Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself: The Changing App Market

Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself: The Changing App Market

By Daniel Morales

Some would argue that the app boom is over. App developers are facing an oversaturated market, and it is becoming increasingly more difficult to attract new users. Independent app developers or publishers are having a hard time getting new users to download their app. According to a Statista report (June 2016), the Apple App Store has 2 million apps, while the Google Play Store boasts 2.2 million apps. The average American smartphone user downloads zero apps per month. Moreover, according to a Compuware study, 80-90% of the apps get deleted after the first use.

How user app preferences have changed:

In contrast, the number of mobile device users is ever increasing, and the growth opportunities for apps are compounded by the popularity of wearable tech. The overall picture is that the market is far from saturated. App Annie and reports from Forrester have stated that only 46% of the world’s population will own smartphones by the end of 2016. Regardless of the discrepancies in understanding the state of the current app market, one thing is for sure: the performance users expect from apps and the ways in which users interact with them are changing rapidly.

The number of places in which we interact with a single app has increased with the increasing number of devices we utilize. In addition, the way we interact with apps and our expectations of their performance have changed. People interact with apps through notifications, voice activation, widgets, chatting, etc. Users now find once innovative ideas, like push notifications, to be annoying. Users want convenient and minimal interfaces that present concise but high value information; in other cases, it is best if the user does not have to interact with the app at all.

Therefore, as apps evolve, designing them becomes increasingly complex as they are now utilized across various devices; hence, the very definition of what an app is has become blurry. The perceived value of an app has shifted from the time spent using the app to the time saved by having the app.

Interesting and disruptive growth areas for apps:

Apps for health issues

Health apps have come into increased utilization for basic health issues from helping to diagnose your symptoms to aiding in prescribing medication. More recently, the first FDA-approved app, developed by Pear Therapeutics in Boston and San Francisco, was released to the American market. The app, called reSET, is aimed at people with substance use disorders involving alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and stimulants and helps people recovering from addiction to stay on track while participating in outpatient treatment. A prescription is required to enable the patient to unlock the software and use it. Pear Therapeutics is developing additional apps for opioid abuse, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder, and it will seek FDA approval for each additional program.

Coupling software with customized apps

While companies adopt cloud-based computing solutions and the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes incorporated into all aspects of engineering, mobile CAD programs will become an even more valuable resource. As tablets become more powerful, software such as the Application Builder (COMSOL Multiphysics) for CAD design is enabling users without previous simulations experience to run apps specifically tailored for their needs with specific inputs and desired outputs.

In addition, music production apps, such as touchAble and the iOS Spire app, offer the ability to customize how a user interacts with their DAW for both live performances and audio recording. In particular, Spire Studio and its accompanying app provide a wireless, portable, multi-track recording system that can be used to record high-quality audio anywhere.

Augmented reality

Speaking of CAD systems, apps such as Solidworks’ eDrawings Pro, are incorporating augmented reality features that enable users to see their models in real-world settings.

With iOS 11, Apple announced its new app development platform, ARKit, and Google followed suit with ARCore. AR apps can be used, for example, to determine how furniture could fit in a room, to provide a new paradigm in gaming and to enable learning from 3D models.

Making the app store essential

As part of the launch of the new iOS11 system, Apple has completely redesigned the iOS App Store.  The App Store has been completely separated from iTunes, forcing users to try access the new store. The goal of the new layout is to help expose the developer community to more users, and to enable distinction, games have become categorized separately from apps.

The Windows Store has also been updated for the new Windows 10 S operating system, which can only run apps from the Windows Store. Hence, their goal is make their app store an essential part of the operating system itself. Microsoft appears confident that it can provide the right tools and encourage developers to put real desktop applications on the Windows Store.

Parting thoughts

The seemingly bloated app market is only dead if viewed from our past understanding of what apps can do. An untapped well of innovative and exciting uses for apps still exists and will only continue to grow and evolve with our increasing use of mobile devices. How can you integrate your app experience seamlessly into your current workflow? How will emerging tech, such as virtual reality and machine learning, play a role in your app? How can you make your app standout in the new app store landscape?

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