This is one of a series of articles that The Economist has published on mobile technology. Like the “neatly packaged” bits of information iPhones apps. can contain, I’m going to feature my favourites of the series over time. If you are impatient you can read the whole series here.
“Apps are nuggets of magic, They very elegantly address the strengths and weaknesses of the mobile internet.” – Bart Decrem
The appetite for apps appears insatiable: Gartner, a research firm, estimates that almost 18 billion have been downloaded since the first app store was opened by Apple in 2008. By 2013, it thinks, the number will have risen to 49 billion.
In many ways, apps are representative of the changes taking place in personal technology. Small, downloadable chunks of software, they give people access to information in a neatly packaged format and most have one or more of the following attributes: simplicity, cheapness and instant gratification.
Today there are more than 425,000 apps in Apple’s online store and more than 250,000 in Google’s Android Market. Yet in a recent survey of Android-phone users in America, Nielsen, another research firm, discovered that the ten most popular apps accounted for 43% of usage and the top 50 for a whopping 61%. Admittedly, these statistics may be influenced by the pre-loading of apps for services such as Facebook and Google Maps onto many phones. But the results are still telling.