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Global Apps Study

Posted October 6, 2012, By ,

Websites are dead.

Well, they’re not quite dead but they’re certainly suffering a nasty and terminal case of the Apps.

Let me explain. According to Cisco Systems (and they should know) the world will have 15 Billion connected devices by 2015. And those devices will be in the hands of just 4 Billion people. That’s 3.75 devices per man, woman, child, OAP and babe in arms. Assuming you’re reading this on the 22nd October 2011 that’ll be 1,164 days away. 1,163 sleeps. Just over 3 years.

Hello! McFly! We’re there. We’re in the future.

The gatekeepers aren’t passing back their hardware anymore. They’re passing it down. Reloading their old tech with content for their kids and leaving them to it. We’re about to learn what Digital Native really means.

The children are emancipated. Nothing new there, of course. When Caxton invented the printing press in 1476 it redefined many things but historians of childhood will also tell you that it was the dawning of a redefinition of childhood.

And then guess what happens precisely 500 years later?

You got it, in 1976, the Apple Corporation dropped from the tree of knowledge and another redefinition of childhood began. But of course it took a further 35 years to get to what this article is all about…

Technology is anything that was invented after you were born – the VCR was our parents’ nemesis whilst to us kids in the late 70’s, it was little more than an alarm clock with a tape deck. We didn’t need to know HOW it worked we just need to know how to work IT. If only adults could be so open.

When you and I were children we accessed our own times’ versions of today’s devices – we had our own version of the X-Box with the Atari VCS or Coleco, we had our own iPods in the delicate form of the Sony Walkman and we had a PC with a massive 64K memory. But we didn’t have an equivalent of a tablet. We didn’t even have a graphical interface until 1984 (and guess who gave us that? Cheers, Steve.) The tablet changed the game because access changed. Today our parents have forgotten all about their struggles with the VCR and are happily swiping, pinching and tapping like a 10 year old.

I don’t need to bang on about the interface and the ease and the learning application and portability and all that stuff. But I shall, just for a moment. It’s important.

Watch a child with an iPad. Not on Youtube, do it for real. Now watch one on a website. There’s a reason that they engage more on a touch screen – it’s easier. It’s intuitive and so they do it ever younger. The hand-eye coordination required to use a touch screen interface is achieved in most children by around 9 months. The hand-eye coordination required to use a computer, key board and mouse is reached by about 4 years. And once they are able, children most often use the computer for a quick fix of Miniclip or YouTube between other activities. So, it’s not difficult to see why an app that launches in 4 seconds (including booting the device) versus a branded website (that you’ll get to after about 4 minutes of Windows chugging into life), will inherit the eyeballs. Apps are a quick, instant fix of fun for a dollar, and, if they’re well made, they’ll keep those eyeballs glued for weeks.

Thank God for Apple. And I’m a PC by the way.

But what’s the actuality, the reality of this brave new world of apps and tablets? No one seemed to know so my team spoke with over 2200 parents and children in the US and the UK to find out. We spoke with them about cost, and purchase drivers, what makes a good app and what makes a bad app. We worked with children as young as 3 and as old as 14. These pages only deal with children aged 3 – 8 and their parents – there’s only enough room for the tip of the iceberg and we’ll deal with the older children another time.

Let’s start at the very beginning – who’s got what? Unsurprisingly, children aged 3-8 are likely to be using apps on their parent’s device rather than their own with 53% using their parent’s iPhone and 15% using their parent’s iPad. However, increasingly children have their own devices: 52% of children own their own app capable device, 8% of children their own iPhone (11% other app capable smart phones), 20% have an iPod Touch (12% of 3-5 year olds) and 9% have their own iPad (6% of 3-5 year olds). Read it again. Yip. They have their own iPad. Remember that’s 9% of the universe we spoke with – not necessarily the general population but as dad trades up and as the price comes down that number is going to keep on trucking.

When children are between 3 & 8 parents consider the use of technology to be educational with entertainment emerging from around 6. Then there’s the notion that apps should be both Fun and Educational – and as we learn 15% more if we laugh whilst learning, there’s nothing wrong with that. Except that developers continue churning out well-meaning “fun learning” apps that are not really fun and provide very little learning. And so a shocking 97% of parents said there are too many poor apps on the market. And they would be right.

We found an interesting correlation between location and use. 78% of educational apps were played in the home and 50% of entertainment apps were played out of home. Clearly the device is being used as a “gob-stopper” out of home and as a tool for educational development inside.

