Changing convention: mobile apps

Vision explores the rapidly growing mobile app sector and asks, what impact are they having on our everyday lives?

In March 2013, 17-year-old British-Australian entrepreneur Nick D’Aloisio hit the headlines after selling his Summly app to Yahoo for a reported US$30m, showing the power of apps to turn anyone with a good idea and computer programming skills into a multi-millionaire overnight. Yet the market is still in its infancy.

The term ‘App’ was voted “Word of the Year” by the almighty American Dialect Society just three years ago, in 2010. Fast-forward a couple of years and ‘app’- an abbreviation for ‘application’ - has become part of everyday language. These mobile devices programmes have revolutionised the way we consume, socialise and entertain ourselves by allowing us to do these things on the go from virtually anywhere.

Without them, no shopping online whilst stuck in the weekend traffic, no listening to radio on your phone and no illicit game of Angry Birds during a boring conference call. A few examples of the thousands of things we can now do with a mobile device. Our love affair with applications keeps getting stronger: this year alone, an annual volume of 70 billion mobile apps will be downloaded, predicts ABI Research. Meanwhile, Forrester Research says apps for tablets and smartphones will be a US$38bn market by 2015.

So what makes an app a global hit - or a miss? When Apple’s App Store revealed that the 25 billion mobile app downloads threshold had been crossed on March 2012, it celebrated by disclosing the most successful apps of all times on its iPhone. Facebook, Skype and eBay ranked top in the free apps league whilst Angry Birds, WhatsApp Messenger and Doodle Jump were the top paid ones. Global consultancy ICM Research says 59 per cent of consumers chose their last app on its expected usefulness, followed by ‘how much fun’ shoppers expected it to be.

Jamie Belnikoff, associate director at ICM, argues that free apps tend to be favoured, and that successful apps generally follow the FUSE formula. “They have to be fun, useful but also secure – so users’ private information remains safe – and easy to use,” he explains.

All over the world, people with an interest in apps are meeting up to discuss the future of this promising industry. The Global App Summit is a conference and app exhibition held in Dubai in June that brings together mobile technology companies, app developers and Internet entrepreneurs of all kinds. The event’s organisers say it will provide insights into the latest technological developments, market opportunities, next-generation services, and the devices that are shaping mobile communications. Examples of the issues that will be discussed include how brands can leverage the power of apps, mobile innovation for various sectors – from TV and healthcare to government and careers in apps.