Background: During the COVID-19 pandemic, one way to reduce further transmissions of SARS-CoV-2 is the wide-spread use of contact-tracing apps. Such apps keep track of proximity contacts and warn contacts of cases that were tested positive for an infection.
Objective: We analyze potential barriers to the large-scale adoption of the official contact-tracing app that was introduced in Germany on June 16, 2020.
Methods: Survey data were collected from 3,276 adults during the week the app was introduced using an offline-recruited probability-based online panel of the general adult population in Germany.
Results: We estimate that 81% of the population aged 18–77 possess the devices and ability to install the official app and 35% are also willing to install and use it. Potential spreaders show high access (92%) and ability (91%) but low willingness (31%) of correct app adoption, whereas for vulnerable groups the main barrier is access (62%).
Conclusions: The findings suggest a pessimistic view on the effectiveness of app-based contact-tracing to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. We recommend targeting information campaigns at groups with a high potential to spread the virus but unwilling to install and correctly use the app, in particular men and those aged between 30 and 59. In addition, vulnerable groups, in particular older individuals and those in lower-income households, may be provided with equipment and support to overcome their barriers to app adoption.