No single mobile application (app) is a problem. In fact, the iPhone and its Apple App Store five years ago opened a whole generation of technology for the benefit of humankind. It’s the proliferation of apps that is the problem. We need to think about an end game.
As is often the case, I came on this blog opportunity by living my digital life. Over the past year, I’ve pared down my app collection of free and paid apps from about 150 to 120. I now have separate stacks for tablet versus smartphone. I did this because I was running out of expensive device memory, and because there were so many I didn’t use frequently enough to carry. Oh, you too?
But app pruning is not the problem for today. Rather, let’s think about the proliferation of all apps. Six months ago, there were over 800,000 active apps in Apple’s app store, according to 148Apps.biz. There are also hundreds of thousands of Android apps in the various app stores for that operating system. That’s a lot of apps!
So many apps, that it exceeds what anybody could productively use.
More importantly, and the nugget of this blog thought, is there are too many apps to categorize and keep track of.
Meanwhile, just like a decade ago we saw the land rush by businesses to reach consumers through web sites, the business-to-consumer (B2C) push for unique-to-the-business apps is overwhelming the stores and the ability of consumers. Every day now I click on a mobile URL and get waylaid by the screen asking “would you like the app for our web site?” Seems everybody now has an app.
So how do we as a digital society manage all those apps? I concede the app review sites. If you’re looking for hobby apps, say photography, you’ll do well to consider your peers’ reviews. But what about your local grocery store? Or office supply store. Or home improvement store. Lesser justification, me thinks.
What I can’t get out of my head is the idea that B2C apps end up in the digital equivalent of the oh-so-20th-century Yellow Pages. Where there are 2,000 business categories and local listings under each, some paid.
In any event, the proliferation of mobile apps cannot grow forever. We are already into the problems with large numbers. App Stores may scale in technology to millions of apps, but we really need an end game, a different way of sorting out and harnessing the apps we most need at the moment. That’s it: just-in-time apps (JIT-apps).