What everyone is saying about professional apps

Published: 4 Dec 2017

An Airbus survey into the state of the professional mobile apps market ran from November 2016 to January 2017. We analysed the 129 responses to the survey and this blog post summarises what we found.

This post reveals the findings from the 2016-2017 Airbus survey into the state of the professional mobile apps market. The survey was widely supported by interested parties across industry and from all parts of the world, ranging from app developers to those who use apps to improve their daily work. The two previous surveys have provided a number of insights and revealed what the mission-critical communication users and the industry in general value the most in mobile apps. 

 The core findings from the 2017 survey report:

  • Professional users are ready for mobile apps.
  • Messaging and multimedia content sharing are today’s most common uses.
  • Professional users are pragmatic and open to adopting new capabilities.
  • App developers must be able to demonstrate proven experience of critical communication solutions and end-to-end solutions.


The 2016-2017 survey yielded three new findings of note:

1 - There are great opportunities for integrated messaging apps tailored to the needs of public safety and other professional users.

2 - There is a market opportunity for app developers who can help organisations take advantage of the benefits of video.

3 - The world is shifting towards broadband and in a hybrid way. Hybrid devices are quickly becoming preferred over those based on a single technology.

Results in a nutshell

Respondents have clearly adopted the idea of hybrid solutions. As a public safety professional, you will need to prepare your organisation for the hybrid world, in which current TETRA/Tetrapol solutions are used for mission-critical and business-critical voice and data, and LTE is used for non-critical broadband data.

If you are an application developer, you will need to understand that users prefer apps that offer a smooth user experience. You will also need to think about the complete solution from the user’s perspective.

If you are a network vendor, you will want to provide application developers with an easy to use platform to develop and certify apps.


A look at the survey results in detail

Who were the respondents?

In total, 129 people responded, including 12 who answered the German version of the survey. Survey respondents belonged to a range of organisations, including

  • service providers – the largest group with 24% of respondents
  • application developers and solution providers – around 13% of respondents
  • rescue and fire brigades – around 9% of respondents
  • ambulance and paramedics – 8.5% of respondents
  • police
  • general industry
  • transportation companies
  • defence and border guards
  • other governmental organisations
  • energy companies.

2017 Mobile Apps Survey - results - Which organization are you from

The most active respondents in the 2016 survey represented the police sector, with 30% of respondents.

Key findings

Rescue organisations and the ambulance, paramedic and healthcare sectors are active users of digital solutions. This may be reflected in the number of respondents representing those groups.

In the ‘Other’ category, based on their self-classification, 41% of respondents represented a professional organisation not given on the list. Counting these into the summary, 51% of all respondents came from a public safety or other professional organisation and could be said to represent the user organisation’s side.

Apps are in regular use

The survey asked if user organisations are already using apps regularly. The answer was an overwhelming ‘yes’, with only 23% of respondents not using apps at all.

The most common types of application used daily were

  • Messaging – 44% of respondents
  • Public internet services (searching and social media) – around 35% of respondents.
  • Multimedia sharing of content, such as videos and images - almost one in three of the respondents used this daily.


Compared to the 2016 survey, the top three popular services had remained very similar. Messaging was number one in both surveys, but public internet services had gained ground – a larger percentage of people use it daily.

2017 Mobile Apps Survey - results - Do you use mobile apps

Key findings

As found in the 2016 survey, most respondents are already using apps on a day-to-day basis, so there is strong demand for such capabilities. This is encouraging and reveals a market ripe for development by providing great apps for professional users.

The new finding in the 2017 report was that there are great opportunities for integrated messaging apps that are tailored for the needs of public safety and other professional users.

Some 48 of the respondents named the applications they use. A wide variety of applications were mentioned, with the top three most popular in this list being WhatsApp, email and maps/positioning. Video was mentioned only three times. This could represent a market opportunity for developers who can offer effective apps that can help organisations take advantage of the benefits of video.

