How many times over the past couple of years have you heard the phrase, “There’s an app for that”? It started life as an Apple marketing phrase to promote its iPhone App store but despite being trademarked it has worked its way into our collective vocabulary. App is short for application -- a small program that generally does one thing. The idea that Apple had was to make it easy for users to add functionality to their iPhones app by app so that it would do whatever that owner needed it to do. As a result, the app market exploded as a way to personalize technology.
There are now storefronts for apps supported by virtually every portable device format: Apple, Android, Amazon (Kindle), Nokia, Windows Phone 7, Samsung and BlackBerry. Apple now has a Mac App store, too, for desktop/laptop machines and the Chrome web browser has its own web store distributing programs that launch from a browser tab.
What makes a good app? Hard to say. Of the top 10 apps across all major platforms in 2011 (aggregated by Distimo), three were versions of Angry Birds. A couple of other games, Fruit Ninja and Talking Tom Cat also make the top 10 so the simple distraction of gaming is one factor. Mobile interfaces for popular sites and services also score high; Facebook, Twitter, Google Maps and Skype apps all land in the top 10. The only app outside games and interfaces in the top 10 is iBooks, Apple’s ebook reader.
Productivity, motivation and reference are the other key categories that draw big downloads; apps can make work easier, help users track progress, and keep useful information close at hand. The Apple App Store is fast approaching a half million apps -- that’s a lot to choose from and chances are, they’re right; whatever you’re searching for, There’s an App for That™.