back to article Most smartphoners don't give a flip about apps

Apple has over 250K offerings in its iTunes App Store, and the Android Market around 80K — but a new survey has shown that only 12.4 per cent of handset users cite the number of available apps as an influence on their decision of which phone to buy. What's more, a large percentage of smartphone users couldn't give a fig as to …


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  1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Locked vs Unlocked

    IMHO most uses wouldn't know the difference between a Locked Phone and an unlocked one apart from the network branding.

    I have both an Android (HTC Desire, unlocked, personal) and an iPhone (4g, locked, company). I have less than 10 apps installed in total and only one of those is one that I have paid for.

    The app that gets most use? on the iPhone that seems to work pretty well. Uses the GPS location pretty well.

    Yet I've seen people with dozens & dozens of apps installed.

    When asked do thay use it?

    Nope. Don't know how to delete it though


    Which makes calls better?

    I'm afraid to say, the iPhone. Side by side and on the same network the iPhone wins hands down. But hey, what is one user's experience.

    The iPhone is also smother in operation than the Desire.

    Locked vs unlocked?

    It don't mean a lot to most people.

    Off down the boozer for a pint of Fullers.

  2. Petrea Mitchell

    That's not a flaw, it's a feature

    "[W]hen discussing pre-loaded apps, it doesn't distinguish between apps provided by the phone manufacturer — think music-player and maps apps — and service provider–supplied add-ons."

    Users can't tell the difference. Any data from a survey asking them to try to distinguish between the two would be useless.

  3. Number6

    Data User

    I don't make many phone calls, but I do use my phone for email and occasional on-the-road web browsing. However, the only apps I've added were Google Maps, Profimail (better than the phone's incumbent app) and an ssh client. I don't need anything else.

  4. SirWally

    Then why buy a smartphone?

    If all you care about is making phone calls and you don't care about apps, why buy a smartphone?

    Regarding bloatware -- I agree. I hate the (cr)apps that carriers load on phones. Thank you [INSERT CARRIER HERE] but I can better apps elsewhere. And why on earth do they feel it necessary to "protect me" by now allowing me to remove their crappy software? It's reasons like these that "tech savvy" people prefer a clean slate (or wait until we know the phone can be rooted). We know what we want, and it most definitely not what _you_ think we want/need. I would argue that most of the time the carrier-provided (cr)apps are desirable to no-one, except clueless people who don't know there are alternatives.

    1. Balorm


      It's pretty simple actually. All the dev effort is put into smartphones not regular cell phones. With the carriers in my area, you can't get a decent cell phone anymore. They are all poorly made, flimsy pieces of electronics. If you want a good, well made phone it has to be a smartphone.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Smart this

    Funny thing, when I buy a phone, I want GSM 850/900/1800/1900 MHz, 10 number keys, no camera, and definitely no extra apps.

  6. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

    "even though most users don't care about apps"

    You worded that backwards. It's "expect the rising tide of junkware to continue rising — BECAUSE most users don't care about apps".

    Most users will make do with what is preloaded on their handset, and even if they don't use your preloaded apps they will not be upset by them. Ergo, if you want to push your apps, preload craploads of them on the handset, you can't lose.

    In other words, you can just put your apps in a store and reach 12.4 % of the market (and 12.4 demanding % at that, who will sling massive amounts of turd your way if you do anything remotely wrong).

    Or you can preload your apps and reach 87.6% of the market (100% minus the aforementioned 12.4%, assuming they will all go get something else from the store just to piss you off). And they will be quiet, docile consumers ready to take whatever you feel like giving them (you in the back, stop murmuring "Mac users").

    If I had apps to push and no morals I know which way I'd go.

  7. Terry 6 Silver badge


    How many users actually know what their shiny new phones will come with, or care?

    They mostly buy into a fashion statement. So it's a Blackberry/iPhone, and a Hollister "hoody" or a rather nasty low quality sweatshirt with "Timberland" in 3" high letters across the chest.

    (Original Timberlandstuff had a discrete label, was high quality and functional - then they discovered the fashion market - see the parallel there?)

  8. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Expensive fat-fingered mistakes

    What griped my ass about my Droid was the Verizon voice mail thing that tried to get me to sign up for an extra $20/mo voicemail service every time I tapped it by mistake. I have no idea what the difference was between the service and the voicemail I already had.