The most popular operating systems

The survey investigated which operating systems (OS) and which types of device people use.

In the overall summary, Android still came out top with 61% of respondents using it, followed by Apple iOS at 50%. Compared to the 2016 report, Apple iOS had gained ground.

Windows OS lost ground from 42% in 2016 to around 29% in 2017.

Key finding

Apple iOS has become more common among respondents. Also, people clearly use more than one device.

The most popular devices

In terms of the types of device in use, consumer smartphones were most popular at around 59%, with laptops and consumer tablets the next most used at 43% and 31% respectively.

In 2016, consumer smartphones topped the list at 73%, with laptops the next most used at 44%. The reduction in the proportion of consumer smartphones in use indicates a move towards more rugged devices that are better suited to the demanding conditions experienced by professional workers, particularly emergency and public service staff.

This is borne out by the fact that rugged devices are used in significant numbers - around one in four use a rugged smartphone and one in five a rugged handheld computer.

2017 Mobile Apps Survey - results - Which devices do you use with mobile apps?

Key finding

There is clearly a significant demand for rugged devices that can withstand the harsh conditions of daily field use. The reason for the majority being standard devices may be that people are accustomed to purchasing standard smartphones and tablets and procuring something more tailored and specific to their needs may be a challenge.

The most popular accessories

The most popular accessories to use with mobile apps were a camera or video camera, with around 38% of respondents, and headsets, with 34% of respondents.

Perhaps surprisingly, almost one in four of the respondents did not report using any accessories.

2017 Mobile Apps Survey - results - Which accessories do you use with mobile apps?

Key finding

Cameras and video cameras are the most common accessory. Yet, video apps are not nearly as popular, at least with those who responded to the survey, indicating an opportunity for apps that can help make better use of these popular accessories.

Plans to adopt new devices for mobile apps

Around 42% of respondents reported having plans to adopt hybrid PMR and broadband devices. Almost one third did not have any plans. Around 4% reported that they had plans to adopt TETRA radios only.

Altogether, more than 60% of respondents had plans to adopt broadband-capable devices.

2017 Mobile Apps Survey - results - Plans to adopt new devices for mobile apps

Key finding

The world is shifting towards broadband and in a hybrid way. Hybrid devices are quickly becoming preferred over those based on a single technology.

The potential for professional mobile apps

When we consider which uses have the highest potential for apps, messaging is both the most widely used capability and also the type of app with the greatest potential, with more than 74% citing this. Positioning is identified by 44% of respondents as the use with the next highest potential.

No capability scored zero or near-zero for its potential, showing that there is some interest among respondents for all kinds of uses.

Mobile Apps Survey 2017 - results - The potential for professional apps

Key finding

There is big potential for multimedia sharing apps. When we consider that the most common accessory with mobile apps is a camera and compare this with the potential use cases, the scope for new apps becomes obvious.

Data sharing with apps

Unsurprisingly, the overwhelming majority of respondents (86%) reported that they share textual information or text messages. Almost 70% share images or photos, and a little more than half share map locations. Video is only the fourth most popular data type to share, with around 41% of respondents choosing that.

Mobile Apps Survey 2017 - Results - Data sharing with apps

Key finding

Although cameras and video cameras are common accessories, the lack of a proper, easy to use video sharing application may be preventing the full exploitation of these devices.

Another issue is how to make it easier for staff wearing gloves to share text information or messages.

Essential features of an app

The 2017 survey found that there are four stand-out characteristics of mobile apps that professional users value the most. These are:

  • Security and ownership of data - control in own hands 65%
  • High reliability and availability of the service 63%
  • Easy to use 59%
  • Solutions integrated with command and control rooms 34%


Support for current operative models is not as high on the list of important app characteristics, but almost a quarter of the respondents ticked the box.
However, service from a trusted provider is a lower priority - only around 19% chose it in the survey.

