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What apps do you use most on your phone?

Do higher ed people have different app behavior than civilians?  

How does app usage vary by social group?

I think that we are going to have a new social science of information. The consumption, production, and sharing of information is the religion and the work of our era. We worship and are captives of information. The story of the mobile apps that we use is increasingly the story of our lives.

The apps that I use most on my iPhone 6s Plus are:

#1 - Mail: The benefit and the curse of mobile e-mail is that we are never ever far from e-mail. We can check and answer e-mail wherever we are, and at every hour of the day. At this point I’m resigned to the fact that professional life will forever and always be run by e-mail - and increasingly mobile e-mail. I envy those Slack users that have emancipated themselves from e-mail, but I doubt that I’ll ever join them.  The e-mail app that I use is the native iOS Mail app. I tried to switch to the OWA app, but I found it slow.

#2 - Audible: Every audiobook that I listen to is delivered through my iOS Audible app. The Audible app provides analytics on my audiobook reading. Today I’ve listened to 1 hour and 56 minutes of The Geography of Genius. The app tells me that to date (since I started listening to books on an iPhone) that I have listened to 2 months, 7 days, 17 hours, and 14 minutes of audiobooks. I have 538 audiobooks in my library. The only badges the Audible App has not given me are the Dabbler and the Social Butterfly badge.

#3 - Kindle: The iPhone 6s Plus is great for digital book reading. The screen size is almost as big as my Kindle Paperwhite. Having my digital books always with me is a revelation. Any free moments are opportunities to read a few pages. The availability of books anywhere and everywhere is one of the reasons that I’m never bored. Lines are no problem. I’ll wait as long as it takes at the airport, the dentist office, or the DMV.

#4 - IHE: Actually, I don’t use the IHE app - but rather I have an icon for the IHE home page on my phone that takes me to the page on the mobile Safari browser. IHE works really well as a mobile web app. Fast, easy, and responsive - with no loss of fidelity from the full browser version. Do you use the IHE app or do you, like me, go to the web page on your phone?

#5 - NYTimes: The very best way to read the NYTimes is on a phone through the app. Better than paper, and much better than through a browser. The NYTimes app allows offline reading - meaning that as long as you have opened the app when you had connectivity that you can always read the latest news. The app is clean, uncluttered, and easy to navigate. The length of stories works well on screen real estate of a phone.

#6 - Twitter: I’m not a huge Twitter person by any stretch. But I do like to scroll through tweets (and hit the links) on the iOS Twitter app. Spending time on Twitter on my phone is more a few minute break thing than a concentrated activity. In just a few minutes it is easy to scroll through lots of tweets.

#7 - Hulu, HBO Now, Amazon Video, Netflix:  I’m grouping all these apps into a single app - as I use them all. To be very clear, I consume plenty of video. Not owning a TV does not mean not watching lots of TV. This week I’ve been binging on Aziz Ansari’s brilliant Master of None. I also watched the new Mad Max movie, and am making my through the final season of Nurse Jackie. All of my video consumption is on my phone. I don’t like to use my computer because my computer reminds me of all the work I should be doing. Video on my phone is good enough that I want to watch, but not so great that I get lulled into hours of viewing.

#8 - EdX:  I do almost all my MOOCing on the mobile app. Most of my open online education is on the edX platform, largely because my institution is part of the edX Consortium.  My way of doing open online education is almost purely as consumer. I tend not to do the assignments or participate in the discussions - but rather I spend time with the videos (usually at 1.5x speed). I like to MOOC on my phone because to MOOC on my computer feels like work (work that I do at night and on the weekends), where participating in open online classes on my phone feels like relaxation.

What is missing from this list of apps that I use most is almost as interesting as what is included.

If the phone feature of my phone is an app - it is an app that is almost never used.  My settings tell me that I have talked a grand total of 27 minutes on my phone - and that may be 27 minutes since I’ve owned the phone. Sometimes my family will send me texts, but my Message app goes largely unopened.

Most of the time people spend on Facebook is spent on a mobile device - yet I never go on the Facebook app.  No Instagram, no Snapchat, very little YouTube, and rarely to I use Google Search. Tinder - no.

When I drive I use Waze, but I try not to drive anywhere if I can help it.  Uber is very important when I travel, but alas Uber has not yet come to my home town.

I almost never listen to music, as audibooks have displaced music (and podcasts also). Sometimes I will listen to Pandora while running, but I never use the Apple Music app.  Nor do I rent movies through the iTunes Store - as using the iTunes store is a nightmare (and there is plenty of video to stream).

I never shop on Amazon on my phone, as any online shopping that I do (including for digital books) feels better through a browser. The Bank of America app is great for the rare occasion when I need to deposit a check, but I’d also rather do my online banking on a laptop and with Chrome. You are maybe paying for your half-calf lattes with your Wallet app, but I am not.

What apps do you use most? And what does the frequency of your app use say about your life, and life in general in the early 21st century?

Can we examine our app use through a sociological lens?


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