The Brief History of the App: When did apps become so important?



Today, installing an app takes approximately 30 seconds. That’s less than half the time it takes to even send an email (The Radicati Group 2019). According to the New York Times, there were over 2 million apps available on the app store last year.

With this in mind, we can totally understand why apps have become so popular for businesses and consumers. They’re an essential part of life!

So for millennials and especially Gen-Z, it may be difficult or impossible to remember a time before smartphones. But let’s think back..

Twenty four years before the first iPhone, in 1983, Steve Jobs predicted the development of app stores. He explained it as “a little like a record store”, where software would be downloaded over phone lines (The Guardian 2016).

Apps first emerged from early PDAs (that’s personal digital assistants for the younger readers), with simple yet loveable classics like Snake.

The Nokia 6110 included a built-in version of Snake in 1997, which lots of people consider to be the very first mobile app! Four years later, in 2001, the first iPod arrived with built-in games like Solitaire and Brick.

The iPhone was then released in 2007, which as we know was remarkably successful. This meant that native apps (mobile apps) were developed and the beloved App Store was launched one year later.

On that day, Apple released over 500 different apps that were downloadable onto the iPhone and in just a week, iPhone users downloaded around 10 million of them.

According to the American Dialect Society, “app” became word of the year in 2010!

The first instalment of Angry Birds was released in December 2009 and quickly became a hit with users all over the world. Six years later, over three billion downloads of Angry Birds meant it was the most successful app of all time.

In 2013, over 700 apps were being developed and launched each day so the following year showed a huge shift in app usage, from fun games and social media to entire lifestyles.

The following year, 75,000,000,000 (that’s seventy five billion) apps were downloaded in the App Store throughout 2014.

The 2009 apple slogan was, “There’s an app for that” and wow, were they right.

Sensor Tower released a report in 2019 that ranked the top 20 most downloaded apps of last year. According to the report, total app downloads grew to 115 billion in 2019.

Facebook owns four out of five of 2019’s most downloaded apps: Facebook, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram. The one non-Facebook owned app included in the top five is TikTok.

TikTok was the newest platform to turn its users into viral sensations, grossing $177 million in 2019.

As this brief history of mobile apps shows, apps are constantly in a state of evolution that is unlikely to stop in the near future.

We depend on apps for shopping, food, connecting with friends and family, entertainment, news and just about every other form of consumption available in our lives!

We know the impact that apps have one each of us day-to-day, which is why we do what we do!

If you’re interested in building an app or if you’d like to talk to us about our process, get in touch with us.

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