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(MCT)—Apps are catching on, sort of.

Clearly, the number of applications for smartphones and tablets is skyrocketing along with sales of those devices.

There are apps for learning Russian, touching up photos, playing Angry Birds, finding pizza and a myriad of other activities.

But so far, only about half of U.S. adults with cell phones have apps on their phones, and only about one in four cell phone owners age 18 or older has ever paid for an app, whose prices typically start around $1, according to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center’s ongoing Internet & American Life Project.

What’s more, the survey found only two-thirds of people with apps on their phones ever use them. That’s a serious underuse of smartphone computer capabilities.

According to the Pew research, adults are using smartphone apps for the same things that drew us to the World Wide Web, email and untethered phones in the first place—getting informed and staying in touch.

“While they are a significant departure from search engines and Web browsers, the basic needs apps meet are not revolutionary,” says Kristen Purcell, author of the report.

She found that the most commonly downloaded apps are those for news, weather, sports or stocks. That category is followed by apps that help people communicate with friends and family, including via Facebook and Twitter.

“While mobile apps are a fairly new approach to accessing online content, the main functions they fill for users are the same we’ve seen with previous technologies—namely, information-gathering and communication,” adds Purcell.

“The takeaway,” she says, “is there are a lot of apps out there; only a handful have sticking power.”

Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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