There is little that remains secret about many of the world’s most powerful business leaders, politicians and public figures. Social media and constant news coverage has thrown back the curtain on everything from what they say, to what they eat.

But there is one thing that could illuminate what Davos attendees truly believe and value… their smartphone. After all, the apps I use say a lot about me.

So I asked colleagues and fellow attendees at the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering in Davos what they carry.

I expected they would tell me they used Evernote to keep organised, news apps to keep current, perhaps Twitter or stock chart apps. The sorts of things I use, I expected my fellow Davos attendees to have as well.

But, as soon as I started asking people about their phones, a different picture began to emerge.  First off, it’s not a homogenous, business-obsessed group — at least not the way their favourite apps tell it. And, believe it or not, ancient phone technology is still preferred by some. To get honest and open answers, I promised anonymity to everyone I surveyed.

Zen masters?

The first person I asked was a British academic from a large university. The main thing she uses — several times per day — is a meditation app. The next person, a hedge fund manager and activist investor, said he uses the National Football League app more than anything else on his phone. "Don't you use Twitter? Evernote? News?," I asked. "You told me to be honest and that is the honest answer,” he replied.

The chief executive of a large multinational bank gave the most surprising answer for this gathering, which you would assume would attract technologically engaged people: “I have a BlackBerry — I don’t use apps!”

A study in contrasts

To bring a modicum of science to my study, I tried to tally the types of apps to detect patterns.

Almost everyone used email and texting apps. There were lots of health apps, too: Fitbit, Jawbone UP, Strava.

News apps were common, but not as high up on these powerful people’s lists of most-used as I thought they would be. Apps for the BBC, New York Times, Bloomberg, Reuters and the Economist topped the list, but also there were country specific ones, too, such as Interfax News Service.

Travel apps were popular, from airlines and hotel chains, to aggregators and price search tools. Airline apps were most-used for electronic boarding passes — one of the great uses of smartphones for frequent travellers.

The most-mentioned and used app? Twitter. Popular, but much less so, social media sister: Facebook.

The last person I asked was the real winner: “I have a Nokia flip phone that is held together by duct tape,” said the senior bank executive, whipping it out of her pocket.

Lucy Marcus is an award winning writer, board chair and non-executive director of several organisations. She is also the CEO of Marcus Venture Consulting.

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