Background The use of mobile health apps is now common in diabetes self-management and acceptability of such tools could help predict further use. There is limited research on the acceptability of such apps: use over time, the factors and features that influence self-management, how to overcome barriers, and how to use an app in relation to health-care personnel. In this study, we aimed to obtain an in-depth understanding of users’ acceptability of a mobile app for diabetes self-management, and to explore their communication with health-care personnel concerning the app. Methods The study had a qualitative descriptive design. Two researchers conducted 24 semi-structured in-depth interviews with adults with type 2 diabetes who had used a digital diabetes diary app for 1 year, during participation in the Norwegian Study in the EU project RENEWING HeALTH. We recruited the participants in a primary health-care setting. The transcripts of the interviews were analyzed using qualitative content analysis on developing themes, which we interpreted according to a theory of acceptability. We used NVivo 11 Pro during the process. Results The users’ acceptability of the app diverged. Overall, the responses indicated that the use of a digital diabetes diary requires hard work, but could also ease the effort involved in following a healthy lifestyle and better-controlled levels of blood glucose. Crucial to the acceptability was that a routine use could give an overview of diabetes registration and give new insights into self-management. In addition, support from health-care personnel with diabetes knowledge was described as necessary, either to confirm the decisions made based on use of the app, or to get additional self-management support. There were gradual transitions between practical and social acceptability, where utility of the app seems to be necessary for both practical and social acceptability. Lack of acceptability could cause both digital and clinical distress. Conclusions Both practical and social acceptability were important at different levels. If the users found the utility of the app to be acceptable, they could tolerate some lack of usability. We need to be aware of both digital and clinical distress when diabetes apps form a part of relevant health-care. Trial registrations Self-management in Type 2 Diabetes Patients Using the Few Touch Application, NCT01315756, https://clinicaltrials.gov/show/NCT01315756 March 15, 2011.
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