When you look at the latest figures, it seems as if apps have taken over the world. In October 2012, Apple announced that there were over 700,000 apps in its App Store, and that the apps had been downloaded a total of 35 billion times, a figure that grew to 40 billion in January 2013. Google Play equalled the 700,000 apps figure just a month later.
This is all quite startling when you remember that the App Store was only launched in July 2008 and the Android Market (as Google Play was originally called) was launched in October of the same year.
It’s not just games and entertainment apps driving that growth either, businesses are getting on board too and you can now get an app to book everything from a haircut to junk removal and pretty much everything in between. But despite these astronomical figures, are apps really the future of the smartphone market? Or will we see a change over the coming years to a mobile world with less focus on apps?
The debate surrounding whether apps are going to be the dominant smartphone force in years to come is a hot topic at the moment. One thing, however, is certain: in one form or another, apps are here to stay.
According to Amy Gahran, writing at the CNN website, apps are going to change over the coming years. She pointed to predictions from ABI Research that suggest more users will simply visit mobile websites rather than downloading a specific app to view content.
The reason behind this is because the mobile web is now better than it has ever been before, and users can access the content without having to download anything. For developers, it provides a way to create one solution for all the platforms, rather than being forced to develop and maintain apps for Apple, Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry devices. They also do not need to get approval for their apps from the various gatekeepers. There is typically less work involved than with developing native apps, meaning less investment is required.
This is especially true for publishers such as newspapers and magazines where the apps do not greatly enhance the user experience. Content in the form of text, images and videos can be viewed at the mobile website in much the same way as through an app, and the benefits are clear for both the users and the developers.
However, while some types of content may be more suited to mobile websites rather than native apps, this is not true of all apps. For example, gaming apps and apps with a large amount of interactive features can usually take greater advantage of the power of the mobile devices if they are native apps.
Native apps also have better access to features on the devices such as the camera and the GPS, and any apps that rely on these features will probably be around for a lot longer to come. Some apps are also designed to be used offline, which web apps will not allow.
So what types of apps will we see in the future? There are many predictions about the sorts of things that will become more important, but augmented reality (AR) apps are certain to become more mainstream. These use the live views through the smartphone’s camera and add information onto the screen to ‘augment’ the image that you are looking at.
Other apps that will probably become more important include healthcare apps such as those that provide medical tests, and intelligent apps are also expected to become popular, although it is not known when they will really start to take off. These apps will be able to get to know us so well that they will be aware of our likes and dislikes and our daily routines so that they can make predictions about what we want before we even know ourselves.
Things move so fast in the world of mobile that it is impossible to predict with any certainty what the scene will look like in even a few years from now. However, although we may see a shift away from apps for some types of content providers, apps are still likely to play a big role in the mobile experience for many years to come, and will only continue to get more powerful and innovative as the devices that they run on improve.
Author: Amy Sawyer