Mobile Apps Survey 2017 - Results - Essential features of an app

Key finding

Professional users value security and ownership of data, which is a requirement often not fulfilled by apps. Respondents are ready to change their priorities - integration with command and control, and support for existing operative models are not reported as important as ease of use, for example.

Selecting the right app and the right app vendor

Professional users need to consider the pros and cons of the app itself, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of the vendor selling it. The survey results show that proven experience and the ability to deliver end-to-end solutions on the latest smart device platforms are considered the most important criteria in selecting the app provider.

Long lifecycle of the solution was another requirement.

Mobile Apps Survey 2017 - Results - Selecting the right app and the vendor

Key finding

App developers need to demonstrate proven experience of end-to end solutions, a conclusion that remains constant from last year. Yet, organisations do not seem to care if a vendor has a wide variety of apps. Much more important appears to be specialised apps, which are highly tailored to suit users’ communication needs.

Planning for the future

Finally, the survey asked respondents about their organisation’s plans to introduce apps in the future.

In the 2016 survey, one out of four respondents had no plans to introduce new apps. In 2017, only one out of five had no such plans.

More than 25% of respondents were considering apps but had no concrete plans, while around 22% had decided to introduce new apps within 12-24 months or to start a trial.

With the majority of organisations planning for mobile apps, the potential for growth in the mission critical app market looks promising.

Mobile Apps Survey 2017 - Results - Planning for the future

Key finding

Professional users are ready for new mobile apps. More users are now moving towards adopting mobile apps – the best proof of this is the significantly lower number of users NOT planning to adopt applications. Another indicator is the fact that the number of user organisations who had started a trial project was four times greater than the previous year.

Apps in the pipeline

When looking at the answers to the question of which apps users and user organisation are considering, sharing reveals much variety: as messaging, multimedia messaging, video and picture sharing.

There were almost as many responses as there were entries, indicating that the market, even though there is potential, is fragmented. As such, new apps and app ideas have not gained sufficient ground to become all-popular.

Organisations looking for mobile apps should perhaps talk to each other more. Aligning their needs and wishes could ensure that the market for apps would not have to be so overly specialised and fragmented.

Firefighter on a ladder

Did you know?

Airbus is looking for the best and most talented teams to improve the mission-critical communications of police officers, firefighters, caretakers, doctors and other life-saving and society-building professionals. For this purpose, Airbus will organize a series of Critical App Challenges (Mission Critical Hackathons) to uncover new and innovative ideas from the developer communities.

Which useful, secure and engaging applications and functionalities could be developed for the Tactilon Dabat device, which is both an Android smartphone and TETRA radio in one device? Subscribe to the SmarTWISP emails and stay up-to-date on this.

What professional people say about their current app use

The survey asked respondents to explain in which situations they use apps. A variety of use cases was submitted, almost as many as the number of survey respondents. Some examples of the replies give an idea of the potential for apps and include:

“Rapid intervention.”

“Incident reporting .”

“Checking background information and where the team members are.”

“How to go and get the patient.”

“Group messaging for project coordination.”

“Sharing video for investigation.”

What professional people say about challenges related to apps

The survey asked respondents to name their biggest issue related to apps.

By far the most common issue mentioned was security. Also, usability - “easy to use”, “user friendliness” - were mentioned in many responses as the main challenge. Another issue was the special requirements of public safety and how to ensure developers understand these needs.

Some examples of the replies give an idea of how app developers could differentiate in the market and include:

“Developers fail to understand industry, real life experience and how apps are implemented or used by end users. IT directors over the top and over reliant on apps, for example a field worker doesn’t need the same app as office based staff.”

“Does it work in real life”

“End-to-end solution”

“Crashed during operation”

“Security, security, security”



This blog post summarises the results from the 2016-2017 survey. You can also download the results from the latest 2018 survey in report format:


Never miss a single blog post! Get the new posts delivired to your email addresss.


The Secure Communications blog gives you insights into critical communications future, secure and critical communications, public safety and other professional apps, current events, Tetrapol and TETRA radios, and active paging, for example.