phone use in the U.S. has increased dramatically over the past decade. Fully eight-in-10 adults today (82%) are cell phone users, and about one-quarter of adults (23%) now live in a household that has a cell phone but no landline phone.

Along with the widespread embrace of mobile technology has come the development of an “apps culture.” As the mobile phone has morphed from a voice device to a multi-channel device to an internet-accessing mini-computer, a large market of mobile-software applications, or “apps,” has arisen.

Among the most popular are apps that provide some form of entertainment (games, music, food, travel and sports) as well as those that help people find information they need and accomplish tasks (maps and navigation, weather, news, banking). With the advent of the mobile phone, the term “app” has become popular parlance for software applications designed to run on mobile phone operating systems, yet a standard, industry-wide definition of what is, and is not, an “app” does not currently exist. For the purpose of this report, apps are defined as end-user software applications that are designed for a cell phone operating system and which extend the phone’s capabilities by enabling users to perform particular tasks.

The most recent Pew Internet & American Life Project survey asked a national sample of 1,917 cell phone-using adults if they use apps and how they use them. Broadly, the results indicate that while apps are popular among a segment of the adult cell phone-using population, a notable number of cell owners are not yet part of the emerging apps culture.