Understanding Mobile Apps

mobile tablet

Tablet for Apps

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.

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.

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.

Data Plans and Wi-Fi: Two ways to access the internet from your phone
You can access the internet using a data plan tied to your phone service, or through a Wi-Fi hotspot. Phone companies generally charge a monthly fee for a data plan that can connect you to the internet.

Wi-Fi connections usually are faster, but you have to be in range of a hotspot to use one. Most public Wi-Fi hotspots – like those in coffee shops, airports, and hotels – don’t encrypt the information you send over the internet and are not secure. Get tips for using public Wi-Fi.

To set up a home wireless network, you’ll need to pay for internet access and a wireless router, and you’ll want to take steps to secure the network.

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.

 

For more information on Mobile Apps including Privacy Issues and Advertising please visit the government agency OnGuard OnLine.

Photo: Lynn Friedman