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The App’s second act

As a new year’s resolution last month I embarked upon an App cull.

That is to say I deleted any app from my iPhone that I either hadn’t used in the previous month, or apps whose remit I deemed was to just sit there in idle readiness for episodes of emergency boredom such as one might encounter in an airport departure lounge, or on a long train journey.

I also decided that any apps I culled would be welcomed back with open arms on a case-by-case, as needed basis.

A month later and I’ve noticed a couple of interesting things.

  1. I haven’t added any of the deleted apps back.
  2. I could have deleted even more of them – usefulness is relative.
  3. Most of the apps I rely on day-to-day are free.
  4. I don’t remember the last time I actually bought an app. It’s been months.

The four pages of apps on my iPhone 5 contain 76 apps – as an aside I can remember a time when if you’d told me I’d one day need 76 apps to run my life I would have thought you were an idiot.

  • 23 are system apps that you can’t delete, Contacts, Camera, Mail etc.
  • 11 are paid for, including one for train times, a podcasts app, Shazam for identifying music in coffee shops etc., a couple of music apps, Keynote and iMovie.
  • The remaining 43 are free apps.

So, I didn’t buy a whopping 85% of the apps I use. (Which is an amusing latter-day take on software piracy).

Then I broke it down another way.

Apparently I have a mild OCD that compels me to organise my apps a certain way. Firstly, those apps fortunate enough to make it onto my homepage are my must-have, do-or-die, Premier League apps. The second division apps live on page two, and so on. Some apps teeter on the demotion/promotion boundary from time to time, but the front page rarely changes.

iphone5

And it doesn’t stop there.

My homepage apps are then stack ranked and positioned strategically on the basis that the bottom half of the homepage is more useful than the top half (shorter distance for my thumb to travel), and then the bottom right quadrant of my homepage and the persistent dock are like the Whitechapel, London of app real estate. Only the most notorious serial killer of killer apps get to live there; Mail, Twitter, Safari and Settings – a quirk of iOS is that I’m apparently in Settings a lot. (I must confess that on the odd occasion someone else shows me their phone and I happen to note that their personal app arrangement is the smartphone equivalent of Escape From New York, it makes me want to hurt small animals)

Anyway, my somewhat alarming OCD issues aside; only two of my homepage (most valued) apps I actually paid money for, the rest are free or indirectly monetized as mobile companions to paid-for services like banking, Xero or Amazon –  or advertising funded like Twitter or Facebook.

So, some six or so years into the App era it appears that apart from some breakthrough gaming companies, the market for getting rich quick by developing discrete apps that only exist in the mobile paradigm is actually quite small.

Even legendary success stories like Angry Birds only lasted a short while on an exclusively mobile platform before devolving backwards to the realm of the PC and other traditional platforms.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely think that mobile apps are here to stay – particularly apps that integrate beyond the smartphone.

It’s just that I think the initial App era that exploded onto the scene in 2008 – well its honeymoon is now over and real usefulness and integrated innovation is where it’s at.

 

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4 comments

James
11 February 2013 #

I realised the other day that I no longer use any Apple apps on my iPhone except for the phone and Camera apps.
Ipod is now Spotify. Email is Gmail, Maps are Google Maps. Even though I love my iPhone hardware I am becoming less reliant on their software platform. The iPod+iTunes in particular used to be the killer app that kept iPhone as my first choice in Phone. This stickiness has been blown away by Spotify. The only App of any real value that I have purchased was TomTom but now I use the free Google Maps. I used to buy songs in Itunes but the only apps I really pay for now are Spotify and Xero – as subscriptions outside of the App Store.
I have inadvertently become a free agent from the Apple ecosystem.

Annette
11 February 2013 #

Thanks for that. I always find it so interesting to see what apps others are using. Must try Spotify. Thanks James.

Phil Burchell
15 February 2013 #

“honeymoon is now over and real usefulness and integrated innovation is where it’s at.”

Well said, and I couldn’t agree more.

My sister recently gave me her old iPhone, which I set up for my kids to use (as an iPod) so they wouldn’t always be asking for mine. I couldn’t believe the number of games I had downloaded for them over the years (free of course) … it was great to be able to delete them off my phone, while leaving them on the other device.

Like you, I find I’m only using a few apps regularly, most of them free. Shazam has been used regularly for 3 years, and I too couldn’t do without Google Maps. IMDB and NZ’s “Flicks” for movie reviews, Kindle and GoodReader, Wunderlist and CamScanner to name a few others.

The most used? Phone, Messages, Contacts, Camera … the things I originally bought the thing for. If all the rest were deleted tomorrow (maybe except for those above), I don’t think I’d even notice.

The gloss has gone off Apple in my opinion, not the least for it’s insistence that they (Apple) think they know better than the User, and so are removing User control of things such as Updates.

Reminds me more and more of how Microsoft used to behave!

(An interesting thing I recently heard … all those free Apps, especially Ad-supported games, are the principle reason our batteries don’t last. The constant need to update the ads means constant polling of the network … using power and draining the battery faster).

Melissa North
20 February 2013 #

I am receiving my first iphone this week. I know I’ll have xero, banks, gmail, fb, g+ & twitter on it….but i don’t know about much else. Even when I had my android device(s), I had hardly any apps on it. I get bored too quickly and have better things to occupy my time with than phone things. We shall see how the iphone goes….maybe I’ll want to play more?

Good blog though. I enjoyed it. Every time I try to organise the android device(s), my organisation gets buggered up by updates to firmware etc. Why bother organising?

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