App Store – We’ve come a long way baby!

8 years ago this week, Apple's App store was born on July 9, 2008. I remember my first experience in the App store; there were so few apps that I looked at EVERY app in less than an hour. Many of the apps didn't work properly; some crashed upon launch, most had extremely limited functionality. This brought up the question, why make an app if you have limited (and more often limited experience) IT resources? Many companies created apps for First Move Advantage or to show they were innovators. Competitors followed suit with app creation. If your competitor builds an app and starts eating into your marketshare; you too will build an app.

The good news is that competition breeds innovation, and 9 years later, mobile app development has come a long way.

On June 16, 2016 at the Wireless Technology Forum panel session, Matt Jones, Home Depot, stated that previously it was a competitive advantage just to have an app in the app store, even a bad app, but now app developers are competing with at least 4 other apps that do something similar.

Matt Jones cited the Delta app as a prime example of a useful tool (for someone such as himself who probably travels frequently). The Delta app is not only your boarding pass, it also provides gate information and tracks your luggage.

As a frequent runner, I often review GPS enabled tracking apps including Runkeeper, Runtastic, Strava, Nike+, MapMyRun. When I am running outdoors, I can select any of these apps to track my GPS location. Recording my GPS location allows the app to calculate my distance, time, pace of my run. My point being that mobile web does not have the same capabilities as an app. I previously posted about how my waterproof Garmin 235 GPS does the same thing, but has the convenience of a 1-button start on my wrist. After (and even during) the run, these apps auto-post to social media sites. Here's a sample from Facebook.

Banks and Financial Institutions are finding that mobile apps (beyond the mobile web) are a necessity to acquire and maintain customers. There are more mobile banking users than there ever were on desktop. Mobile banking has leapfrogged desktop Internet banking. Desktop Internet banking with Bill Pay capabilities was a huge time saver from writing checks and mailing, not to mention saving on the cost of a stamp. But Mobile Banking is a huge leap forward with remote check deposit. How many hours of my life have I saved from taking a picture of my check instead of getting in my car, driving to the bank, standing in line, etc? Thank You Tech Innovations! Today we are at the point where we can open new accounts via mobile apps since mobile apps have the capability to take and store pictures of our IDs securely.

So what does this all mean? Are apps table stakes?  Useful, value-add apps are now table stakes.

What does Mobile First really mean? Mobile technologists and marketers have been saying "mobile first" for years. Mobile technology adoption has now leapfrogged desktop. Mobility is ubiquitous, not just for techies and desk jockeys.  Last week, I was helping my running coach (world-ranked runner Tina Klein) set up her booth for an expo. She had never set up a desktop or laptop on Wi-Fi, but when I asked her to put her phone on Wi-Fi, she demonstrated master level ability. Being a running coach is no desk jockey job, she relies on her mobile office (aka her smartphone).

 Joe Conway, CEO at stable | kernel, a start-up app development shop in Atlanta isn't just looking for app dev work for his company. While on the panel, Joe Conway stated that he always looks at the ROI value of the app that he's developing. He doesn't want to take on project with no ROI value because a zero ROI app means no repeat business for his company. He needs win-win partnerships, where value-add apps are created.

Some of us envy the entrepreneurial lifestyle, until it's time to make payroll. Kelly Readspoke about how Cricket Wireless focused on providing the best experience for their customers by acting like a startup, but have the monetary backing of  AT&T. Perhaps the best of both worlds?

Back to Mobile First. According to my friends at WordCamp, Mobile First from a development standpoint is to program your website to load only the smallest objects for a smartphone first, and if a bigger screen is detected, only then load larger objects until you get to a desktop experience.

What else did we learn at the June 16th session of the Wireless Technology Forum panel session? Find out in the video recording below.