Can mobile apps really determine your basic demographics?

What if you could determine your consumers age and income based solely on the apps downloaded on their smartphones?  According to a recent study conducted by Verto Analytics and the Qatar Computing Research Institute, not only can marketers determine age and income demographics, but marital status and gender as well, with 61-82 percent accuracy.


Demographic prediction accuracy based on a user’s apps.

In conjunction with this research, The Washington Post developed a survey to determine how these predictive models work on each individual consumer. While the results are not 100-percent accurate, they certainly illustrate just how much we inadvertently allow advertisers and app-makers to know about us. How did you do?

Generally speaking, if you have Pinterest on your phone, you’re definitely a woman and if you have Uber, you’re probably single.  Similarly, single adults get their music from Sound Cloud, while older adults prefer iHeartRadio.  Likewise, people who earn more than $52,000 a year trust Yelp and those who make less than that resort to Foursquare.

As you can imagine, based on the traits studied, gender was the easiest to determine, while income remained the most difficult.  However, when alternative forms of personal data are added to the equation- such as location, contacts and phone usage, it becomes easier to see how targeted ads can feel so “creepily” accurate.  No wonder Facebook knows you better than your own friends and family.


“Studying the predictability of demographics … points out privacy implications of users allowing apps to access their list of installed apps. Many users undoubtedly do not carefully review the permissions that the apps they install require, and even less, understand the scope of the information that can be inferred from the data accessible by the apps.”

How will mobile apps impact your businesses digital connection with consumers?


4 thoughts on “Can mobile apps really determine your basic demographics?

  1. alisonaudree says:

    This is such an interesting (and terrifying!) post. While I am definitely intrigued by all the data gathering that is happening, it also makes me a little nervous. What would this information be used for? Is it ethical to use this information in marketing strategies? Where is the line of personal and public information?

    I actually wrote a fairly similar blog post recently about this general idea. Feel free to check it out!


  2. cmkmarketingblog says:

    Interesting post. I wasn’t aware of the implications when I allow apps to access other apps and accounts. Amazing how a question that seems so silly and non-intrusive actually allows them to know much about you and market to you.
    I do, however, think that its pretty difficult to use apps to determine someone’s demographics. (For example, I’m married but have Uber because I travel often). Social media integration with apps will allow for more precise targeting. That is one of the biggest powers of apps allowing you to use your Facebook/Instagram/Twitter accounts to sign up. The provider of the app now has real access to your demographics and interests and can use that to promote their app to like customers or sell advertising within the app.

    Thanks for sharing!


  3. jrclorley says:

    I’ve come across quite a few “creepy” ads in the past year or so; far more than at any other point in my life. I, for one, am happy that ads are becoming much more targeted and polished through some of these methods. We’ve witnessed marketers trying to reach us by casting a wide net for the majority of our lives. Ads that are specific to stuff that I’m actually interested in is much more appealing to me than some random ad that’s selling me a product or service that means nothing. I’m not a huge fan of giving up my personal information but if it’s going to happen anyway at least it’s going to at least one thing that’s helpful.


  4. jimforbeswvu says:

    I was not familiar with App Annie until your blog post. It’s a provider of market data and in-app advertising that offers users greater transparency into mobile advertising.
    Currently, App Annie’s Intelligence product includes granular app download, revenue, demographic, usage and engagement estimates for every major mobile app. The next major release will be Marketing Intelligence, our solution aimed to inform all aspects of your mobile advertising, marketing and monetization strategy.

    “Apps are changing the world, creating amazing opportunities for individuals and for businesses of all sizes. We help companies seize these opportunities. We are always looking for technologies and talent that enhance our products and mission,” commented Bertrand Schmitt, CEO & co-founder at App Annie.


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