Convenience vs. security: What do consumers prioritize when choosing mobile apps?

Graeme BruceBusiness Data Journalist
May 21, 2021, 11:20 PM UTC

Mobile apps walk a tightrope between privacy and convenience. Whether it’s an app to track health, stay in touch with friends, play games, or exchange funds, users often share personal data in exchange for a better, tailored app experience. 

A YouGov global survey conducted in 17 developed and emerging markets set out to discover which is more important to consumers in each country - convenience or security. Overall, global consumers lean toward the latter, as 43% say they prioritize how secure an app is over its functionality and convenience when downloading apps onto their mobile devices. Conversely, just over a third (36%) prioritize an app’s function and convenience over any security concerns. 

Younger consumers, between the ages of 18 and 34 are notably more likely than older adults to put more value in convenience than security. 

Providing personal data is not inherently a security risk, but the risk lies in what the apps are doing with the information. Apple recently made headlines with a significant update to its mobile operating system (iOS), which gives users the ability to manage app tracking. Owners of iPhones, iPads and Apple TVs can now request an app not track their activity across other companies’ apps and websites. As Apple heralded this new feature, some app developers criticized the option, arguing cross-app tracking helps keep services free of charge since user data can leveraged for advertising. Meanwhile, Android recently pre-announced apps will soon have to declare security practices in the Google Play app store in an effort to increase transparency. 

When it comes to the technological tension between privacy and convenience, YouGov’s study shows significant differences across global markets. In Italy, a plurality of consumers (45%) say convenience and function trumps security, while 36% say otherwise. Consumers in Sweden (42%) and the United Arab Emirates (41%) also place more value on function rather than security. 

On the other end of the spectrum, urban consumers in Indonesia (57%), Mexico (54%) and adults in Poland (53%) put more emphasis on security rather than convenience when downloading mobile apps.  

In the United States, there is no clear winner between convenience and security – 32% lean to the former, 34% lean to the latter. There is a similar dead heat among consumers in Great Britain, where 34% favor function and 35% favor security. 

In the wake of countless privacy breaches over the last decade, today more than ever, app developers must clearly articulate to users what personal data they are using and how they are using it to help ease ongoing concerns around privacy. However, as our data shows, convenience still reigns supreme for many consumers. 

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Methodology: The data is based on the interviews of adults aged 18 and over in 17 markets with sample sizes varying between 508 and 2,019 for each market. All interviews were conducted online in April 2021. Data from each market uses a nationally representative sample apart from Mexico and India, which use urban representative samples, and Indonesia and Hong Kong, which use online representative samples.