Apps are the fastest growing consumer segment in the history of commerce. With an average of 2000 mobile apps published every day, it’s clear that for the foreseeable future, apps are on track to be the new way we engage with everyone.
But who’s driving? As the app world evolves, app users are taking greater control of the wheel. As everyday people join the apps revolution, helped in part by the proliferation of smart phones, and more and more free tools are introduced, mobile phone and app users are defining the direction of app stores.
And with the opening up of operating systems such as Android, which holds the most promise as the development lab where anyone can get involved and get noticed, these everyday app developers will push apps to a yet unseen level of design and ingenuity.
It starts with app stores needing to create a new category. The most popular app stores have the same basic categories, such as utilities, games, books, and social networking. With everyday people driving app store growth, we’re going to need a new category: personal apps.
We Need Tools
Before Android Market listens, apps have to start with good ideas. We’ve moved past apps that make funny noises or offer simple games, and we’re expecting a lot more. But those ideas need platforms and tools before they can spread and become apps. Again, Android holds the most promise.
According to Ovum Research’s annual developer survey, Android is in position to overtake Apple as the platform of choice for developers (see “Android Will Replace iOS As The Most Important Platform To Developers Says Ovum”). Ovum didn’t ask any of the thousands of people using do-it-yourself (DIY) app design tools, but we know they feel the same.
Applephiles may point to other reports, such as one from Nielsen that said Android still was top dog even though 2011’s holiday buyers preferred Apple’s iPhone 4S. That look at who purchased a smart phone in late 2011 showed a spike from 25% in October to 45% in December in iPhone purchases. It’s an obvious result of the launch of the 4S.
While both ecosystems are doing a fair job of inviting everyday builders to lead app design, everyday people still need a key to the walled gardens. Until recently, app store publishing was only available by a small (but growing) segment of the population: developers.
As a new breed of DIY app building tools emerges, including appsbar.com, they are being welcomed as online resources where anyone, with any level of technology experience, can build and publish robust, professional-level apps.
Cause And Effect
But what impact will everyday app builders have on the design and direction of app stores? Apps are revolutionizing how and why people and businesses use apps. Now that everyone can build and publish their own apps, they are in control. It only makes sense that the people who are purchasing a million mobile devices a day should be able to build apps to run on the devices they are buying.
The free tools are breaking down barriers once only scaled by developers. We’re a company of app developers, so don’t get us wrong. We have a soft spot for them. But we’re seeing the impact everyday people are having on these app stores. For the first time, there is an opportunity for the average Joe to lead the charge and have just as much impact as the classically trained app developer.
With the new HTML5 apps available to all appsbar.com users, users can choose one app over multiple platforms and devices that can do virtually anything a native app can do. In 30 minutes today, you can have an app that runs on your Android, iPhone, Windows Mobile, and BlackBerry devices as well as Facebook and your Web site. Just a year ago this was unfathomable, and it’s now a reality with appsbar.
Since I introduced appsbar.com in April 2011, I have spoken to countless people whose appetite for designing apps just keeps growing. Smart phones and tablets have become the way we shop and connect with friends. They’re also how businesses find and engage customers. It’s only fair that the same people using the apps have a chance to get in the game.
The App Evolution
The evolution started with embracing the idea that apps have matured from simple games and novelties to robust tools for engaging people. Apps started to come into their own when we stopped looking at them the way we first looked at Web sites, then blogs, and then micro-blogging on social networking platforms.
The same thing that happened with those tools is happening with apps. At first they were walled-off environments, too expensive to even consider entering, with the cost to hire an app developer hovering between $10,000 and $50,000.
But as with those earlier online platforms, new tools have come along that break down the cost barriers and even the playing field. Today, building an app at appsbar is not only free, it also can be done in as little as 30 minutes. Suddenly, everyone has the time and means to compete for attention in an app store. But there’s more to know.
Once the cost barriers were broken, the next hurdle was changing the idea that apps should be sold. Apps should be free. You wouldn’t charge someone to visit your Web site or Facebook page, would you? But that doesn’t mean an app can’t be a tool for revenue.
Now that every business small or large can have an app store presence, how apps are monetized will change. Apps are doorways a business can open to invite anyone in. Smart businesses don’t charge for their apps. They build-in online catalogs and order forms, digital coupons, and more.
One of the biggest app stumbling blocks is how to make an app a two-way marketing vehicle. Just because you build it, it doesn’t mean the people will come. Posting an app as a marketing placeholder is an obvious step in the right direction. But by leveraging the right collection of tools, an app can provide customer touch points, including market research, customer service, and customer relationship management too.
There have never been more tools and resources available for anyone to join the app phenomenon, and we’re just getting started. With 98 billion apps projected to be downloaded by 2015, the mobile app is here to stay.
I can’t tell you exactly what the consumer, small business, and even enterprise-level mobile apps will look like a few years from now. But I can tell you that we at appsbar will be working hard to make sure you can make even the most complex mobile app easily.