When apps took over the world

WWDC 2010 App Wall
The mobile phone market changed forever when Apple launched the iPhone in 2007. The hot topics are apps, developer tools and app markets instead of megapixels, gigabytes and millimetres.

Before the iPhone, the mobile phone makers’ usual strategy was to launch separate models for every type of user. One for the music fan, one for the camera buff, one for the guy who considers his phone a fashion accessory, and so on. All of them with special features to appeal to the target group.

Instead of putting out another niche phone, Apple launched a screen with a menu – one the user controlled and could modify to her heart’s content. Six months later, Apple opened the App Store, giving developers a prime venue to offer their own apps.

What is an app

App is short for application – a program, in other words. In this context, we are talking about programs that are installed on mobile phones or tablets. This can be anything from games and other entertainment to communication tools, location-based services and out-and-out brand builders.

Apps for phones could be downloaded long before the Apple App Store came along, but the big app download party started with its launch and the opportunity for developers to sell their creations directly from mobile phones.


Apps that are developed, installed and not run in a web browser have to be developed specifically for the operating system. Some hardware manufacturers have their own operating systems, like RIM (Blackberry OS) and Apple (iOS). Then there are the operating systems from software vendors like Google (Android) and Microsoft (Windows) that other manufacturers use, including HTC, Samsung, Nokia and Sony Ericsson.

On top of that, all the players have their own marketplaces: Android Market, Apple App Store, Nokia Ovi Store, RIM App World, Microsoft Marketplace, Sony Ericsson Play Now, Samsung Apps and so on. The standard deal is that the developer keeps 70% of sales revenues and the marketplace gets a 30% cut.

Market breakthrough

Five billion mobile phone apps were downloaded last year, with estimated sales of about the same number of dollars. Gartner predicts that sales will be triple that figure in 2011 and continue rising to become a 185 billion dollar market by 2014.
Android is the biggest platform in terms of numbers of phones. The most apps are available for iOS and acceptance of paid apps is higher among users. Nine out of ten apps downloaded last year were accessed via the Apple App Store.

The possibilities for brands and developers are endless. The plethora of market players and the huge competition makes it vital to have your analysis done and strategy set before you get started creating your own app.