You are sitting at your kitchen table reading a newspaper story about Steve Jobs predicting the future of computers. According to this young Apple CEO, computers will be transmitting software through phone lines in the future.
You look up at your beige-colored, push-button, wall-mounted kitchen-phone. Keeping your eyes on this boring object, you say to yourself, “Really? That’s the future of computers. This kid is crazy!”
Yet, that’s the reality today.
Software apps are transmitted to our phones every second. We live in a world where every facet of our lives is dependent on these apps.
However, the evolution of mobile apps didn’t happen in a day. It took years of dedicated innovation and development.
Here’s the timeline of mobile apps and how they evolved to become an essential part of the digitized world today:
Epoch I: The Rise of the Hardware
The first phase of the evolution of mobile apps was the creation of the hardware. In the movie Field Of Dreams, the Kevin Costner character hears the whispering words, “If you build it, he will come.”
The 1990s and the early 2000s saw the building of those dreams.
In August of 1993, Apple launched its Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) called the Newton Message Pad. It became an instant hit. Users could organize their lives using the address book, calendar, and notebook features. It also could communicate through email and fax.
In those development years, Apple wasn’t the first one to come up with the mobile phone. IBM won that distinction in 1994 with the creation of Simon. Simon looked like a piece of black brick with a touch-screen in the middle. But those were the early days of mobile phone development, and aesthetic was not a primary motivator.
Palm Pilot changed that in 1996. The sleek looking Palm Pilot became a synonym for PDA, and everybody wanted one.
Even though this was the era of hardware proliferation, one software app stands out. It’s the Snake game on Nokia phones. It was one of the apps that won the hearts of many around the world through its simplicity and addictiveness. In the late 90s, you could see people playing this game on their phones everywhere.
In terms of hardware, other memorable launches were the Apple’s iPod in 2001 and the Blackberry in 2002. Blackberry would continue to dominate the market till the next epoch.
Epoch II: The App Gains Its Own Identity
On June 29, 2007, the first generation of iPhone was launched. A year later, Apple App Store started with only 500 apps. Within a week, those apps stacked up 10 million downloads. The year was dominated by conversations about apps.
In the 1990s and 2000s, software applications were working their magic on the PDAs and mobile phones behind the scenes. But the App Store brought them to the forefront. They became the stars of the show.
Two months after the App Store launch, Google started the Android Market to distribute mobile apps to their Android phones. Mobile market share became a battleground for Apple and Google.
This era saw the proliferation of new businesses and ecosystems grow around app innovation and development. Developers started to use their creative energy to create new apps every day. We saw the start of WhatsApp and Angry Birds in these years.
Epoch III: Apps Become Ubiquitous
In March of 2012, Google renamed Android Market to The Google Play Store.
The same year, Angry Bird achieved the distinction of the first app with 1 billion downloads. It became such a large brand that merchandising, television, and movie deals followed. It became the first superstar of the app universe.
The next generation of games like Candy Crush Saga started to gain public attention. Apple boasted of 1 million apps in its store.
Acquisition of mobile app companies became a daily occurrence. There was excitement around finding the next best company who could innovate in this space.
In February of 2014, Facebook acquired WhatsApp for 19 billion dollars. It sent ripples of excitement down the whole mobile app development industry.
The Future: What comes next?
Has a new epoch started in the evolution of mobile apps? It is difficult to say.
With the rise of wearables and VR technology, mobile apps might take a totally new role in our lives. We might see apps monitoring our health in real time.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is gaining traction. Our future cars might come with the app to control our house, and our watches might become our main communication devices.
As innovators, the only thing we can do is build it and believe that they will come.
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