Mobile Apps: Past, Present, and Future

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19 Mar, 2018

Technology

The Present:

If you’re living in the 21st century, and hello if you’re not, most likely you have a smartphone, and on your smartphone you have apps. Mobile apps in today’s world, especially in the developed world, are daily essentials. The clock app wakes you up in the morning, and after that, you probably check your email or social media accounts before starting your day. When you have a question, you probably whip out your smartphone and look it up on Safari or Chrome. Right now, you may be reading this blog on Chrome or Safari!

There were 4.77 billion mobile app users in 2017, and it is predicted there will be 5.07 billion mobile app users in 2019 (eMarketer). Of these billions of users, two-thirds of users allocate most of their time between gaming, entertainment, news, and sports apps (Think with Google). In a report by App Annie, an average US user spends over 2.25 hours on apps and launches at least 9 apps on average. Added all together, US users spend just over one month in apps. According to comScore’s 2017 US Mobile App report, the 10 apps that dominate the US domain are: Facebook, Youtube, Facebook Messenger, Google Search, Google Maps, Instagram, Snapchat, Google Play, Gmail, and Pandora.

The Past:

Like most things, getting to where we are now required work. The most popular of the mobile apps was Snake, followed by Pong and Tetris. The initial hurdle for the development of mobile apps were the 1G cellphones. They were low-resolution, had limited storage and processing power, and were coupled with batteries being expensive. The original solution option to fix these problems was WAP, Wireless Application Protocol. WAP was a basic form of HTTP, which were designed to have WAP browsers work within the constraints of the 1G phones. The most popular WAP app was the ringtone and wallpaper catalog. It allowed people to personalize their phones for the first time. Although, WAP was not the solution. It was slow and typing the long URLs was frustrating. On top of that, developers were not able to tailor the app to enhance the user experience.

Flashforward to the advent of the first Iphone in June 2007, the beginning of the smartphone revolution. One year after, in July 2008, the Apple App Store was launched. It featured 552 apps and 135 of them were free. Two months later, the App Store’s greatest competitor was released, the Android Market. Nowadays, most people know the Android Market as Google Play. After the releases of these two giants, the Windows app store launched in October 2010 and was followed by the Amazon app store in March 2011. The growth and development of mobile apps have not slowed down. Data gathered from Nielsen showed that app users 18 and older spent 65% more time on apps than they did two years ago. In May of that same year, Gmail becomes the first standalone app to hit 1 billion downloads (Guardian).

The Future:

Billion isn’t a rare word in the realm of mobile apps. In 2016, 149.3 billion apps were downloaded worldwide, which increased to 197 billion in 2017, and is expected to increase to 352.9 billion downloads in 2021 (Figure 1). In 2016, global app revenue was 36.2 billion USD and is projected to reach 71.1 billion USD in 2020 (Figure 2). Mobile Apps have only continued to advance. Health apps have gone from simply tracking your steps to measuring your heart rate and blood oxygen level. Business apps have gone from three-way conference calls to five-way video conferences. Commerce apps have gone from browsing through catalogs to using apps as a conduit for payment. Apps are ever changing with tides of technological advancement.

Figure 1

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Figure 2

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Of all things mobile apps, one of the most useful aspects may be the power it has to grow your business. Apps help you get through your daily activities, like emails, workouts, and socializing. So why not let it help you expand your business? One of the popular misconceptions is that apps are only meant for big brand businesses. Although, that is not the case. The biggest advantage of having a mobile app is the direct connection to the customers. It adds the value of direct communication and convenience. It allows you to market new features, products, deals, or loyalty programs literally into the palm of your audience’s hands.

The momentum of mobile app use is like a bullet train that is not slowing down anytime soon. Hopefully, you will jump on the train – destination: growth.

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