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The apps do tell
[March 02, 2011]

The apps do tell

Mar 02, 2011 (Arab News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- A few months back Acer announced their Alive content store. At the press conference held for the launch there was a good amount of grumbling from journalists because Acer wasn't very clear about how it would be protecting user's privacy -- particularly concerning the sharing of information about content downloads. New research from Professor Trevor Pinch reveals that there is good reason to be concerned about such data collection and sharing because some personality traits can be revealed through people's app downloads and use habits.

At the very least, companies will surely sell such information because it provides insights to better target potential customers.

Pinch is professor of science and technology studies and professor of sociology at Cornell University in New York. In November 2010, Nokia sponsored research involving 5,231 smartphone users in 10 countries -- Brazil, China, Germany, India, Italy, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, UK and USA. The participants were surveyed about the apps on their phones including app genre, variety and usage. In Pinch's analysis of the data, he discovered that there were specific personality categories that he eventually summarized into six archetypes called "appitypes." Appthusiast: These individuals are very social and need to know all the latest trends. They are curious, spontaneous and enjoy being involved in diverse pursuits. They download lots of apps and use them frequently too.

Appcentric: These smartphone users are hard working, energetic and productive. They have a lot of contacts, are tech savvy and want technology to serve their needs. Appcentrics get the most out of the more functional apps on their mobile, which they often use as a pocket-sized computer. While they only download apps occasionally, they frequently use them.

Live Wire: Active, down-to-earth people who enjoy technical, outdoor and athletic pursuits are probably Live Wires. Clever and investigative, Live Wires are sociable, have lots of friends and often seek new experiences and adventures. They are reliable and productive and this is reflected in their downloads, which tend to be a mix of health/fitness, social and travel related apps.

Creators: These people are creative and imaginative. The creator may be a loner or a team player, but when they socialize they often find themselves the life of the party. They rely on the creative capabilities of their mobile and often use social networking sites. They are up on the latest trends and their creative spirit often drives them to brightly colored phones, illustrating that they are fun and open minded.

Connector: Personable, confident and curious are the personality traits of Connectors. They have an uplifting and motivating personality with a knack for making friends. They have a collection of apps that they use again and again, often carrying fun apps on their phone and apps that may be useful to others. They occasionally download free apps and their app catalog could do with a refresh.

Apprentice: These are the novices of the app world. They are sensitive, kind hearted and independent. They have a solid circle of friends and a select group of passionate pursuits. Apprentices are interested in downloading apps but don't know where to start.

The survey while interesting, had its limitations, because it didn't consider the model of smartphone, or the type of data plan -- both of which may have had impacts on the apps that were downloaded and how they were used. For instance, smartphone users with limited data plans might not have used social networking apps much -- even if the concept was very attractive to them. The most popular apps were games, social networking and utilities.

Pinch also believes that people's app use patterns might change as they become more comfortable with their smartphones and the app world. Initially, they may only use the apps that come preinstalled with their phones, but once they explore app stores and see what's available, smartphone users can become very discriminating, and sophisticated in their app use habits.

"Right now, Appthusiasts tend to be younger people, but that could change," said Pinch. "In a study I've done of product reviewers, I discovered that many of those who write reviews are retirees. There is an age shift taking place within the Internet. It used to be a young person's thing, but now older people are fast adapting. For instance, Facebook used to be for the younger generation but now there are a lot of older adults joining. I think it will be the same with smartphones. Teens and young adults have been the most enthusiastic users of smartphones and they've taught their parents. Now those older adults have tried the technology, found it to be useful and so the older demographic of smartphone users will grow." The survey revealed some national characteristics of smartphone users as well as personal traits. For instance, South Africans were the biggest "connectors" with 45 percent regularly using social networking apps, while the Germans and Indians were found to be hardworking and productive "appcentrics." The Italians were the undisputed "live wires," and the Brazilians were the biggest "creators" with their flair for music and style. As might be expected women used social networking apps more than men -- except in China and Spain -- where men were the more social individuals.

"With so many apps available, people can pick the ones most relevant to them, "Pinch said. "The intimacy we share with our phones stamps our personality onto them. They know our tastes, our needs and even our secrets. If you ever want to really know someone, take a look at their apps -- you may be in for a surprise!" To determine your personal appitype, take the quiz at To see more of the Arab News or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2011, Arab News, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For more information about the content services offered by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (MCT), visit

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