recommended reading

Study: Consumers Will Pay $5 for an App That Respects Their Privacy

Ever since the iPhone came out in 2007, the going rate for many of the most popular apps has been exactly $0.00. Consumers pay nothing.

But of course, nothing is free. Instead, consumers pay with their data, that's sold to marketers, or with screenspace, which is forked over to make room for ads. It's a trade consumers are happy to make.

But are they?

new study from economists at the University of Colorado finds otherwise. It shows that the average consumer would prefer to pay small fees for their apps, in exchange for keeping their information private and their screens uncluttered.

In their study, Scott J. Savage and Donald M. Waldman surveyed 1,700 smartphone users, presenting them with a set of apps they could purchase. One of the apps was a real, free app, currently available in the iTunes and Google Play stores. Five other apps were also suggested, and were said to have exactly the same functionality as the free app. But these five came with varying levels of privacy and advertising protections (some protected location data, others address book contents, and so on), and all had a price tag. 

What Savage and Waldman found is that consumers were willing to spend a bit more to keep their data to themselves, and just how much depended on which data were at stake. For example, on average, consumers were willing to spend $2.28 for an app that would not read their browser history; $4.05 for an app that would not have access to their contacts; $1.19 for an app that did not track their location; $1.75 for an app that did not obtain their phone's ID number; $3.58 to prevent an app from having access to the contents of their text messages; and $2.12 for an app that had no advertising.

Because the "average" app (as determined from a sample of more than 15,000 Android apps) has both advertising and access to a person's location and their phone's ID, Savage and Waldman say that paid versions of such apps could rake in somewhere around $5 per download. That's way, way more than the pocket change that most free apps bring in per download.

What's more, Savage and Waldman use that $5 figure and to do some back-of-the-envelope figuring: Given that the average consumer in their study has 23 apps, and given how many smartphone users there are in the U.S., they calculated the total amount that consumers would spend, if only the apps were there for them to buy: $16 billion. And that's the conservative, lower-bound estimate.

Will that make it worth it for app developers to offer a paid alternative? There are many reasons why the math might not work out so neatly in reality. Will customers search both the free and paid app categories? Will they be aware of the paid option? Will download rates suffer, if companies more overtly signal how they are using consumer data in an effort to push paid versions?

But if those hurdles can be overcome, both developers and consumers stand to benefit.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

    Download
  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.