Mobile apps: From novelties to essential parts of our lives

A little more than a decade ago, an application (app) was associated with form-filling. Now, the term has been defined by technology, more specifically mobile phones. Apps initially used to simply be additions that could be applied to your smartphone, but have now since become pivotal parts of most people’s lives.

The launch of app stores

July 2008 was a huge turning point for mobile apps. It was the month that Apple opened their famous ‘App Store.’ At the time, it was launched with just 500 apps, but now hosts over 2.8 billion. One year later Android launched their Google Play Store. These two stores, incidentally from two of the most valuable global brands, were hugely significant in the rise of apps as it gave them a large platform on which to be showcased to millions.

It gave phone users a place to visit and search through an entire catalogue of apps for all walks of life. Not only did it host the various different apps, it also displayed rankings for the top games or top apps in each category, as well as listing real-time trending apps.

(TOP: The average number of apps installed on each smartphone is 35. Photo by Jason Howie / CC BY 2.0).

With just the 500 apps on the Apple Store initially, there was not the comprehensive range a decade ago that we are used to now. Originally, apps were simply seen as small additions and novelties. Simple games were available to download. A few functionally apps were also available, things like iTorch and the calculator app.

The largest brands, such as eBay and Facebook, offered some of the first apps available for phone users to purchase. There was not much variety and most apps that were on the app store were simplistic and in a minimal form. A prime example of this was the YouTube app, which was initially very different to the current YouTube app available now and its website counterpart at the time. A lot of the videos available on the full site were not made available on the mobile app – this was later rectified.

Financial capital to develop an app and get it feautred in the top stores was a primary reason as to why the app market was so unsaturated. Smaller companies and brands would not want to risk the huge financial investment needed for something that, at the time, was not 100% going to even be successful. What made that risk even greater was that app development was a rather niche occupation, and even is now. With mobile apps for smartphones a mere few months old at the time of the App Store launch, it would be impossible to have any real experience creating apps. Sure, developers would be highly experienced in similar fields, but apps were something new that very few people knew too much about.

Nowadays though, not having an app presence sets a company back and puts them at a disadvantage to their competition. Even though the cost is still high to create an app, the financial setback is (rightfully) deemed a worthwhile investment. This is why there is such a variety and large quantity of apps available at present.

The change in apps’ purpose

But as well as attitudes changing on the supplier side, consumers have also changed the way they use apps. An increasing number of users are now looking to them as a form of primary entertainment, not just temporary time-killers. Users are now downloading Spotify to listen to music, the Netflix app to stream movies and TV shows, and apps such as PokerStars to play games. This is in comparison to having an MP3 player to listen to music on, or a portable console to game on; and it just shows that the versatility of entertainment that apps bring to phones and tablets can eradicate the need for all these separate devices.


(Spotify is available in 65 regions and is one of the most popular apps available to download. Photo: Steve Nagata CC BY 2.0) 

It is far from just entertainment though. We use apps for most things in our lives now. Where we once watched TV for news, we have apps instead. Where we once listened to the radio for music, we have apps instead. With graphics, detail and memory all vastly improving on our phones, even hardcore gaming on mobiles is now a possibility.

Ingrained into our lives 

Without a doubt, apps have made our lives more convenient. As a consequence, we are far more dependent on our phones than we have ever been, but at the same time our lives are more efficient in terms of time and perhaps cost as well. The fact that apps are so ingrained into our lives means it will be very difficult to ever go back to not using our phones as a navigational tool for instance, or as our first source of news, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. Many of the processes in our day to day lives are becoming increasingly technologically advanced, apps are just assisting with these processes and they should be truly embraced. If they are, who knows where they could take us in the future?


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