Thinking About an App?

Posted by: in location-based marketing, Social Media Insights & Trends on June 17, 2011

These days it seems that everyone has an app. Apple currently boasts north of 400,000 apps in it’s popular app store. Android has over 200,000. Yet I’m willing to bet that 98% of those apps get used a few times by people and then thrown away. To prove my point, I surveyed a few of my social friends via Twitter and Facebook. I specifically asked, “What is the ONE app on your phone that you can’t live without (beyond basic e-mail, web, phone, text).” My question resulted in about 75 responses with a net result of 99 different app recommendations.


I’ll start by caveating that this is not a large enough sample to be statistically valid. You’ve also likely deduced that this crowd is more social than average so usage of things like Twitter clients and other geeky apps are greater than they would be by the general populous. However, my point is that outside of a few anomalies, most of the apps that people shared were what I expected. In the graph to the left, I’ve shared a general rollup of the types of apps that people cited as their “must haves.”

What does this mean for you? My purpose is to caution that if you or your company is thinking about creating an app, you may want to hold your horses. That’s not to say that the proliferation of apps in the world isn’t great, but rather that many apps probably weren’t worth becoming apps in the first place. One thing you’ll notice in the chart to the left is that the first three categories, utility/productivity, Twitter and dining/entertainment, account for nearly 60% of all the apps. If I were to have asked a less social crowd, I’m guessing that Facebook would have replaced Twitter and that there may have been a slight uptick in things like news and maps (which I could have easily added to the productivity/utility bucket).

For me, the apps I use the most (you can see based on how I’ve organized my main screen below) are ones I use all the time. Note that since I just finished writing the book, Location-Based Marketing for Dummies, I over index by a lot on location based apps. But you probably won’t see anything out of the ordinary other than I am completely game-free (I’ll save that conversation for another day). I have more apps on my second page and of those, there are two others that I use ALL the time including American Airlines app and my app. Other than that, my other pages of apps get used about 1/100 of those on my main screen. And of those on the main screen, it’s probably the same 12-15 apps that get used 100x more than the rest.

So if you are thinking about creating an app, maybe you should consider a mobile-optimized site instead. There are a few main benefits to doing this over an app:

  • For the most part, you can be accessed by any smart or feature phone with a web browser
  • You don’t need to worry about developing for four to five different platforms (Android, iOS, RIM, Symbian (going away) and Windows Phone)
  • There is no need to go through the app store vetting process which can be long and dangerous
  • No need to worry about version control — people accessing your site always have the latest and greatest version of your application.

Again, that doesn’t mean that apps are a bad idea, just that you should take a long hard look at what the goals are. High transaction, productivity or utilitarian applications make a lot of sense. Those that are peripheral in value at best probably don’t.

  • Beluga
  • Chatter
  • Pandora
  • Yelp
  • Open Table
  • Shazam
  • Flixster
  • Poynt
  • rdio
  • RedBox
  • Angry Birds
  • Words with Friends
  • Sudoku
  • foursquare
  • Google Maps
  • Pulse
  • Instagram
  • Brand Your Photo
  • Camera+
  • DoAT
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • E. Sports
  • Milog
  • Nike +
  • Watch ESPN
  • Yahoo Sportacular
  • Twitter
  • Hootsuite
  • Tweetdeck
  • Plume
  • Twidroyd
  • Tripit
  • Evernote
  • Drop Box
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Docs
  • Google Translator
  • Keyring
  • Scanbizcards
  • SetCPU
  • Tabbed Out
  • USAA
  • Weatherbug
  • Yap Voicemail

In case you are wondering, here is the full list of apps I collected during my informal survey. If you have others you’d like to add, feel free to put ’em in the comments.

By: Aaron Strout

Aaron is the President of WCG, one of the three agencies under the W2O Group umbrella. He is a regular contributor to Marketing Land and a co-host of video podcast, Live from Stubbs.

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One Response

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  1. Good post. Given the weight towards mobile optimized sites versus apps, what in your estimation are the benefits going with an app rather than mobile optimized site?

    PS The twitter sign-in appliction is broken.

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