Mobile App Basics

If you have a smart phone or other mobile device, you probably use apps – to play games, get turn-by-turn directions, access news, books, weather, and more. Easy to download and often free, mobile apps can be so much fun and so convenient that you might download them without thinking about some key considerations: how they’re paid for, what information they may gather from your device, or who gets that information.

Mobile App Basics

What’s a mobile app?

A mobile app is a software program you can download and access directly using your phone or another mobile device, like a tablet or music player.

What do I need to download and use an app?

You need a smart phone or another mobile device with internet access. Not all apps work on all mobile devices. Once you buy a device, you’re committed to using the operating system and the type of apps that go with it. The Android, Apple, Microsoft and BlackBerry mobile operating systems have app stores online where you can look for, download, and install apps. Some online retailers also offer app stores. You’ll have to use an app store that works with your device’s operating system. To set up an account, you may have to provide a credit card number, especially if you’re going to download an app that isn’t free.

Why are some apps free?

Some apps are distributed for free through app stores; the developers make money in a few ways:

Some sell advertising space within the app. The app developers can earn money from the ads, so they distribute the app for free to reach as many users as possible. Some apps offer their basic versions for free. Their developers hope you’ll like the app enough to upgrade to a paid version with more features.

Some apps allow you to buy more features within the app itself. Usually, you are billed for these in-app purchases through the app store. Many devices have settings that allow you to block in-app purchases.

Some apps are offered free to interest you in a company’s other products. These apps are a form of advertising.