    I rooted the phone just to get rid of that damned app.

    I wouldn't mind the bloatware quite so much if it wasn't impossible to delete.

  9. Glenn Amspaugh

    Another sterling example...

    ...of how Apple's walled garden and draconian methods have scared customers across the phone world in to saying they don't care about apps. Darn you Apple. Darn you to HECK!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Android is the new symbian

    I've suspected this might happen for a while, and I suspect it's actually happening. A lot of smart phone buyers don't want a smart phone, they want a new phone with a touch screen and all the icons, like the iphone. They walk out of the shop with an android handset, and use it to make calls and text people.

    I've certainly seen people with an iphone doing that too, but I suspect android is going to replace symbian as the standard phone os for touchscreen phones, and get used in the same kind of way. The iphone is priced so that you have to want the apps and all the rest unless you're loaded.

    Anyone seen stats on how many people actually use apps on the various phone OSes? (Although it needs another 12 months.. android sales were initially dominated by the geekier end of the market, which would skew the stats).

  11. Dazed and Confused

    Locked phones

    Is this "most users don't care about locked phones" some sort of weird US centric view point related to the staggeringly low rate of passport ownership legend?

    If you travel then a locked phone is a mega mistake. I made this error once, just once and never again. Pretty much the first thing to do after touching down is to go buy a SIM card. Its either that or do what an idiot friend of mine once did and run up a £1700 phone bill in a month while travelling.

    Even travelling within the UK is can be useful to be able to swap SIM to one that gives you coverage if you ever venture out of the major cities.

    1. Stuart Archer


      Somehow, I suspect that the majority of UK phone users are not going to want to faff about with swapping SIM cards, given that a lot of the customers I've dealt with in the Carphone Warehouse, probably most, aren't even comfortable installing the SIM in the first place. It seems to be mostly business customers and the odd techie that use this kind of service, or I think we'd be seeing a lot more dual SIM handsets on the market.

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      @ Dazed and Confused

      Swap SIMs for coverage? The UK still hasn't gotten around to antenna sharing yet? <sigh>

      1. Alfred

        Not my understanding of it.

        I think (I stand by to be corrected) the point is that if you get a local SIM, you pay local rates. If you stick with your UK SIM whilst in another country, you pay an awful lot more for your phone calls.

  12. Joe Drunk

    The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    Most people have no clue why they're buying a laptop or PC. To them it's just another appliance like a microwave oven. They press the right buttons and out comes heated up leftovers of last night's dinner or popcorn. They have no idea what the other buttons do nor do they care. These people buy smartphones because when it's time to renew their contract a fast-talking salesman shows them a phone shinier than their current phone and it has facebook. Sold!!

    Smartphones are really nothing more than the merger of a PDA (and GPS unit in some cases) and cell phone. I agree that the most important part of any cell phone is phone calls and anything additional is just fluff....Since you do carry this thing with you all the time however it is nice to have additional functionality like being able to view the entire NYC subway map in PDF to plot my destination, viewing Word files received in email and replying with comments from any location, browsing news sites such as El Reg when waiting in line at Motor Vehicle Services, checking sports scores when I can't watch the game, playing games or watching Xvids during those long nights waiting for updates during network changes.

    In summary most users don't give a flip about apps because they don't know why they're buying a smartphone in the first place other than it's new and shiny.

  13. Robert Forsyth

    Some title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits

    Perhaps many people don't feel they can afford $500 for a mobile, but 18 x £35 is OK.

  14. skuba*steve

    sorry, i must be in the minority...

    Ok, so I'm a technical savvy user, but in the workshop we all have either desires or iphones. Cisco vpn clients, rdp/ssh/vnc capability, good internet facilities, and a myriad other apps and functions have enabled us to add enormous value to ourselves, as well as making our job easier. Last night I repaired a failing exchange server while I was in the pub with nothing but my HTC desire and free WiFi from the pub. How frickin cool is that?

    My wife hasb an iPhone and is totally socially connected...she couldn't be without it. In fact, about the least important thing about it is the ability to make calls! Too many folk feigning fashionable indifference methinks !

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    dont understand the question?

    "80% of users would not care if they had no apps".... but when they were gone would ask; Where are all my games gone? I didn't think you meant games ... and why cant i use facebook anymore... etc etc

    I have a friend who will not get a smart phone as the tech of using a normal phone with a web browser to access facebook reigns in her use of the blasted site... and that is self inflicted.

