With the rise of new platforms that allow users to develop apps at a shockingly low price point, a radical democratization of the mobile app industry is already well underway.
Instagram, Facebook Messenger, Google Maps: chances are you use each of these apps multiple times a day. These are the big fish of the mobile app industry, and while they get the lion’s share of the spotlight, they also cost millions of dollars to develop and refine.
But the vast majority of this crucial and growing sector of the digital economy consists of smaller apps that have a singular use and serve a niche audience – and the emergence of affordable, code-free development platforms has been integral to their proliferation. Smaller apps built on these platforms are reconfiguring the landscape of the mobile app industry by giving everyday people the ability to build apps for a remarkably low cost.
The Mobile App Industry Is One Giant Pyramid
A useful way to visualize the mobile app market is to think of a pyramid. At the very top is a small, pointed area occupied by big players such as Bank of America and Google. These apps cost tens of millions of dollars to develop and rely on an extremely qualified team to constantly refine and maintain them, according to Time. As a result, they’re almost always up-to-date and highly usable for the millions of people who rely on their services every day.
In contrast to these huge companies is the rest of the pyramid, occupied by the vast majority of apps with a much smaller cache of users. Take, for instance, the small cafes that use a tablet with an app in lieu of a cash register – it’s a vital program, but it’s designed to be used only by employees and customers of a local business. This bottom part of the pyramid is comprised of millions of apps like these, with singular functions and niche audiences. Yet, even though these apps only serve a small population, they often still cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop, as Business News Daily explains.
However, innovative new platforms in the mobile webspace are disrupting and radically reshaping the landscape of the app economy. These services essentially allow the layperson to access the technology behind app and web development without years of study or prohibitive costs.
AppMakr is a great example of this kind of democratization. The service provides an affordable way for users to develop an app by allowing them to work on an existing platform rather than invest in an entirely new one – instead of spending 100,000 dollars, the user only has to pay nine. You might not be able to buy a whole bus for only two bucks, but for that price you can certainly purchase a ticket to get you where you need to go. In the same way, nascent app developers can take advantage of the resources of an existing, highly functional platform without breaking the bank by trying to own it themselves.
As a result, the gap between “the establishment” and more DIY, “indie” apps is narrowing. Recently, it’s become pretty difficult to distinguish well-funded publishers such as the Huffington Post from a very popular blog on well-designed CMSes like Medium. The app space is following a similar trajectory; DIY platforms allow users to create apps that are increasingly difficult to discern from the big players. For example, Takin Over Radio, one of the largest internet radio stations in the world, has introduced a sleek app through the AppMakr platform that has been downloaded over 100,000 times to date.
Is There an App for That?
It’s a catchy phrase, but Apple’s iconic slogan could be jumping the gun – especially when you compare the mobile app space to the seemingly boundless webspace. The latter features literally tens of billions of pages, according to CNN, completely dwarfing the mobile app market, which features a comparatively paltry two million apps, a number from Statisa.
Nevertheless, the democratization of the app economy has allowed more small apps that target niche audiences to proliferate. Who knows – in a few years, there could indeed be an app for everything. But before that ambition becomes a reality, millions of everyday mobile users will have to share their bright ideas with the consuming public. I’m excited to see what happens.
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