Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Studies Journal

App Consumption: An Exploratory Analysis of the Uses & Gratifications of Mobile Apps

Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Studies Journal

App Consumption: An Exploratory Analysis of the Uses & Gratifications of Mobile Apps

Article excerpt


Since the introduction of smartphones and tablets, mobile application ("app" or "apps") use is an innovation that has grown exponentially worldwide. By the release of the iPhone 5 and introduction of the iPad mini, the Apple App Store claimed more than 25 billion app downloads, with the Android-oriented Google Play close behind (Reisinger, 2012). As of October 2012, Google Play tied with Apple, carrying 700,000 apps (Tibken, 2012). Despite the plethora of apps in both platforms, Apple narrowly outperforms Android in app downloads and purchases, with Android expected to dominate in the long run (Mitroff, 2012). In the face of these usage statistics, this study seeks to provide a better understanding of user motivations and gratifications obtained from app use.

The widespread uptake of app usage is concomitant with consumers' expectations that their smartphones and tablets provide a variety of features and mobility to supplant the need for a desktop computer: instant connectivity, usable and useful apps, feature convergence, and multimodal use not previously seen in desktop computing. What is emerging is an unsettled and competitive market in which app developers must find ways to distinguish an app in a rapidly-growing marketplace (Whipps, 2010). Moreover, understanding app usage is confounded by several reports which suggest that the average lifespan of an app is very short. One study of 30 million paid downloads from Apple's App Store found that only 30% of those paid apps were used the day after they were purchased (Yardley, 2009). On average, only 5% of users who obtain/purchase an app still have that app on their device three months later.

Academic research has yet to catch up with the app phenomenon as it relates to media choice. Mobile app usage presents a whole new range of interdisciplinary studies designed to understand app usage and to determine if, as a medium, apps constitute a new and emergent phenomenon, or something that is an extension and evolution of the familiar. Understanding the uses and gratifications of mobile apps could potentially help developers and marketers navigate the challenges of the app marketplace.


Apple And Android Apps

Apple started the app race with the introduction of the iPhone operating system and Apple App Store in 2008, following the original iPhone release to the United States in 2007. By 2012, the iPhone was in its 5th generation, launched in 100 countries with over 240 carriers (Elmer-DeWitt, 2012). The introduction of the first iPad in 2010 furthered the potential for apps. Weighing only 1.5 pounds and only 0.5 inches thick, the iPad originally came with 12 apps installed specifically for the iPad; however, it could run over 140,000 apps available at that time. It was touted as, "a revolutionary device for browsing the web, reading and sending email, enjoying photos, watching videos, listening to music, playing games, reading e-books and much more," (Apple, 2010). It took the iPad less than a month to hit 1 million sales (Graham, 2012). Since then, the iPad has gone through two additional versions with a mini version hitting the stores in late 2012.

The Apple Store launched on July 10, 2008, with 552 apps, many with free and low-cost options, although some entered the market with much higher price tags (Arrington, 2008). With regular releases of iPhone updates and the introduction of the iPad, app creation rapidly increased. Although Android system apps are competing in volume at 700,000 available apps, experts argue that Apple's vetting system means higher quality apps are available for the iOS systems (Mitroff, 2012), with user engagement being higher with Apple (Bradshaw, 2012).

The Android system is a Linux-based operating system funded by Google and eventually purchased by Google in 2005 (Elgin, 2005; Metz, 2012). The first Android phone was sold in October 2008 and is the most widely used platform accounting for 75% of smartphones currently in use (Bradshaw, 2012). …

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