  16. lucmars

    the content matter

    People just want the content, they don't care about the apps nor the OS as far as they get the content.

    That's why they buy a smartphone rather than a cell phones, because they can get or carry the content (music, video, email...).

    Of course they still want to call and they like all shiny toys.

    Same thing with a PC, the content matter.

  17. RDW


    'Most smartphoners don't give a flip about apps'

    You might get that impression if you just glance at the original article, and don't realise that it covers all kinds of phones, not just smartphones. Or you might give tha impression if you want to spin it a particular way. But if you read the survey report it says the exact opposite:

    'For smartphone users, it would be reasonable to expect that the app stores would be more important in the purchase decision than preloaded applications. And, indeed, about 80 percent of the smartphone users said that the applications in the app store were a purchase factor. However, more than two thirds said the pre-installed apps also contributed to the purchase decision.'

    So smartphone users like apps, downloaded or pre-installed.

  18. aThingOrTwo

    Size vs Quality

    Isn't the whole point of having a big app catalogue that there is competition between developers to create the best xyz application for a given task?

    Therefore ultimately it's not really the size of the catalogue that is important, but the quality of the apps. It's just that having a large catalogue is a means to achive this outcome.

    That indicates there is probably a threshold - i.e. a figure which is enough to create diversity and competition.

    Hope that makes some sense. But to assess the importance of a large catalogue to consumers requires a slightly differerntly phrased question?

    1. Niels 2
      IT Angle

      lol I can't believe a trusty journalist from The Reg messed up the title so bad!

      I just posted a response at the bottom, saying how the results didn't wash with people's smartphone purchasing patterns.

      But I hadn't gone to check the survey itself...

      If it was about phones in general, certainly the results make perfect sense, and this article is an embarrasment for The Reg...

      Factual correction incoming asap?

  19. Niels 2

    If that study's methods or conclusions were correct, Nokia would be smartphone king

    Lets see, Nokia's phones are known for great hardware, but there isn't that much software you can install on them. Sure, they can give you some impressive sounding number like hey, we got 10.000 apps for Symbian, but that number includes 10 year old crap without touch screen support, and Its tough to name more than 3 ebook readers to run on an N97. Out of those 3, ZX Reader's certificate is expired, so you can't install it without a hack. The built in pdf reader uses up 30% of the screen for the UI with no available full screen mode... I think anybody who tries to read a pdf that way will find it too annoying to bother a second time, without needing to be any kind of a smartphone software specialist.

    So, users don't care about apps, but they leave for the new smart phone brands that boast loads of apps... Its great when someone completes a study where the results completely go against whats actually happening, and they don't see the slightest hint to double check their methods?

    ...Oh wait, I know how that must have happened: some Telco or other invested party was paying for the study!

    I'll admit there maybe many people who bought a smartphone cause their nephew told them THAT ONE was the one to get... and the good family member wouldn't know crapware from hardware. They just remember that their nephew told them you can listen to music on it, and read books while riding the subway. Last not least, they could talk for free to family members over something he'll install for them.

    I guess its Steve Jobs' presentations and the 5% of tech savvy folks who talked the other 95% out of just buying one of those high resolution LG camera phones, completely free of apps..

    So, Motorola, Sony, HTC, Samsung and LG must all be missing the true market with their Android phones, and that's the fault of those pesky tech savvy people, who are hyping everybody into buying something that means nothing to them.

    I'm not sure I buy that... even cows on a meadow are picky with grass and pick the stuff that tastes best to them.

  20. heyrick Silver badge

    What I am looking for...

    My phone (ancient Nokia) has J2ME. On it, I have installed OperaMini 4.2, Sideralis2 (a star chart, as an itty mobile is a handy thing to carry when out stargazing, more convenient than a laptop), and a broken program (Gpstrack) to record data from a Bluetooth GPS dongle that I picked up for a few euros in a boot sale. It is broken in that it seems to record, but is unable to 'play back' (or save/send/email), though in record mode (if I ignore the recording) it gives a nice on-screen compass plus position/direction/speed markers. Okay, so it's a new toy...

    Never really desired for anything else on my mobile. It'd be sweet to store/read PDFs, but for an inch-sized screen and slow processor, there are limitations! For a better experience, I'd just load a real program on my netbook, which is why I don't have a need for anything much on the phone.

