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Mobile Apps: who isn't using one?

By Daniel Kosir |

With the number of devices that support them increasing, mobile Apps are generating a lot of hype. Angry Birds, Urban Spoon and Google Maps, to name a few have experienced immense popularity among users. But looking at the bigger picture, do Canadians really care?

According to Ipsos Reid's recent Mobil-ology Study of Smartphone, Tablet and eReader users in Canada, the answer is yes.

The study indicates that around 75 per cent of mobile device users have downloaded at least one App to their mobile device, 71 per cent of which were Smartphone users and 80 per cent of which were Tablet users.

Placed in context, however, these numbers are not overwhelmingly high. Only 23 per cent of online adult Canadians own a Smartphone and only three per cent own a Tablet.

"In absolute terms, usage across Canada is still relatively small, but for marketers, there are great opportunities to create engaged consumers by creating engaging Apps," says Mary Beth Barbour, Senior Vice President of Ipsos Reid.
Though the numbers of people downloading Apps for Smartphones and Tablets translates to 16 per cent and 2 per cent of the online adult population in Canada respectively, Barbour believes that these numbers have nowhere to go but up.

"The importance of Apps cannot be downplayed," she says. "We believe they are fundamental to device engagement and as mobile penetration becomes mainstream, so too will the proportion of App users in Canada."

App use varies across devices

The study also found that user engagement with mobile Apps is different across devices.

With Smartphone users, experience with Apps varies considerably depending on the operating system of the device. The study shows that 96 per cent of iPhone owners have downloaded an App, compared to only 59 per cent of BlackBerry users. Those using Smartphones with different operating systems (primarily Android) fall in between, at 66 per cent.

This variation is also evident with the number of Apps users have on their devices. On average, users of Smartphones have 19 Apps on their device. This number is so high due primarily to iPhone users, who report having 34 Apps on their device, five times more than their BlackBerry counterparts (6 Apps). This gap, however, is expected to narrow as BlackBerry adopts a more sophisticated operating system.

Barbour also notes that the study suggests that people use their Smartphones and Tablets for different purposes. "The Smartphone in principal delivers on utility yet the Tablet fundamentally serves an entertainment purpose," she says.

"Where we do see similarities between the two mobile devices relates to the genres of Apps Canadians are using. Regardless of device, Weather and Gaming Apps top the list in terms of popularity."

The following chart indicates the percentage of online adult Smartphone and Tablet users who have downloaded Apps in the listed genres:

App Genre Smartphone Tablet
Weather 65% 67%
Games 64% 76%
Social Networking 57% 41%
Maps and Navigation 52% 47%
Instant Messaging 43% 21%
Entertainment 42% 53%
Music and Audio 36% 43%
Search Engine 35% 46%
News 32% 49%
Sports 28% 24%
Books 18% 61%

Though the use of Apps by genre on Smartphones and Tablets show quite divergent numbers, Weather and Gaming Apps enjoy the highest popularity on both platforms. Overall, the mobile Apps industry is expected to expand across all genres as the number of devices available to support them grows.

For more information on the methodology, sample size and execution of the study, visit the Ipsos website.

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