Apple may have originally attempted to encourage development of Web applications before it introduced the App Store (and ain’t it glad it did), but now apps on smartphones are a bona fide US hit, with 35 percent of US adults having apps on their phones, though only one-in-four US adults actually use these apps. Still, that ain’t a bad record.

The most recent Pew Internet Life survey tells us that among mobile phone owners, 29 percent have downloaded apps to their phones and 13 percent have paid for the privilege.

Among the most popular are apps that provide some form of entertainment (games, music, food, travel and sports) as well as those that help people find information they need and accomplish tasks (maps and navigation, weather, news, banking).

“An apps culture is clearly emerging among some cell phone users, particularly men and young adults,” said Kristen Purcell, Associate Director for Research at the Pew Internet Project.

“Still, it is clear that this is the early stage of adoption when many cell owners do not know what their phone can do. The apps market seems somewhat ahead of a majority of adult cell phone users.”

The report is based on a Pew Internet telephone survey of 2,252 US adults age 18 and older, conducted by Princeton Survey Research International between April 29 and May 30, 2010.  The sample included 1,917 adult cell phone users, 744 of whom were contacted on their cell phones. It also contains Nielsen data from an analysis of 3,962 adults (age 18+) gathered in the December 2009 Apps Playbook (image above).

This is a pretty remarkable tech-adoption story, if you consider that there was no apps culture until two years ago,” said Roger Entner, co-author of the report and Senior Vice President and Head of Research and Insights for Telecom Practice at Nielsen. “Every metric we capture shows a widening embrace of all kinds of apps by a widening population. It’s too early to say what this will eventually amount to, but not too early to say that this is an important new part of the technology world of many Americans.”

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