    So put me in the "don't care about an app store" category. I'd much prefer it to have a good receiver (weak signal area) plus a decent battery life so if I forget to charge it, the world won't end.

  21. MorpheusUK

    Quality and category not volume is what counts

    I do own a N97 and whilst I have installed a few apps I am not bothered about the number available so much as the areas covered. I don't really care if there are 100, 000 or 10, 000 apps as long as I can get the ones I'm interested in. In my case for the most part this has been the case. I have two paid apps (including a replacement PDF reader instead of the bloatware unremovable adobe reader installed which if you purchase installs another copy anyway as that version is out of date) and about ten or twelve free apps plus a few games. The only apps i haven't been able to find were more might as wells if around rather than really useful stuff I need.

    When my contract is eventually up I will probably go Android (although I wont totally discount Symbian which should be at Symbian^4 by then) because of the increased likelihood of being able to get all the apps I want in free versions including the might as wells and the fact that it looks like a stronger platform at present. However my prime reason for buying a phone is still making phone calls, text messages followed by music player, simply web browsing on the move and a decent camera with a flash. Slightly less important are the functions that used to be provided by my PDA i.e. calendar, todo list and appointments, full contact details and the ability to send the odd short email as needed. Serious web browsing and more complex document interaction is the domain of my netbook which is far better at the job than a 3.5" screen on a smartphone even if it has a keyboard.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    I've rather liked all my Nokias...

    Every Nokia phone I have owned was easy to use and very durable, and that counts for a lot. The one I have one now has lasted for years, and it has most of the features I wan't. I've been tempted to update to an iPhone or other smartphone because some aps would be nice, but the phone and data plan packages are way too high... and the phones themselves are also kind of big... The phone I have now is incredibly light, and a cm thick, it's survived a half dozen long drops to a hard floor. Like I said, that counts for a lot. So while I think aps are nice, I guess I really don't care that much about them.

    1. David Beck

      Buy an E Series while you can

      If you want to buy a phone with keys and real functionality built-in buy an E Series before Nokia "iPhone'ise" the series. I've put an extra in a drawer for when my E52 dies. The E52 is not a "real" smartphone since it doesn't have a touchscreen. It does have wifi, gps, voip built-in (SIP), office apps, FM radio with location dependent presets, DNLA (client and server), etc. You can add Symbian apps (no touchscreen needed) for other things, social networking for example. I've added an F1 app and Bloomberg plus the Google apps. I get about 4 days of use before I need to charge. I would have bought a 6700 but without wifi I loose the VoIP to my SIP account and Skype to Go/iSkoot are not my first choice.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Sad but true

    Nokia's N900 is no commercial success, either. There are too few of us who need a mostly open Linux computer in their pocket. It comes with a preloaded phone app, too, but I rarely use it.

  24. Pirate Peter

    no sh!t sherlock

    "In other words, a majority of users purchase mobile phones primarily because — mirabile dictu — they want to make phone calls."

    you mean people buy mobile phones to make and recieve phone calls

    you will have all the the people at google and apple running round screaming that we don't want to be monetorised, tracked and have our location sold to all and sundry

    reson why i will never by anything apple or andriod

    mines the one with the old nokis brick in the pocket

  25. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Survey may be flawed

    This survey is flawed I think. I will use myself as an example.

    Would I buy a IPhone versus Droid based on how many apps are in the app store? No. Do I care about preloaded apps on the phone? No. So according to the survey I don't care about apps and intend to use a smartphone as a phone.

    Not so! When I do get some kind of Android phone (with keyboard) I intend to load it down with so many apps it'll be ridiculous. But, I answered "no" on caring about how many apps because 1) Both have so many apps it's ridiculous, I mean 80,000? That's more than I can possibly use already. 2) There's plenty of other reasons to not want an IPhone. I don't like Apple's attitude regarding IPhone, I can get a phone that encourages mucking about with it, so I will. This makes apps pale in comparison. Regarding preloaded apps, I just don't care about that too much, if I throw on page after page of apps having a few already on there won't get in my way that much.

    So yeah.

  26. Chris 3

    Cracking journalism.

