Subscribers love their mobile apps, but know little about them



Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) is entering the tastemaking business. Late last week the operator introduced The Top 20 Must-Have Apps and Android App Reviews by Verizon, a pair of online tools built to help subscribers identify Verizon-endorsed applications for devices running Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android and Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS. The 20 Must-Have Apps site spans games, social media, entertainment, travel, news, shopping and productivity apps, focusing on smartphone staples like eBay, Dropbox, Facebook (NASDAQ:FB)-owned Instagram, Flipboard, ESPN ScoreCenter and Halfbrick Studios' Jetpack Joyride, complete with download links to Apple's App Store and Google Play. Even more compelling is the Android App Reviews site, which not only spotlights the 25 Top Free and 25 Top Paid Android apps based on their Google Play install rankings over a 30-day period but also features Verizon staff reviews assessing the apps based on factors like battery life impact, security and data usage, rating each on a scale from 1 to 5.

"A low rating means the app might negatively affect your overall experience with your device," Verizon Wireless explains. "If you see a low rating on an app you currently use or intend to download, you should review the potential areas of concern to decide if it's an app you want to have on your device." The carrier is even flagging high-risk apps that could result in loss of functionality, unexpectedly high data usage, excessive battery drain or privacy exposure. Notable Android games making this list include the blockbuster games Doodle Jump, Draw Something and Fruit Ninja Free. ("We work regularly with app developers to help them fix problems with their apps, and apps are removed from this list as soon as the issues are fixed," Verizon adds.)

It seems doubtful that Verizon's Must-Have Apps seal of approval will inspire a flood of new downloads. Chances are most subscribers have already made up their minds about mainstream favorites like Instagram and Flipboard regardless of the carrier's thumbs-up. It will be far more compelling to watch whether Verizon's efforts to alert users to battery and bandwidth hogs will have any impact on continued user interest in smashes like Doodle Jump and Draw Something: Subscribers love mobile games, but they hate dead batteries and data overages even more.

A new survey conducted by Citrix's Bytemobile unit suggests subscribers are in desperate need of the insider information Verizon is delivering: Consumers may love their mobile services and devices, but they don't necessarily know much about them. Bytemobile reports that 61 percent of U.S. smartphone and tablet owners incorrectly believe that mobile ads don't count against their monthly data limit; 51 percent blame their service provider for slow-loading Web pages; and 64 percent of mobile users believe most of the mobile video clips they're viewing are presented in high-resolution formats, even though the overwhelming majority of content is in low-resolution formats below 360p.

Android App Reviews by Verizon heralds a significant step towards reconciling user perception and mobile device reality: Sure, consumers can visit the App Store or Google Play for user reviews and recommendations, but nuts-and-bolts technical insight on app performance and impact from a network operator perspective is something altogether different and far more valuable. No one's saying consumers should stop playing Doodle Jump or Draw Something, but it's vital they understand that too much fun and games may have serious repercussions.--Jason