Ten years ago, the Apple App Store opened its virtual doors, unlocking a totally new world of revenue opportunities for businesses big and small, and allowing any developer with an idea to become successful almost overnight.
But the world of apps today is vastly different to what it was in 2008. Today, apps are sleek, multifunctional, and complete businesses within themselves. Ten years ago, they were by and large simple games or functions, letting you jot down notes or toss virtual paper into a virtual bin.
Apps have today become essential to businesses, with big players such as banks and real estate companies relying on their mobile platforms to drive customer engagement. Similarly, small businesses have embraced the app, with SMEs across nearly every industry either integrating with existing apps or even launching apps of their own.
Apple launched the App Store with just 500 apps, many of them games or simple extensions of already existing company webpages. Today there are over 2 million apps on the App Store, with another 3.8 million on the Android play store.
“In its first decade, the App Store has surpassed all of our wildest expectations — from the innovative apps that developers have dreamed up, to the way customers have made apps part of their daily lives — and this is just the beginning,” Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple, said in a statement.
“We could not be more proud of what developers have created and what the next 10 years have in store.”
According to statistics tracking website Statista, Apple has paid out over $US100 billion ($134 billion) to app developers over the App Store’s decade of existence, with the company taking an approximate $US40 billion cut of that.
To throw a few more whopping numbers in the mix, there are over 20 million Apple developers in the world, and over 180 billion apps have been downloaded through the app store. Some of those have been local success stories, such as Brisbane based app studio Halfbrick, which created the third most popular iPhone game of all time, Fruit Ninja.
More than an idea
The app industry is still very much a nascent one, but has nonetheless undergone some rapid transformations during its comparatively short existence.
Reflecting on his time running one of the Australia’s most successful app development companies, Appscore founder Alex Louey tells SmartCompany the last decade has gone quicker than he thought.
“It definitely doesn’t feel like 10 years,” he laughs.
Louey’s Appscore is a Melbourne-based app development company that specialises in iOS apps, founded by himself and co-founder Nick Bell in 2010 from just $3,000. Today, the company boasts a revenue of over $25 million.
The last eight years haven’t all been smooth sailing for Louey, who admitted to SmartCompany last year there were some points where the business nearly went “bust”. But the two founders persevered, and have now carved a name for themselves in an industry that Louey says has “massively changed” since it began in 2008.
“Back then, any man and his dog could build something and make good coin from it, but over the years the industry has matured, and its a rarity as a founder to be able to do something, come up with an idea, and make money and be successful from it just because its an app,” he says.
“How people have used apps has changed too; they need to be well thought out through marketing, execution, customer service. Everything you need to run a successful business you also need in the app space.
“Ten years ago, if you had an idea that’s all you needed. Like Paper Toss, I used to love that game.”
Louey says apps have also gone beyond standalone apps that do one thing and have broadened out to become integrations with larger company ecosystems, such as those from Uber or Airbnb.
Apps are no longer successful in their own right, he says; instead, they now act as channels for companies’ products.
“Companies used to want to produce an app because it was cool and it looked innovative, but then four months later they’d just dump it. Now you find these days most companies see it as an integral part of their product,” he says.
As for the next 10 years, Louey thinks the app ecosystem will become less about the apps and more about the software, be it a website, app, or on a wearable. He also predicts that artificial intelligence will become further ingrained with our apps and services, acting as a way to further customise user experiences.