Survey reveals surprising Mac user app preferences and buying trends

Image: Jonathan Arbely/Unsplash

Professionals who use Macs while working in small and medium businesses have compelling software choices, according to information from a new Setapp Mac application survey. Survey findings from Setapp, MacPaw’s Kyiv, Ukraine-based app subscription service provider, may affect the way you use and buy Mac apps. Let’s consider how the three changes changed the way Mac users meet their software needs.


Software purchasing behavior has changed

I used to think that choosing and purchasing software was pretty simple. My process for purchasing the apps was simple: identify the best option for my needs, usually the market-leading program or the closest competitor, and purchase the corresponding license.

If original equipment manufacturer editions are available, these have often proven to be less expensive than retail or direct purchases, but OEM licenses can usually only be used on the machine with which they were purchased.

Considering that I, like many users, usually keep new computers in production for four years, this hasn’t been a problem. A few years later, updated versions of the programs became available. Later, when I got a new Mac, I would update my version by purchasing a new OEM license.

Then three things happened: First, Apple launched the App Store, which made it simple to buy, watch, and even update software apps; second, Apple has doubled down on its commitment to develop and maintain software solutions with impressive capabilities and easy to learn, such as Mail, Messages, Pages, Numbers, and Keynote for free on Macs; and third, software subscriptions have been introduced and these are becoming the norm in most cases.

Setapp Mac apps survey says…

Where do Mac users gather information about macOS software options?

About 52% of respondents said Apple’s App Store is where they learn about Mac apps. Although respondents said they don’t trust social media as much as they used to, social media was the second most popular resource with 43%.

Instead, over 85% of respondents trust recommendations from the App Store, YouTube, podcasts, newsletters, colleagues, friends, or other professionals. I also tend to distrust social media, preferring peer recommendations and customer feedback.

How many programs do Mac users install on their Apple computers?

According to the survey, the total number of apps installed on respondents’ Mac computers increased from 31 in 2021 to 37 this year. However, the number of apps used daily has changed little: 13 compared to 12 in the previous year.

TO SEE: The Complete Limited Edition Mac Bundle (TechRepublic Academy)

The fewer Mac apps you have installed, the better you can secure a machine and limit the time it takes to download and install updates. The number of Mac programs you need ultimately depends on the professional responsibilities you fulfill and the type of work you regularly complete. When possible, using a single application for multiple purposes helps to minimize the number of applications needed.

The survey also revealed that 10 out of 13 apps used daily by Mac users are installed on Macs by default. This finding is interesting. Consider this: More than 75% of the apps Mac users refer to every day are pre-installed. The result should certainly be reduced trust in third-party software providers.

What are the most used Mac apps?

Among the native Apple programs available on macOS, the Safari web browser (68%) and the Messages app (65%) are the most used. This came as a surprise to me – I’d bet Mail is used more often than Messages, but maybe I’m dating myself.

Photos (59%) and Mail (57%) are the next two most used apps. Following this, Calendar (47%), FaceTime (45%), and Notes (44%) are the most popular native tools (Figure A).

Figure A

Safari and Messages are the most used native macOS apps.
Image: Submit app. Safari and Messages are the most used native macOS apps.

When it comes to everyday office productivity software, Microsoft apparently has a stifling dominance with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

These Microsoft Office programs, along with the Google Chrome browser and Adobe apps, were the most frequently installed Mac programs according to Setapp’s survey. Figure B.

Figure B

Microsoft Office and Google Chrome dominate the third-party apps that Mac users install.
Image: Submit app. Microsoft Office and Google Chrome dominate the third-party apps that Mac users install.

What are the most important considerations for Mac users when choosing a new app?

According to the survey, the answer is features (47%) and security (45%). The price of a Mac app (38%) and the corresponding user experience and interface (37%) are the next most important factors, followed closely by privacy and personal data management applications (35%). An app designer’s reputation (17%) was ranked almost last, only higher than Other (1%).

Most respondents felt that automatic updates (46%) and the desire not to overload their Mac with unnecessary programs (43%) were important purchase considerations. Nearly 55% of survey respondents feel more strongly that high-quality Mac apps are costly and they are willing to pay a corresponding price (Figure C).

Figure C

Respondents to the Setapp survey indicated their preferences for automatically updated apps.
Image: Submit app. Respondents to the Setapp survey indicated their preferences for automatically updated apps.

About 42% of respondents say they prefer cross-platform apps. When purchasing a program, participants prefer to get all versions, including web and iOS versions. This did not surprise me: I think it simplifies licensing and software management, especially in SMBs where multiple licenses and licenses are involved.

The average cost a Mac user spends per year when purchasing new Mac apps is $139. Participants also have an average of nine paid apps on their Mac computers. Setapp notes that not all respondents made a distinction between the apps they purchased and the amount they spent on in-app purchases.

While I don’t expect users to buy the same apps year after year, the total $139 is lower than I expected. Programs I trust are growing rapidly, like iA Writer ($49.99 for Mac and $49.99 for iOS and iPadOS) and Pixelmator Pro ($39.99).

Still, with an average purchase of $139 for Mac apps, the typical business professional using a Mac should be able to afford such a budget to allow him to purchase a number of reliable apps that may not require paying for updates again for years – but I’m afraid that’s trend changing.

What are Mac users’ preferences between lifetime app licenses and subscriptions?

I bought the Affinity Photo Pro photo editing Mac app in August 2019 for $49.99 and thought I was ready. Imagine my surprise when I saw Affinity Photo Pro 2 go for $69.99 on the App Store this year.

While it’s fair for developers to continue getting paid, I’m learning that the days of once an app is purchased from the App Store and it’s gone are probably over. I’ve already gotten used to the fact that I have to pay Microsoft an annual fee to access the productivity suite, and when professional needs require it, I do the same for Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite. But that doesn’t mean other Mac users appreciate purchasing software subscriptions.

About 36% of respondents said they prefer one-time lifetime licenses. Only 17% prefer annual subscriptions, while monthly subscriptions are even less preferred (13%).

TO SEE: Setapp’s Mac software service confirms app subscriptions are permanent (TechRepublic)

While I can no longer put off paying for a Mac app I use, that’s not universally true. Setapp’s Mac app survey confirms that Mac users are hesitant to purchase an app if the app is expensive, if free alternatives are available, or if they are unsure whether they will need to use the program regularly.

Sometimes free apps can suffice, but experience has taught me that developers often embed top-notch features like the ability to print or edit the file behind a paywall. When I learned that I needed a software application and it became necessary to perform daily functions, I learned that paying the license fee speeds up my workflows and is more effective than trying to save money by taking advantage of a free but limited application or looking for a trial version over and over. versions.

How important is M1/M2 chip support when purchasing Mac apps?

The fact that Macs are increasingly powered by Apple Silicon also influences app selection. Most survey respondents say it’s very important (55%) or slightly important (35%) that the Mac apps they buy have native M1 and M2 chip support.

Setapp’s Mac app survey methodology

The Setapp survey was conducted online. More than 600 Mac users aged 18 or older in the US responded. About 45% of respondents said they use MacBook Pro, with the rest being MacBook Airs (34%), Mac Pros (23%), iMacs (20%), Mac minis (6%), and Mac Studios (6%).

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