Given the widespread adoption and technical possibilities of mobile technology, mobile health apps could be potentially effective tools to intervene in people’s daily routines and stimulate physical activity. Self-determination theory and the motivational technology model both suggest that mobile technology can promote health behaviour change by allowing users to customize their online experience when using mobile health apps. However, we know very little about why and for whom customization is most effective. Using a between-subjects experimental design, we tested the effects of customization in mobile health apps among a convenience sample (N = 203). We assessed the effects of customization on perceived active control over mobile health apps, autonomous motivation to use mobile health apps, and intention to engage in physical activity, and tested the moderating role of need for autonomy. Structural equation modelling showed that customization in mobile health apps does not increase perceived active control, autonomous motivation, or the intention to engage in physical activity. However, an interaction effect between customization and need for autonomy showed that customization in mobile health apps leads to higher intentions to engage in physical activity for those with a greater need for autonomy, but not for those with a lesser need for autonomy. The implications for theory and practice are discussed.
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