And that development is perceived to be significant: 77% believe that their child’s experience on the tablet helps them to learn how to solve problems and that exact same 77% believe it helps them to develop creative thinking. All good stuff – provided the app does what it says on the tin.

Most parents (60%) do not believe technology necessarily equates to lethargy and ‘unhealthy play’ for their children, and explain that balance is key; regulating app time just as they do for other devices. These same parents also say the children are using the “traditional” computer significantly less.

The fact that 30% of parents feel a digital screen is usually needed for their child to keep themselves entertained is a big concern for Kids Industries. There’s no time to explore this aspect of our study in detail here but broadly speaking we found that attempts by developers to replicate more traditional play patterns were largely ineffective and un-engaging. As much as they love this screen stuff and we wouldn’t have jobs without it, children need real play too.

The wonderful thing, as far as kids are concerned, about the world of the apps is that the opportunity to pester and get away with it goes off the scale. The App Store is a thinly veiled digital candy store. Compared to a request driven from a TV advert there is no barrier. It’s just you, your device, your mom and a $1 request. Nag just the right amount and IF it’s perceived as educational you’re going to get your way. But you should ask your dad as he’s 6 times more likely to buy it for you than your mom.

Let’s cut to the chase. Cash is the reason most developers get into apps. And yet the pricing strategies of the marketplace continue to flux, we’re all waiting to see where pricing lands. And there are marked differences between the US and the UK. Here’s some numbers…

US respondents paid $3.26 for their last app and believe a good app should cost around $3.28. However, they are willing to pay up to $3.58 for a good app.

UK respondents paid $3.81 for their last app and believe a good app should cost around $3.85. And they are will to pay $4.22 for a good app.

In the specific 6 -8 bracket US parents put a good app at $3.68, will pay $3.95 and actually paid $4.19 for their last app. The UK the picture is very different – one of the very few differences to emerge throughout the study. UK parents of 6 – 8’s last paid $3.38, believe a good app should cost $4.17 but would be willing to pay up to $4.56. There’s a strategy lurking in there for you somewhere.

The parents we spoke with had downloaded an average of 6.8 apps over the last quarter, averaging one app every 12 days. That’s 27.2 apps for children a year – circa $100.00 per year.

Whilst the majority of parents (95%) say they interact with their children while they are using apps, they rarely look for a parent/child participation element when choosing an app. Preferring casual interaction or an assisting role rather than being required to participate directly. They tell us that they use the device much as they have used TV in the past – it’s a babysitter. No change there then.

And they feel able to do this because 65% of 3-5 year olds and 87% of 6-8 year olds can use apps without adult help or instruction. Better stats than for using the epg – they don’t need to read.

A child’s desire or a request for an app is overwhelmingly the biggest reason for downloads, 30% of parents say it is the primary reason and a further 17% say it is the secondary reason for downloading.

Child development and education, entertainment outside of home and introduction of technology at a young age are also important reasons for apps downloads with 20%, 19% and 17% of parents respectively saying these were primary reasons for downloading. In the words of Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben, with great power comes great responsibility. Parents respond to their children’s request for an app. There are fewer barriers to purchase than perhaps any other commercial transaction involving the family – all you need are those 8 little letters and a world of fun is at your finger tips. And that’s a great motivator if you’re 7. But the same is true of apps purchase as of anything else that could leverage pestering – it’s all fine if the parent sees the value but if its rubbish and the parent can’t see the benefit then you’re going to achieve nothing except kill your equity by getting kids to pester for rubbish. Get the product right – for child and parent.

But the greatest values and developmental experiences aren’t necessarily in the app, but in the application…

Laurence is 2. His favourite book is The Gruffalo. His favourite app is Talking Rex – the voice emulator thingy. So as his little brain starts to understand what it means to nurture he connects his 2 favourite things. There he is happily talking away to the screen – he assumes the T-Rex is real, of course – when a penny drops and like a bolt out of the blue he tells T-Rex to “Wait!” and runs off. He reappears 30 seconds later with a big grin and a copy of the Gruffalo. He sits down, opens his book and starts reading to T-Rex. Not reading reading, he’s two. But he’s experiencing social, cognitive and emotional development all in one simple activity. Of course it’s no different from reading to your teddy bear but the app allowed this to happen, a traditional website couldn’t.

Websites are dead. Long live the app, or whatever comes next.



Image: http://www.ivillage.com/apps/5-k-17769

work/iconTagSmall.png android apple apps attitudes children devices downloads educational entertaining global in-app insight ios ipad iphone kids market marketing mobile motivation parents play purchase drivers research study tablets websites

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