In a recent Dunkin Donuts commercial, friends are in their car enjoying the coffee, donuts and bagels, when their map flies out the window. They all shrug and agree to have a real adventure. But I couldn’t help thinking, “None of them have a phone? Who uses a paper map?” A new study by the Nielsen Company confirms my suspicions -- nearly all adults in the U.S. now have cellphones, with one in four having smartphones.

A Play by Play of Mobile Apps

The Mobile Apps Playbook survey of 4,000 people found how smartphone users use mobile apps. Here’s a snapshot of what they found:

  • 59% of smartphone owners and nearly 9% of feature phone owners report having downloaded a mobile app in the last 30 days.
  • Sixty-one percent of smartphone owners and 52% of feature phone owners report using a game app in the past 30 days.
  • Weather apps are the next most popular category.
  • As far as social media is concerned, Facebook is the most popular across all smartphone devices, while Twitter is among the most used by Blackberry users.
  • If you want specifics, Facebook is the leading social networking app, the Weather Channel is the top weather app, Google Maps dominates Maps/Navigation and Pandora is the most popular Music app.

Discovery, Advertising and the Changing Mobile Landscape

Users are more likely to try an app that’s recommended to them, but plenty of users search the app directory for new apps. Users who go to the Apple App Store tend to download nearly twice as many apps as those who go to the Android Market or the BlackBerry App World Store. When it comes to paying for apps, Apple App Store customers report that for every two free apps they download, they typically pay for one.


Smartphone Method of Application Discovery: Actual v. Preferred

The report also looked at advertising and found that teens are more receptive to mobile ads than the rest of us; men are more receptive than women, and overall, across all operating systems, apps users would prefer to view mobile ads within an app.

Nielsen concludes its study by saying the research is ongoing. With the popularity of e-Readers and iPads, what we once knew as a cell phone is radically changing and evolving. Forget annual updates, what we know this month is bound to change next month. In an ever-evolving, fast-paced mobile landscape anything is possible.