The mobile app industry is a booming one. With more than 8.9 million apps available on the planet, mobile app developers should be interested now more than ever in how to navigate the market. One of the best ways to do this is to take a look at mobile app history and how it has brought us to where we are today.
Whether you’re a mobile app developer or marketer, learning more about the timeline of mobile app history can help you to make predictions about the future and anticipate ways in which you can infiltrate, and possibly even revolutionize, the market.
Early Mobile Phones
The first mobile phones available were innovations that changed the way people were able to communicate, despite being miles behind the supercomputer smartphones we hold in our hands today. The IBM Simon PDA is known as the first mobile phone to become available to the public. Simon revolutionized the PDA industry by combining the cellular phone, the pager, and the notepad together in one device for the first time. It’s pen-based interface paved the way for the touch screen mobile phones we know and love today.
Simon came preloaded with a calendar, calculator, and address book, among other features. However, these were known specifically as features, and not as apps. This was a moniker that would not hit the mobile phone market until years after 1994, when Simon was released.
The First Mobile App
In 1998, Nokia released the Nokia 6110 – the first GSM based mobile phone to use an ARM processor. This business class model was hugely popular as it boasted a state-of-the-art UI with menu icons – a feature that would later become standard. But most importantly, this model was also the first Nokia mobile phone to come with the Snake game pre-loaded. This is what is most often considered to be the first mobile application available on a phone. The game even offered a two-player version that users could play between phones. Nokia paved the way functionally for the variety of mobile apps that are now available for use on mobile phones.
The App Store
While Nokia was the first company to release a mobile phone with mobile apps available, Steve Jobs was hard at work for years developing mobile app technology that would truly propel mobile phones into a new era upon its release. It all began with a vision he had in the 1980’s, while Apple was still just the name of a line of desktop computers. Jobs imagined a future in which he could connect people to all that they needed conveniently and quickly. And eventually this vision came true in 2008 when the Apple App Store was officially launched.
The App Store launched with 500 apps already available inside, making it impossible for any one app to claim the title of being the “first” in the store. But this was a notable move in mobile app history because it paved the way for a major change in the way that users interact with their cell phones.
Before the App Store, cell phones were relegated to basic functional use. People made calls, sent and received texts, checked the time, and perhaps did math using their phone’s calculator. The advent of the App Store introduced mobile apps that became a part of people’s everyday lives. Between games, productivity apps, social media, and eCommerce, the App Store created the space for cell phones to become the digital companions they are today.
The Next Stage in Mobile App History
Nokia and Apple may have been the first heavy hitters in the mobile app market, but since then many app developers and companies have made their own mark on the mobile landscape. Android users now have the luxury of choosing between over 2.56 million apps available to them on the Google Play Store. Amazon even has its own Amazon Appstore in the form of an Android app, which allows Kindle users to go to one central location for all the apps compatible with Fire OS. Even Apple continues to keep up by developing app-compatible software such as the Apple Watch.
The flip side of the abundance of mobile apps is that developers have to stay aware of trends within the app stores created to help consumers weed out apps that might not fit their exact criteria. A large example of this is ASO optimization. Without proper ASO, even the best mobile app could fall through the cracks of the App or Google Play Stores because there is no way for users to find it in a search if they don’t already know the app’s name.
There is a lot to keep up with, but the good news is that the ever-changing mobile app atmosphere leaves ample room for app developers to continue to make strides in their field. As companies like Apple and Google become more and more friendly to developers, it is becoming simpler to not only create a mobile app, but to optimize it for the platform you plan to release it on. There is no telling where the next stage in mobile app development will lead, but it is likely to include even more accessibility for users and developers alike.