    "Most smartphoners don't give a flip about apps"

    From the report's exec summary:

    "More than two-thirds of all respondents said the pre-installed apps were a factor driving the purchase of their device. Approximately 80 percent of smartphone users said that the kinds or quality of applications in the app stores for their smartphone was a factor in their purchase decision. A majority of these smartphone users still considered pre-installed apps in their purchase decision in addition to applications available via the app store."

  27. Ravenger

    Bloatware one thing uninstallable bloatware is another

    I've got no problem with manufacturers putting their apps on the phone as long as I can uninstall the darn things.

    The thing that really irritates me about my HTC Desire is the pre-loading of apps that I can't remove, as they're installed to the system area.

    I have no interest in the stockmarket, yet the Desire comes pre-loaded with a stockmarket app that I can't uninstall, and which can use bandwidth from my extremely generous 500mb data allowance that O2 think is ample for an internet centric smart phone.

    O2 also have an unusable german navigation app installed on UK phones which you can't uninstall either, which is even more irritating given that the Desire doesn't have a lot of internal app storage.

    It's enough to make me want to root my phone just so I can remove the bloat. So much for Andoid being an open, user customisable platform.

    Love the phone otherwise though.

  28. Jim 59


    It's like a "music centre" from the early 80s - does many things but nothing very well.

    iphone Makes calls but not as well as a simple mobile phone

    iphone can be like your PC but not as good

    You can surf the web but poorly

    Is mobile but chunkier than a simple mobile phone and needs daily charging.

    Does sat nav but not as good as an actual sat nav

    Music centres were very popular in their day.

  29. zaax

    Phone not needed

    I just wonder if the phone part is actully needed. I rarely use it, mostly emails and txts.The calender is very useful as is Google maps.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      @Jim 59

      So you're the guy who I see lugging a phone, pager, watch, desktop PC, sat-nav, 200 books, his entire CD collection, OS map, compass, games console (with TV) and dSLR camera around town with him every day....

  30. Sandy Ritchie
    Dead Vulture


    I love the way The Register (and its many posters) brand anyone wanting something for nothing a Freetard..... and yet Jailbreakers are completely acceptable members of society.

    If you want a product unlocked to a Mobile operator then buy the smartphone off plan.

  31. Gil Grissum


    I seriously doubt that anyone buys a smartphone just to make phone calls. Smartphone buyers buy smartphones for the apps. It's doubtful that there were any iPhone users included in this survey. It would be totally pointless to own an iPhone just to make phone calls. Perhaps the first iPhone version buyers didn't care as much about apps because there weren't any. If they mixed in dumb phone users with smart phone users in this survey, then the data is flawed.

  32. Niels 2

    Bloatware solution not so difficult?

    @ Bloatware: There are ways to get unlocked, unbloatware'd phones with the same plans from O2 or whatever telco of your choice. You just have to be smarter than to go into a store. There's various independent Phone plan sellers, that will provide an unlocked phone with the same telco plan you would be able to pick in a store, and usually for less, even.

    I got my i8910 that way last year. Its neither locked nor branded by any telco, But I got a major telco's 20 euro a month flat rate plan. Crappy Symbian 5th edition is still making me wish that there had been an Android phone with a 720P video cam in 2009. i8910 users on the forums are clamoring for an Android port...

    You can find independent phone plan sellers on the internet or on ebay.. ebay is easiest... Just check their ebay reputation and any fine print. (which people tend to not do in the local phone store - idk why) Most important feature for me: I can plug in a different SIM when I travel.

    @ Nokia Hardware lovers:

    Yeah, Nokia is (somewhat) consistent about making good quality hardware. At least they don't dare solder in the batteries...

    But that's not enough because Symbian S60 5th makes me regret my purchase every day. Why? I'm not even missing access to some esoteric tricorder software, or the uber social networking integration. Its about the simplest functions possible that absolutely stink!

    1) I would simply like the crummy built in PDF reader to have a full screen mode, because using up 30% of the screen for UI buttons makes it unusable for any serious reading.

    2) The audio player plays back audio well enough, but try to make a playlist... ouch

    3) play back video? scale/crop features are less than half baked.

    4) Codec support is poor. Half my h264 video plays back, the other half doesn't. And the player is buggy as hell... I downloaded all symbian 5th video players I could find with searches, and none of them solved the problems. No wonder Samsung and Sony both announced to stop making any phones with Symbian. Makes perfect sense to me...

    the list goes on... aggravating enough to pass 11 month left on my plan to a household member, just to get a phone with a different OS...

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