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There’s an app for that, but should there be?

As I have made my transition from an iPhone 4 to a Nokia Lumia 900 running Windows Phone 7, it has got me thinking about the state of the app market.  Keep in mind before you start hating, that I have carried an iOS device for the past four years so I feel like I can objectively compare these mobile app stores.  Not to mention the other iOS devices floating around here such as iPads (although I never actually paid for one).  No question iOS has more applications than any other mobile platform.  However, I venture to say that 90%+ (totally a subjective number) are total garbage or shouldn’t be an app to begin with.  We’ll break that apart.  According to Apple, they have over 500k apps.  What is not published is the number of apps that have a one star rating or have just been flat-out deleted from people’s devices.   Think about how many apps you have downloaded and then never used again.  How many apps do you have that you launch less than once?  I refer to these as single-use apps.  So sure, Apple has more apps than Android and Windows Phone but how many of those are nothing but fart applications? 

Let’s put quality aside though because Android and Windows Phone have their share of stupid apps that somehow people are making money on.  I introduce a new category of app that I refer to as the glorified web browser.  These are apps that really don’t bring you anything more than you could get by pointing your mobile browser to a web site.  What are examples?  Amazon, eBay, Yelp, USA Today, Facebook, YouTube, Google Search, Dictionary.com, Walgreens, IMDB, Southwest, United, Craig’s List, etc.  You get the idea.  Some of these apps might mix it up a bit and provide some unique features or push notifications, but in the scheme of things all of these apps do is render the same data you would get inside your browser.  Think about it.  Do you really need an app to interface with an E-commerce site?  All that is doing is taking up space on your phone.  It’s not that it taking up valuable space in memory either.  It’s screen real estate.  This is half the reason why Apple had to add folders to iOS so you had a place to hide away these seldom used applications.  I’m sure many of these apps have been successful, but I don’t think they are bringing a ton of value.  Most of them I can live without.  Facebook is an excellent example.  Those developers have such a mastery of HTML that the mobile web site almost looks like an application.  With so many apps that I really don’t need, I decided I could afford to make the switch to Windows Phone to pick up some of the features it provides that I really like.

So in my opinion, what makes a good app?  Here’s my list

  • Games
  • Audio streaming applications – i.e.: Pandora, iHeartRadio
  • Apps that make use of phone specific features
  • Books
  • Applications with Offline functionality – SharePoint Workspace Mobile
  • Communications apps – Skype, Lync
  • Apps that interface with devices – i.e.: Sonos, Pioneer Elite, Comcast, DIRECTV

I am sure there are other examples as well, but I think that’s a good list to start with.  Games is the most obvious one.  If you look at the top 100 apps, you’ll see no shortage of them.  Are there apps that I wish I had on my Windows Phone?  Of course, but there is nothing I am so dependent on that it’s a show stopper.  I know this may sounds like I am just trying to justify my Windows Phone purchase, but it makes sense to me.  Apple fans may not agree with me and that’s ok.  I having been one in the past know that there is no arguing with them.  :)

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More Stories By Corey Roth

Corey Roth, a SharePoint Server MVP, is an independent consultant specializing in Cloud technologies such as Azure and Office 365. He also specializes in mobile development. Corey serves as the product manager for two cloud-first mobile app platforms: BrewZap and HappenZap.

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