Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store both have 1.3m apps actively being developed and downloaded, while those apps have been downloaded billions of times. Some have speculated that the number of apps and app downloads will level off as developers struggle to make money and justify development efforts and consumer appetite wanes.
That is a view rejected by Marcos Sanchez, vice-president of communications for App Annie. “A load of other firms like Deloitte have said things like ‘oh, no more apps are going to happen’ – what a load of shit. I’ve heard this all before. The number of apps can and will grow and swell.”
In Sanchez’s view, apps are like the worldwide web in the 1990s, when a rapid expansion soon meant that there were tens of millions of websites online.
“Along comes Mozilla and HTML and by golly, now you can put up your own website for your business. At the time there were calls of ‘oh my gosh there’s 10,000, no, 1m, no 10m sites; it’s got to stop’. I’ve heard this all before,” explained Sanchez.
“The reality is that apps might not be quite as prolific as websites, but you can have niche apps that have 1,000 users and that’s fine because they make a couple of bucks off each user a month.”
He continued: “Things like the Garden Gnome collectors app or the Ham Radio station selector app – there’s going to be a place for these small apps; maybe they’re not making a crapload of money but they can find a niche. There will be folks who supplement their income with apps, a much smaller group of folks who can make a modest living and then there’ll be a sliver of the top 10 companies who are pulling down a billion dollars.”
‘You either get on or you’re going to be dead in the water’
Smartphones are fast reaching saturation point in the UK and other developed nations such as the US, rapidly becoming one of the main computing platforms. Users are reaching to their smartphones displacing tablets and even desktops as the first port of call for internet activities.
With app numbers expanding and becoming almost as common as websites, smartphone users could eventually avoid sites and services that do not have dedicated apps.
“For those companies making a billion dollars but don’t have apps already, you either get on or you’re going to be dead in the water,” said Sanchez. “Mobile apps are no longer a luxury, but a necessity. Even for brands like Victoria’s Secret, which has two apps already, and they’ve been very clever about it: not selling bras but extending their brand to the teens to 20s market.”
Apps are entering the next stage of their evolution as the smartphone becomes the central point for connectivity with other devices and services, and ever more crucial as the line between software and hardware blurs.
For Sanchez, the death of the app is greatly exaggerated even if some developers and apps are likely to rise and fall.
This article was written by Samuel Gibbs, for theguardian.com on Thursday 13th November 2014 07.00 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010