A few years ago, apps were non-existent; today, apps symbolize the integration of mobile into our daily lives. As the saying goes, “there’s an app for that,” and according to various reports, this is a market that is just beginning to take shape. With the continued penetration of mobile handsets and tablets into markets all over the world, apps are quickly becoming a part of many peoples’ daily lives.

The first time we encountered an app was back in 2008 when Apple introduced the iPhone SDK. The iPhone App store officially opened in July 2008; since that time, smartphone users around the world have voraciously downloaded mobile apps. App downloads totaled 2.5 billion in 2009, while in the first half of 2010 there were more than 3.8 billion downloads, the majority of which were on Apple’s iPhone OS (iOS).

To fuel the appetite, there are approximately 250,000 Apps available to users across the various platforms (Apple has 200,000, Android has 40,0000) to create a market worth approximately $10 billion dollars. By 2012, the app market is expected to be worth $17.5 billion, which will grow to $32 billion by 2015.

There are multiple factors contributing to the app boom, including: the proliferation of smartphones, the increased capacity of mobile data networks, the rapid creation of app stores (there are currently 38, up from 8 a year ago), and of course the social factor.

So where are all these apps coming from?

For software developers, apps can be created quickly and cheaply in many situations. Depending on the app platform, the barriers to entry for app creation are relatively minute. For example, to get an app on Apple’s iOs platform, their staff must approve them. In contrast, Google’s Android platform requires no such approval, yet it is generally seen as a much more chaotic place to buy apps.

To create an app, developers face a number of difficult decisions; the first critical one is which platform to develop on. There are multiple choices, including: Apple’s iOs, Google’s Android, Blackberry’s App World, and Nokia’s Symbian (soon to become MeeGo). On each platform, developers get a 70% share of the revenues, but Apple’s iOs is by far the most profitable platform for developers. Some developers are betting on the Android to be equally profitable by the end of 2011, but they are in the minority.

The real challenge for developers is to make their app stand out in the crowd. With so many options facing consumers, developers must rely on more than a well-designed app to cover costs and turn a profit.

Overall, it is clear that the gold rush has begun in the app world. Those who rise to the top will reap major rewards, while the great majority will be left in the dust. At Lumos we have yet to download our first App, but we know the day is in the not too distant future. Our Blackberry Bolds are meeting our mobile needs for now, but who knows how long it will before we get un(h)appy.


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