smiley faces symbolizing the online survey results

How many hours do you spend online every day? Exactly – it’s impossible to count. Most people are hooked on browsing, networking, socializing, shopping, and doing pretty much everything else on the internet. And even though it’s fun and useful on its own, there’s an even more useful aspect to it: apps and other software that reward you for doing just that – using the internet like you normally do. One of such apps is called Nielsen Mobile, and today I am going to give you an honest, unbiased review of it. Nobody is paying me to do it, so you may rest assured that you will get both the good and the bad.

The first logical step is to look up the company itself. Nielsen is one of the oldest companies in the market research industry. They have been out there for over 90 years. That’s a respectable experience and kudos to the team for that, but it still doesn’t guarantee satisfaction from the users’ perspective.

Just like its name says, Nielsen Mobile is an app. You can download it from Google Play or Apple App Store, or even find the version that works both on desktop computers and phones.

nielsen mobile panel homepage preview

How Does Nielsen Mobile Panel Work?

First things first: what exactly does this app do? It monitors your online behavior, observing the content you search for and read, watch, or listen to. The aggregated data from a large number of users tells Nielsen’s clients who their potential customers are, what they want, and how they do it. In their own words, Nielsen wants to understand “how people use their smartphones and/or tablet devices”.

Registration won’t take up more than a couple of minutes, and you can do it on your desktop or mobile – preferably both. They will ask you to provide your email address, name, country, birthdate, and gender.

nielsen mobile panel registration page preview

However, that isn’t all you need to do. There will be a short registration survey to complete before you can download the app and install it on one or all of your devices. It includes questions about the number of people living in your household, their names, gender and birthdates, as well as number of devices with internet access.

Then, get ready for specifying which types of devices they are, who uses them the most, what kind of service and operating system they run on. If you have lots of smart devices, it will take some time to fill out all the questions.

I wish that was all, but it isn’t. The following questions will prompt you to enter your education level, employment status, occupation, race, ethnicity – both for you and your household members! Admittedly, those are standard demographic questions. But it gets annoying to fill them out for all people in your household who are over two years old. (Thank goodness I’m not living with my parents and three of my siblings!)

Mobile or Desktop (or Both)?

Once you’re done with the questionnaire, they will guide you to download and install a small tool for tracking your online behavior on your desktop, as well as the app for your mobile. An extension will also be added to your browser.

When I tried to log into the app, an error popped up, informing me that I should try again later. I did a few times, but to no avail. So, my report here is based merely on my desktop experience.

Speaking of which, you need to be aware that the rewards system is different for mobile and desktop users. If you only install the app on your computer, the only reward you can count on are sweepstakes entries. Mobile users will also earn a certain amount of points every month. However, they will also get bonus points every week during their first month. 

What’s in It for Me?

nielsen mobile panel registration confirmation page

And now to the most important part. As you can see in the above screenshot, the main reward is sweepstakes entries for monthly drawings. From what they wrote here, it appears that the monthly prizes total $10,000, but you don’t stand to win that sum. Only two people will win $1,000 each, while four hundred people will earn less than that. How much? They aren’t very clear on that. But the math looks pretty discouraging.

Luckily, that isn’t all there is. If you use the mobile app, you should be passively earning points all the time. No action is needed on your part, so that seems like a fair trade. Provided, of course, that you have no objections to exposing your privacy. There are no exact formulas as to how many points you can expect to earn. Since the app from Google Play didn’t work for me for some reason, I couldn’t test it on mobile, so I can’t exactly testify to that. But once you accrue enough points, you should be able to exchange them for gift cards redeemable on Amazon, Target, Starbucks, Macy’s, and other online shops.

nielsen computer and mobile panel account page layout

Advantages

  • Little to no effort on your part is required. Once you’re done with the tiresome questionnaire, you don’t need to do anything. Just let the app run in the background and use the internet like you would normally do.
  • It’s available in many countries. Not only in the US and Canada, like many other panels, but also in a number of other countries such as the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, China, and more.

Disadvantages

  • You have to give away your privacy. There is no doubt that this panel is legit, as Nielsen definitely is a reputable company with decades of niche experience. In the FAQ section, they have pointed out that they are only interested in aggregation of data and not in the specifics of any particular user’s online behavior. Still, too much is at stake here, for too small a reward (if any).
  • The rewards aren’t very enticing. You are trading all these information for sweepstakes entries or points that you can’t even count. I would expect a bigger incentive to allow anyone access to my data.
  • Many users report not being able to cash out their points. Of course, it could be a bug of some kind. But why not fix it? Such as it is, it seems like trading your personal information without getting anything in return.

Final Verdict – Should You Try This Panel?

Maybe I should rephrase the above question: should you give this kind of access to anyone on earth? Naturally, it’s up to you to give an answer to that. If you have no concerns at all, I won’t discourage you from signing up.

But if you’re already starting to worry as you are reading this review, you have every reason to skip this panel. They say that they don’t observe or collect the contents of your correspondence, phone calls, or login data. And I have no reason not to believe them. Still, it sounds kinda creepy to let go of your privacy just like that. Even if you don’t have anything to hide, it still seems like prying into something that nobody should have access to, however harmless it may appear to be. In the era of jeopardized privacy, it’s definitely better to be safe than sorry.