COVID-19 Mobile Consumer Survey — Developers Have a Higher Duty to Protect Mobile Users

COVID-19 has transformed the mobile app economy in some big ways. Overnight, more people and more businesses than ever are using and relying on mobile apps. Here at Appdome, we wanted to know if mobile consumer expectations about the security in mobile apps has also shifted. And if so, by how much — so we asked mobile users directly. Understanding mobile consumer perspectives is critical to building sustainable mobile economies, protecting mobile data, and protecting mobile users. We hope you find this COVID-19 Mobile Consumer Survey research useful in building your own mobile business.

Executive Summary of Appdome’s COVID-19 Mobile Consumer Survey

  1. Developers Have a Higher Duty to Protect Mobile Users
  2. Mobile Threats and Consumer Fears
  3. Global Trust and Expectations
  4. Appdome’s Annual State of Mobile App Security research

In the first three parts of this series, I’ll reveal the results of our research on the critical questions impacting the security of mobile businesses and the mobile economy in COVID-19. Then in the final part of this series, I’ll discuss how mobile consumer expectations match up against the reality of how app developers are securing mobile apps. In other words, I’ll compare what consumers expect vs what mobile developers actually do when it comes to securing mobile apps and data. Read on to learn more.

Methodology Behind the COVID-19 Mobile Consumer Survey

The COVID-19 Mobile Consumer Survey revealed new and emerging attitudes and beliefs mobile users have about mobile app security. Understanding these attitudes and beliefs are a critical part of any viable mobile strategy. It’s extremely important to understand what level of security mobile consumers expect. Furthermore, we wanted to know if mobile consumers will hold brands accountable when their mobile data or trust is breached. Lastly, we believed it was important to gather this information straight from the source — from mobile users themselves. After all, they are the most important element in the whole mobile ecosystem, aren’t they?

Now let’s dive into the data.

Mobile App Use in COVID-19

We saw similar trends in our own research. For example, in the COVID-19 Mobile Consumer Survey, 89% of mobile users reported using up to 10 mobile apps daily. This is up from 5 mobile apps prior to the pandemic.

Mobile App Trust in COVID-19

We also wanted to explore whether mobile consumers’ trust levels varied by app type. It turns out that there is a difference, but the difference is not significant. For example, we asked consumers “How much do you trust” 7 different app types. The list included (1) Mobile Banking apps, (2) Food Order & Delivery apps, (3) Retail & Shopping apps, (4) Healthcare apps, (5) Money Transfer apps, (6) Mobile Gaming apps, and (7) Ride Share & Gig Economy apps. Users were asked to rate apps on a scale of 1 to 5 stars (1 star being low trust, and 5 stars being high trust). Surprisingly, no single app type received a high trust score from greater than 40% of respondents.

A Lot of Work is Still Needed to Gain Mobile User Trust

Interestingly, the data across all app types also revealed that for every 1x percentage point decline in the number of respondents reporting a high degree of trust, there was a 1.25x — 3x increase in the number of respondents that reported the lowest degrees of trust within the same app type. This means that trust is largely binary. Either mobile consumers trust the app or they don’t — there’s no middle ground.

Mobile Consumers Expect Developers to Protect Mobile Users

As part of the COVID-19 Mobile Consumer Survey, we asked mobile consumers directly, “Do you feel that brands have a higher duty to protect mobile users due to COVID-19?” Here, we really didn’t know how mobile consumers would answer this question. Some folks at Appdome had believed there would be no change, while others thought security expectations would increase. It turns out that more than two thirds (68%) of mobile app consumers feel very strongly that mobile app makers have a higher obligation to protect mobile users in the pandemic.

This survey data produced a real “wow” factor here at Appdome. We found this extremely significant, particularly given that respondents were shown 3 out of 5 responses that allowed them to rank their expectations “neutral” to “no more than usual.” On the other hand, it made sense given the low trust scores above.

If mobile consumers are nervous about security, it seems logical that they would expect mobile developers to do more to protect mobile data and users. No matter what, the data is clear. Mobile consumers expect mobile developers to apply security best practices (at a minimum) to ensure a secure app experience and protect their data.

Consequences of Mobile App Breaches in COVID-19

Protect Mobile Users or Expect Harsh Reactions

This response held true even in the absence of an actual breach. The COVID-19 Mobile Consumer Survey data only got worse when the question focused more specifically on apps they cared about. For example, we asked “If your app got breached or hacked, how likely are you to stop using it?” Nearly 80% of mobile users said they would stop using a mobile app if the app was breached or hacked.

These findings seem to put a harsh exclamation point of the data found in the COVID-19 Mobile Consumer Survey. Mobile consumers believe developers have a higher duty to protect mobile data. And they will vote with their feet and overwhelmingly abandon mobile apps that fail to protect users and app usage. This has dramatic implications for mobile app business models and unit economics. In particular, churn and other key metrics such as lifetime value of users may be at risk. It means that any public vulnerability disclosure or breach could have a profoundly negative impact on the mobile business.

The Impact to Mobile Business Metrics

No matter what, the COVID-19 Mobile Consumer Survey data confirms that while mobile app users and mobile app use have exploded, mobile consumer sentiment has not kept pace. Consumers are using more mobile apps more than ever. But, mobile consumer trust in the mobile experience has not kept pace with the increased usage. More importantly, the COVID-19 Mobile Consumer Survey data revealed strong emotional undertones and strongly negative reactions on the part of mobile consumers — both about developers’ duty to protect mobile data and the consequences of not taking security seriously.

Trust Is Critical to Every Mobile App Business

Losing trust impacts everything. From the Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) and Lifetime Value (LTV) of users, to churn and user acquisition cost. Several studies have shown that trust is critical to sustaining a higher than average ARPU, LTV, and retention (low churn). The COVID-19 Mobile Consumer Survey data shows mobile consumers have a high degree of anxiety with mobile apps in the pandemic. And they will react severely and emotionally to poor security and/or a breach of a mobile app. As a result, mobile developers are advised to play it safe and at a minimum implement mobile security best practices.

Recommendation for Mobile App Developers: Protect Mobile Users!

Here at Appdome, we view the emerging mobile consumer viewpoint as an opportunity for all mobile developers to meet or exceed the new expectations of secure mobile apps. We believe a best practice security model can serve three purposes:

  1. Avoid the harsh churn and abandonment consequences of poor security
  2. Improve growth in unit economics and mobile app revenue
  3. Position the developer, app and mobile business as leaders in mobile trust and security

Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 Mobile Consumer Survey, our recommendation is to move fast and follow industry best practices for securing your app. For all transactional apps and apps with personally identifiable information, best practices include a wide range of security measures such as encryption, obfuscation, application shielding, OS-integrity, MiTM attack prevention and more. You can also use Appdome to implement the recommended security features the same day, no code or coding required. You can also use Appdome to make your app Certified Secure™, each and every time you release your app.

Contact Appdome to get a free assessment of your current mobile app security. After the assessment, we’ll provide you with a recommended security model for your app.

What’s Next — COVID-19 Mobile Consumer Survey

Thank you, and Build Safe!

Originally published at on November 16, 2020.

ALAN BAVOSA is VP of Security Products at Appdome, a no-code mobile app security and development platform.