What Will the Next Generation Mobile Apps Look Like?
When asked to speak to graduating seniors at Loyola Marymount University recently, Charles Du, Apple’s mobile solutions consultant to western U.S. education institutions, told of a student at the University of Iowa. In one of the dorms there was a shortage of washers and dryers and students were constantly angling to use the available ones. The student he described developed an app that let people check the availability of washers and dryers from their mobile phones. (via the Aple iPhone blog).
It was a fitting anecdote for Du’s real message: one of the key strengths of mobile devices is that they are good at sending information to people in real time.
“When you see an overflow of people, there is a lack of capacity – there is a lack of real time information,” Du said. Find an area where there is a “capacity problem”, he advised the would-be jobseekers, and come up with the right solution.
It is also a fitting illustration for what many believe will be next phase of mobile apps.
Apps Future Lie in Their Applification
Mobile applications are poised to explode as they make their way into entirely new environments, such as television and the connected home, according to IDC. It projects the number of mobile apps to reach 76.9 billion by 2014, from 10.9 billion this year. Worldwide mobile apps revenues will experience similar growth, surpassing $35 billion in 2014.
By that point, applications will have increasingly incorporated tasks and functions and interactions that touch upon both the physical and digital worlds. Apps, as IDC pointed out, can turn a smartphone into a physical trainer that keeps track of exercise levels and even a heartbeat. They help cook a meal by walking you through the meal prep and then tell you when it is fully cooked, monitor your driving and offer tips to increase gas mileage, turn your phone into a flashlight, find your location through mapping, offer early forms of virtual reality, automatically upload and share pictures, scan physical goods through barcode readers, wirelessly transfer files by physically bumping two devices together, and provide a whole range of business support from fleet management to payroll.
This extension, or applification as IDC calls it will impact just about every interaction one can think of, says Scott Ellison, vice president, Mobile and Wireless research at IDC.
Ads in This Applified World
At the moment the mobile ad market is still emerging and is not yet distinct enough to present a clear picture of its direction. Certainly there plenty of guesses as to which are the most likely ways it will evolve. iAd and the iPad, of course, offer one model: the app-ad, which has gotten much attention and according to many of the companies that have tried it out, far greater conversions and signs of engagement.
Then there is a catch-all category that includes formats that range from old school text marketing to mobile local search. Despite this category’s lack of sex appeal, recent signs suggest it is the one with staying power.
At the end of 2010 IDC found that Google is on its way to controlling 59% of the mobile ad market with the company’s reported $1 billion in mobile ad revenues. Of that amount only about $150 million is coming from apps with the remainder attributed to display and search ads.
That said, it is difficult to image that the app-ad model will fade away. Perhaps it will take a few more years for it to become more ubiquitous, but as the number of mobile apps increase – and as their use is increasingly intertwined in every day life – they will surely be a major ad format.
The iPad’s First iAd
In the middle of December what could arguably be 2010’s most innovative mobile ad format debuted on what could arguably 2010’s most innovative mobile computing device: the first iAd for the iPad launched. The ad is for the upcoming Disney film “Tron Legacy.” It is the only iAd planned for the device this year, an Apple spokesman told Advertising Age. 2011 will be different however, the spokesperson said, with several other ads scheduled for the platform. As these roll out and advertisers get a better sense of how well they are performing, the battle of the mobile ad format may well advance in a new direction.