There is an app for that!!
With that seed planted into our minds, we humans have started looking for an app for that. For this. For also that. For also this. For everything.
There is an app for calculating the cab fare from the airport to your hotel. There is an app for reminding you to buy milk. There is an app for sharing a picture. There is an app that tells you who is nearby.
There is even an app for 'there is an app for that'.
How did we arrive here?
Phones running applications developed by third party developers didn't start with iPhone. There were J2ME apps, Palm apps, BlackBerry apps, Windows CE apps, Nokia apps, Samsung apps and the list goes on.
But, there was no single platform with universal reach and simple pay terms available to the developer community of the world. There was no universally understood visual representation of an app.
Steve Jobs launched iPhone in 2007. The phone market was already a hyper competitive and over crowded marketplace. The last thing the world needed was yet another phone with yet another standard.
When Steve launched the iPhone at the Macworld Conference & Expo 2007, he went on to explain the problem with the then most popular handsets and how Apple wanted to solve that problem.
He showed us MotoQ, BlackBerry, Palm Treo and Nokia E62 on the screen. He had not one, but many problems with these phones.
Steve Jobs said, "The problem is the bottom part. The keyboards are there even when we don't need them". He also expressed his frustration with lack of flexibility for applications running on the phone. The applications were very closely married to the physical buttons on the phone. He said, "Control buttons are fixed in plastic and are same for every application and can't be changed once shipped. Every application wants a slightly different user interface, slightly optimized set of buttons. Just for it."
What was his solution? A phone with no plastic control buttons and of course no physical keyboard.
Apple initially didn't allow third party developers to develop apps on their platform. They recommended Web 2.0 Apps for a while. Web 2.0 apps are nothing but bookmarks with an icon that look like an app. But the developer community wanted access to iPhone's hardware. Eventually Apple released an SDK that every developer in the world could sign up for. Apple also created an app store for people to discover and downloads these apps.
Till then, an app was closely married to the physical button layout of a phone. With iPhone an app became nothing but software. UI is software. Buttons are software. If it runs on one iPhone it will run on all the millions of iPhones. This ignited the imagination of the developer community. With the app store reaching every single iPhone owner, suddenly a developer in Bangalore had a the same reach as a developer in Cupertino had to a worldwide market.
The result? A revolution
Around the same time, Google, to its credit, was working on a Mobile OS called Android, lead by Andy Rubin. Rubin originally worked on a mobile OS called Magic Cap which was a simulation of your real life desktop and office rooms on a phone. Then he moved on and created a moderately successful phone called SideKick, (You can see a huge influence of SideKick in the early versions of Android).
Of course, the Android team iterated quickly, executed extraordinarily and fueled the app revolution faster than anyone could imagine.
Today we have more than 900 million Smartphones with a combined downloads of 40 Billion Apps so far. That's more than 5 apps for every single human being on this planet.
Apps have touched every aspect of our lives. There is an app for sending your Blood Pressure reading to your doctor. There is an app that lets you donate a dollar to your favourite charity. There is an app to report corrupt officials to the authorities.There is an app to tell you which wine suits the dinner that you just ordered.
There are several schools of thoughts about why people love apps.
I would summarize it as complexity vs simplicity. Internet is a wealth of information. Many a times, it is too much of information. For every fathomable need of yours, the combination of your browser and internet can give you unlimited supply of information. Unfortunately, people usually get lost in this wild wild web.
On the other hand, usually apps do one thing and the good ones do that one thing very well. Apps also come from a trusted app store with rankings, comments, social recommendations and a brief description of what they do.
And people love it.
Apparently, there is an app in which birds kills pigs. And people all over the world downloaded it a Billion times!