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Since 2009, when smartphones appeared into our lifes, numerous mobile applications for qualitative research have been put out in the market and at our disposal. These apps are revolutionizing the ways to conduct researches, changing the way we make questions, how we select participating subjects for a study, or how we produce and store data. This penomena can be named as Smartphone ethnography.

These platforms offer the usual functions of sending notes, photos, videos or audios. But they are also specifically designed for qualitative research, allowing a comfortable communication between researchers and participants, facilitating the comparison and categorization of data and presenting all of it in comfortable and intuitive interfaces. Forget the times when you had to walk around with your hands full of notes, documents and folders! Now you can have all your research material in your pocket.

Some mobile applications for qualitative research


Here you can find some mobile applications for qualitative research. These are just a few examples, but there are many more. If you decide to try them, you will have to make your own journey through this particular world to find the one that best meets the needs of your study. You have to understand that each of these apps has some particularity. Some are thought to be used in market researches, to study the experiences of users with a product. Others are quite expensive, so they are probably not used by many particulars, but by people who work in university departments, private companies, etc …


Ethos – Ethnographic observation system 

In 2009 a group of ethnographers, film makers and agency planners quietly created the world’s first mobile ethnographic research platform. They present their product as: “An ethnographer in your pocket. It’s intimate, in-the-emotion and in-the-moment. But only if users capture when you need them to and instinctively. Whether a research participant or a client side R&D manager, our app allows you to send content without fuss and quickly. Our app will never get in the way of an event being captured”.

The platform allows you to send content of all types and sizes quickly It also simplifies the task of organizing and categorizing data. They have pricings adjusted to your needs, from monthly pays to day rates. And they have free trials for students!


Over the shoulder Company

After 414 projects in 36 countries using their Smartphones to conduct qualitative research, a group of anthropologists decided to create a company that makes digital research tools available to others.

In 2011 Over the shoulder Company came to light. “The future does not fit into the containers that held the past. What we mean is that there is a real change, great techniques, and we challenge ourselves and our customers to do new things. It’s not about making collages with the images that people send us and that’s it. Now we are in their pockets! They have a camera for making instant videos, etc. Explore new ways to do more powerful research”.

Presentation in Qual 360 (2017)


In 2008 a group of friends started a research project called myResearchFellow. A few years later, in 2014 this project becomes ExperienceFellow.

You just have to create a project and invite your participants (that can enter through a QR code). Participants can be grouped into segments by age, gender, and other classifications of your choice. Your participants can start documenting their experiences through the mobile app. You can compare the data of the participants in real time from any mobile device.


Mobile market research

This is your choice if your preffer your platform to be in French, German or Dutch. In the same line as the previous one, this company offers applications of qualitative research mainly focused in market studies. (They are also available in English).

Smartphone ethnography


Its creator, Ujwal Arkalgud  (http://www.b2bnn.com/2016/11/digital-ethnography-motivindex-ujwal-arkalgud/ ) is an anthropologist and a pioneer in digital ethnographic research. “I discovered that people make decisions based on shared beliefs rather than rational needs.”


The Pocket Anthropologist

Robbie Blinkoff, a professor at Goucher University has created a mobile application to help his students capture their study experiences abroad from an anthropological perspective. This application offers students a way to structure and document their experiences through the categories: Daily life, Aha Moments, Cultural walks and Reflections. Students post photos and stories of culture shock, confusion, destroyed assumptions and many other fascinating findings. Unfortunately, from what I’ve found, this brilliant application is not available to the general public, but I thought it was such a fantastic initiative by this Goucher College professor that I wanted to share it with you.

Here you can see him talking about the project in Ted Talk:

Certainly, anthropology can not remain outside the revolution of Smartphones. They are a human reality. Shaped by humans, this technologies are shaking and shaping the ways we do things in our lifes and communities.

You dont need to have an app like the ones listed here. Simply by incorporating your own smartphone and tablet tools into your research, you are also introducing smartphone ethnography in a way. Undoubtedly, new formats, new techniques and new methodologies, will generate new epistemologies. Time will tell. What we must not forget is the importance of the investigator. Remember, this apps can help us with our researches, but it still our task to seek insights and develop answers and solutions. The data is not only the entries that the participants send. The decision itself to send an entry is also “data”. So understanding individuals is just as important as understanding their input.

These are just a few examples. Pleease share with us if you know any others or you have experienced using them before!


References that you might find interesting:

Research Data Collection Methods: Paper vs. Tablets por David Wogan. http://www.quicktapsurvey.com/blog/2014/05/27/research-data-collection-methods-paper-vs-tablets/

Mobile ethnography – a pioneering research approach for customer-centred destination management, Tourism Analysis. (2014). Stickdorn,, Frischhut,  & Schmid,  link

Development of a mobile toolkit to support research on human mobility behavior using GPS trajectories. (2014) Spangenberg. link


Graduated in Social and Cultural Anthropology by the University of Granada and Master in Research and Rational Use of Medicines by the University of Valencia. This young researcher has worked in the public and private sector - both nationally and internationally - on consumer issues.

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