The study, 'Mobile app consumer attitudes and experiences', comes from Australia's peak consumer communications body ACCAN and explores user sentiment towards paying for features and services and data privacy in the app ecosystem.
ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin described it as the first study to give insights on Australian consumers in terms of exploring how end-users can be customers, purchasing apps or paying for features within apps and how at the same time they can also be products in that they are an audience for advertising in apps, or represent valuable personal data for advertisers and marketers.
“The study aims to illustrate how Australians are negotiating the tension between being customers and being products,” Corbin said.
“Along with all of the amazing things apps can do, most developers want to design ways of obtaining either money, information or both from users.”
“Essentially consumers are not particularly keen to pay up front for an app’s capabilities apart from the occasional one that they know they will find exceptionally useful,” Corbin said.
“The preference is to treat apps more to try out and if it turns out to offer extra features they want, people may pay at that point.”
On average, users have spent just under $20 in the past 12 months for app downloads, content unlocking, accelerating game play, or removing ads.
42% of those spending money felt that they did not receive what they were expecting, while 18% had spent money unintentionally by incurring automatic credit card charges or taking an action without expectation of charges being levied.
“The most problematic app category for spending is games, accounting for 40 per cent of unintended spend,” Corbin said.
“The greatest risk for unintentional spend is when the device is used by the device owner – 56% overall; children accounted for 29% of occasions and other adults for 16%.”
According to the study, iOS users are more careful than Android users when it comes to granting permissions to apps. 28% cent of iOS users said they reviewed these permissions in detail, compared to only 21% of Android users.
Australians are also seemingly lacking enthuiasm for paying to access a version of an app that respects privacy. The average price respondents were willing to pay for a version of an app that does not access personal data is $6.80, with amounts varying for wealthier households and across age groups.
ACCAN said these prices make it seem as though Australians value their privacy, however the research revealed that 66% said they would in fact pay nothing to download a version of an app that wouldn’t access their personal information.
"Broadly, device security is accepted behaviour, while there is a more relaxed attitude around assessing app information permission requests," the report says.
"There (is) room to improve the degree to which that Australians are well equipped as digital citizens with awareness around the potential should the risks in this behaviour be exploited.
"A key will be to maintain integrity and trust so that consumers remain confident, comfortable and safe. The comfort and knowledge consumers have about the app ecosystem suggests that consumer protection organisations are likely best served by an approach involving continued and regularly updated awareness of app capabilities and usage of personal or device information.
"Ultimately, the data suggest that Australians are relatively comfortable with the current app system and how they interact with it in terms of information and finances.
"The operation of that market, under current regulatory principles appears to generally be functioning to consumers’ satisfaction."
The sample for the survey was just over 1,000 and was representative of the Australian online, smartphone and tablet using population. Some of the questions were borrowed from questions asked of American consumers by the respected Pew Research Center.
The full report is available for download here.