In today’s technologically advanced world, nearly everyone has or has used a smart phone or tablet—be it an Apple device, an Android device or another various type of mobile device. And if you are one of the many who has used a smart device, then you have probably used mobile applications (or “apps” for short) to get directions, connect with friends, play games, manage different aspects of your life, or one of the many uses that mobile applications offer. At surface level, nearly everyone is familiar with mobile applications, and what they can offer, but what exactly are these “apps,” and what should we, as consumers know about them?
According to a report from the Federal Trade Commission, mobile applications are software programs that are downloaded and accessed directly through a mobile device, such as a smart phone, tablet, music player or over-the-top (OTT) player. Examples of mobile applications that many of us are familiar with are Angry Birds (a game app), Mint (a Finance Management app), EverNote (a note taking and productivity app), Google Chrome (a web browsing app) and Spotify (a music streaming app). It is important to note that some applications are only offered on certain devices. For example, an app developer may only create a version of his or her application for Apple products or vice versa, while another developer may create a version for both types of devices. It really depends on the preferences or objectives of the application developer.
Furthermore the applications mentioned, and all other mobile applications are offered through a marketplace, where users can directly download them. Users who have an Apple product download applications from the “Apple App Store,” while Android users download their applications from the “Google Play Store,” and gaming consoles like the PlayStation offer apps in its PlayStation Store. Again, some may be available only in the Play Store, and vice versa. Some applications are completely free, some are free to download but offer in-app purchases, and other applications charge a (usually small) fee to be downloaded (FTC, n.d.). Because of the widespread use and almost dependency on mobile applications, there has a developed a huge industry for app development, and even if an application is free, the individual or company that developed the app is most likely still earning a ton of money through in-app advertisements. Catherine Clifford, a highly-respected industry expert and editor for Entrepreneur Magazine, predicts that by 2017, the mobile application market will be a $77 billion industry What that means for consumers is that there will be thousands if not tens of thousands more mobile applications being offered in the near future, and it will only continue to grow. Because users often have a lot of important information on their mobile devices, and mobile applications often require access to certain parts of that information, as mobile applications become more and more dominant, it is very important for users to remain cautious and knowledgeable when downloading applications and which applications they should share their information with. Mobile applications do have the potential to bring unfathomable benefit to users everywhere, but they can also increase issues such as identity theft and credit card fraud, so users need to be very aware of potentially dangerous applications. Like anything in life, applications must be approached with a bit of caution. When downloading applications it’s recommended to always download apps that are reputable and have a lot of positive reviews.