Smartphone App Downloads Nearly Doubled in 2 Years

Mobile app downloads are on the rise — so much so that half of adult cellphone owners have apps on their devices, according to a new study.

a survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that 50 percent of cellphone owners had apps on their mobile devices in August 2011, up from 43 percent from the previous year. This includes phones that came preloaded with apps.

The amount of adult cellphone owners with downloaded apps has nearly doubled in the past two years, from 22 percent in September 2009 to 38 percent in August 2011. [Read: Banned! top 10 Apps that Got Zapped]

The survey was conducted among 2,260 adults ages 18 and over on both landline and cellphones. The margin of error for the total sample is 2 percentage points.

The survey also found that among the 10 percent of adults who currently own a tablet computer, about 75 percent report downloading apps to their tablet.

The most commonly downloaded apps are those that provide regular updates about everyday information such as news, weather, sports or stocks (74 percent), the report said. Apps that help people communicate with friends and family are also popular (67 percent), as well as those that help the user learn about something in which they are interested (64 percent).

Although the survey did not ask respondents about gaming apps, the report cited a recent Nielson study that found these apps to be the most popular, with 64 percent of app downloaders having used a game app in the prior 30 days. 

“as we’ve seen with almost all new Internet technologies over the past decade, apps have gained a foothold in a fairly concentrated segment of adults and will likely spread from there to a more diverse population,” said Kristen Purcell, author of the report and associate director for research at Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. 

“however, it was surprising to us that only some apps have sticking power,” Purcell told TechNewsDaily. “The app market is huge, so you would think people are using apps constantly. People are only using a handful of apps on a regular basis.”

About 46 percent of adults who download apps said they have paid for one, which is statistically equivalent to the 47 percent who reported doing so in May 2010.

Reach TechNewsDaily senior writer Samantha Murphy at Follow her on Twitter @SamMurphy_TMN.