The Evolution of Mobile Apps – 1994 through 2016

evolution of mobile apps

In the summer of 1983, six months away from launching the first Macintosh, Steve Jobs said, “It would be a little like a record store, where software would be downloaded over phone lines.”

That certainly happened, and we call that store – AppStore today!

Today our lives move around mobile applications. Whether we need to wake up in the morning or do a quick meditation or navigate the route to client’s office or book a dinner table.

Apps have made everything just a click away.

But let’s rewind a few years (precisely over two decades) and see the journey of the mobile apps. How apps became such a vital part of our lives and how they went through a dramatic change and development.

The first smartphone in 1994 had over 10 inbuilt apps

Before iPhone and Android came IBM’s Simon, the first ever smartphone launched in 1994. There was no app store, of course, but the phone came preloaded with several apps like Address Book, Calculator, Calendar, Mail, Note Pad, and Sketch Pad.

These things weren’t called ‘apps’ back then

They were generally referred to as ‘features‘ found in the ‘Mobile Office’ section of the phone. For example this alarm clock (app).

 

more downloads for apps

Remember, the Snake Game? Those were apps too!

Earlier, a few Java games, a calculator or monthly calendar were all that came under the category of mobile apps. Nokia is still remembered for its famous Snake game on some of its earliest phones.

And, then came the era of ‘qwerty keypad’

In 2002, RIM lifted the game of smartphones and mobile apps with the launch of BlackBerry 5810. The phone integrated with the innovative concept of wireless email.

Apps were not fancy but they did quite a lot

The pre-loaded features of the phone, such as small arcade games, ringtone editors, calculators, calendars, to-do lists, sketchpad and so forth, are all ancestors of the apps we all know and love today.

Then came the first iPhone

In June 2007, Apple released its first iPhone which changed the game of mobile industry. The iPhone came with pre-loaded default apps like Maps, Photos, Text, Weather.

Come one, come all! Third-party apps are welcome

Then came the moment which revolutionized the tech industry and made way for mobile-first startups. Ahead of the launch of iPhone 3G, Apple announced its plans to introduce an iPhone software development kit for third-party companies. So, now the iPhone would support third-party applications using the Safari engine on the device.

AppStore went LIVE

In July 2008 the Apple’s App Store went live. On launch day the marketplace featured 500 apps. “Developers can reach every single iPhone user through App Store.”

10 million downloads in one week

“The App Store is a grand slam, with a staggering 10 million applications downloaded in just three days,” said Steve Jobs.

First few apps on the AppStore

More than 800 native applications were available on the App Store, with more than 200 offered for free and more than 90% priced at less than $10.

 The word ‘App’ became the ‘Word of the Year’

Apps became quite a rage. The tech slang ‘app’ was voted the 2010 ‘Word of the Year’ by the American Dialect Society,  as the word best summed up people’s preoccupation in the previous year.

Google followed suit and launched Google Play –  ‘An evolution of Android Market’

In 2012, Google took a big new step in bringing all of its content arms under one roof — Google Play. It rebranded Android Market, Google Music, Google Books, and its video offerings into one single marketplace.

Apps for every gadget

Apps soon became a part of all our gadgets, be it tablets or our personal computers. In fact, few apps became a bigger hit on bigger screens.

Apps started reaching millions of downloads in few days

DrawSomething, a pictionary-inspired game  reached around 1 million users in nine days – a milestone that took Facebook about nine months to achieve.

The app games we played

Breaking the figures down, an incredible 63% of iOS revenue was generated through games—with Candy Crush Saga, Temple Run 2, and the ubiquitous Angry Birds apps all raking it in.

When apps went beyond mobile phones

With 2 billion downloads in the four years, Angry Birds game is a household name. The app has got its own merchandise and is even coming out with a movie this year.

Short-form videos and photos over text

Snapchat, Vine, and Instagram started receiving more downloads than Facebook. Snapchat’s founders even got an acquisition offer for a whopping $3 billion.

Apps started making people millionaires, started buying other apps

Facebook started the spending spree by buying Instagram for $1 Billion. Most of the apps started making money with ads and in-app purchases.

Apps underwent a dramatic change and development

Skeuomorphism, 3D Touch, Material design – the apps have seen it all.

When apps came out of pockets and reached our wrists

Let’s be clear, without apps, there’s little reason to buy those wearables.

They are everywhere, even in our homes

There are apps for home systems, to control temperature, control the lights, manage security etc.

Apps can do everything and make you do almost everything

There are apps for eating, drinking, sitting, standing and almost everything you do. They can even sense, feel, and touch.

The startup scene got bigger, thanks to apps

Tech startups are the hottest in the startup space. In fact, tech entrepreneurs are the most influential people in the world today.

So, what are the predictions?

TechCrunch predicts that, by 2016, 44 billion apps will have been downloaded and ‘app-to-person messaging should overtake text messaging.’

And, what comes next?

Let’s build and see!

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Nidhi Shah
 

Nidhi is the head of content marketing at Arkenea, a mobile app consultancy building experience rich apps for startups and businesses.