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Patch Picks: Apps by the Numbers

Nielsen’s recent study of smartphone users revealed some interesting practices. Can you guess what we like to do best with our phones?

Perhaps the most eye-catching number in Nielsen's study, which followed smartphone users over a 30-day period and came out last month: iPhone users spent twice as much time playing mobile games as did other mobile gamers. They clocked an average of 14.7 playing hours per month. That’s a lot of time to spend on Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, and Cut the Rope. Android users weren’t too far behind. They averaged 9.3 hours per month while those with Blackberries averaged a comparatively paltry 4.5.

Android, iPhone, and Windows Phone 7 users were also most likely to download their games whereas those with Blackberries and feature phones played preloaded ones.

The most popular mobile apps used over the 30-day study period were—no surprise here—games at 64 percent. Weather apps were a close second at 60 percent. With all the funky weather we’ve been having, it’s not hard to see why. Incidentally, The New York Times and PC Magazine have lauded Weather HD for the iPhone.

Social networking and Maps and Navigation were also frequently downloaded categories, coming in at 56 percent and 51 percent respectively. (As a frequent Metro-North commuter, I like onTime: MNR Free for train schedules.)

At the bottom of the list of apps used were those for Health (13 percent), Education and Learning (11 percent) and Household/Personal Care (6 percent). This might be because apps can’t really help you with these categories—no app can actually dust the baseboards or mop the kitchen floor. Or it could be that we’re spending too much time playing games. Seriously. Enough with the birds already.

Mobile users were also most willing to pay for game apps as compared to other categories. According to the study, 93 percent of app downloaders would pay for games. And though productivity apps in no way topped the charts of apps used, accounting for only 21 percent of those, 84 percent of respondents reported being willing to pay for productivity apps.

Presumably, really useful productivity apps—like Documents to Go, which allows users to compose and edit Word, Excel, and Powerpoint documents and email them to their computers—actually do enhance productivity and are worth a pretty penny (in other words, $7.99). But are you really going to pay $2.99 for a Grocery List app? I’m not saying it’s not tempting to be able to synch your grocery list with family and friends, but good old -fashioned texting (‘Get Milk, please’) works too. Also, I’m pretty sure pens and paper still exist.

Which apps are the silliest or most useful? Which are you most likely to download and pay for? 

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