App (or application)

What is it?

An 'app' is an application that has been built especially for a smartphone or touch device.

How does it work?

Applications are usually downloaded directly to the device, but can be downloaded onto a computer. In 2008, Apple launched the first 'App Store', which allows users to browse and download applications for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad from the iTunes Store. In January 2011, the App Store had registered 10 billion application downloads. Other app stores include the App Catalog for Palm devices, Android Market and Amazon's App store for use with Google's Android operating system, Windows Marketplace for Mobile by Microsoft, the Ovi Store for Nokia devices and BlackBerry App World.

Why are apps useful?

Apps can be an inexpensive method of accessing entertainment, banking, research, learning, communication, social media, productivity, shopping, lifestyle and fitness - and more. Depending on the app, they are available either free or at a cost. The learning curve for an app can be a lot lower than learning to use a desktop application or website. These services may require internet access.

What do you need to keep in mind if your children are using apps?

Purchase and download of apps requires the set up of an account with contact and payment details (usually an email address and credit card account). Before your child starts browsing any app stores, you should establish some rules on who will download the application, how much your child is allowed to spend, and the type of applications that are appropriate. Apps are rated by other users so you can research comments before purchasing an app and app stores produce a statement to enable you can keep track of any expenses.

Some apps access the internet so data usage may apply. These charges are separate from the purchase price. Some apps also allow for in-app purchases which can lead to unexpected bills.

While the Apple app store has a tight policy around what apps are available, other app stores may be more lenient so parents should consider reading app reviews or educating their children of the risks before allowing downloads.

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