Using a smartphone ‘app’ in qualitative research: the good, the bad and the ugly

This paper reflects on the use of a smartphone application (‘app’) in qualitative research following the experience of the FREE (Football Research in an Enlarged Europe) project, which investigated the lives of football fans in the UK. To meet this aim, a participant-focused audio-visual methodology was designed, featuring the use of an app to collect data. Fans were asked to take photographs and keep diaries to show the role football plays in their lives. The smartphone app was developed to allow fans to use their own mobile phones, capturing qualitative data in ‘real time’. The paper reflects on our experience of using the smartphone app in this qualitative research, analysing the advantages, disadvantages and the main risks that researchers will need to take into account when using smartphone apps in their future qualitative research projects. We encourage others to build on and advance this under-researched but potentially valuable tool.