Best practice with updating SurveyCTO Collect

Each new version of SurveyCTO comes with a more robust, feature-filled version of our mobile app, SurveyCTO Collect. To make the most of new features and fixes, we recommend that you update SurveyCTO Collect when a new version becomes available, which is easy to do as you can do so using the Google Play store, just like any other Android app. Similarly, we distribute updates for iOS via the Apple App Store.

By default, Google Play and the App Store will automatically update all installed apps, including SurveyCTO Collect, but this isn’t always desirable. We suggest that the right time to install updates is between projects or between data collection rounds, while devices are back in the office, or in the care of field supervisors.

Once a project has started, there’s sometimes little benefit to new features on SurveyCTO Collect if you haven’t had time to incorporate them into your fieldwork plan and form design. So unless there’s an exceptional reason to update while in the field (e.g. a new feature arrives that makes your data collection workflow much easier in some way), it probably isn’t worthwhile.

Otherwise, most app updates on mobile devices being used for data collection can consume pre-paid mobile data credit unnecessarily, with no benefit to your project. If unregulated, your devices might even try to update the mobile operating system, which is typically a large download. Our recommendation here is that you prevent all software updates in the field as much as possible.

Disabling software updates

To manage your SurveyCTO Collect version we recommend disabling automatic updates in the Google Play app, at least for the time devices are out in the field. You also have the option to only allow automatic updates over Wi-Fi. iOS has an equivalent option.

However, keep in mind that some Wi-Fi connections might be slow to the point that they struggle to facilitate app updates but might still be fast enough to send form submissions from the field to your server. Also, if you’re using a Wi-Fi-enabled mobile hotspot, you’ll want to economise on mobile data credit as above.

To change auto-update settings on Android, follow these steps:

  • Open the Google Play app.
  • Tap on the 3-bar menu in the top left.
  • Scroll down and open Settings.
  • Select the Auto-update apps option.
  • Choose Don’t auto-update apps (or Over Wi-Fi only).

To prevent automatic updates on iOS, follow these steps:

  • Open Settings.
  • Tap on iTunes & App Store.
  • Under MOBILE DATA, disable Automatic Downloads.
  • Under AUTOMATIC DOWNLOADS, also consider turning off App Updates (as well as other options here which can consume mobile data credit).

Even with automatic updates turned off, Google Play will periodically suggest to the user that they turn auto-update back on! To deal with this, you might password-lock Google Play using a third party Android app to lock the app. We discuss app locks and other device configuration options for Android in this article under the “Other useful software” heading. This will prevent the user from opening Google Play, so they won’t be able to update or install any apps. Otherwise, include this information in enumerator training, so they understand the consequences of updating software on the device.

Server console distribution

SurveyCTO Collect has historically been distributed from the Collect tab of the server console - and it is still possible to download the Android installer from there. Part of this system involved SurveyCTO Collect app notifications on Android to notify users that a new version of SurveyCTO Collect was available. This setting is to be found on the Collect tab > Mobile data collection > Settings.


This option to Notify Collect users of updates is turned on by default. This affects all SurveyCTO Collect users submitting data to that server. You may wish to turn this off. Otherwise, users will see a message like the following on the screen in the SurveyCTO Collect application:


This is a prompt to download the latest installer from the server, which would still need to be installed.

In summary, please, by all means, use the latest version of SurveyCTO Collect. We worked hard on it and want you to benefit from the new features and fixes that come with it. However, as exciting as a new release might be, save updates for when the pressure of fieldwork is off.

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