It's hard to believe that the iPhone launched just 8 years ago. iPhone & Android smartphones with their millions of apps ushered in the mobile era a few years back. Now, for most of us, apps are firmly integrated into every day of our lives. It all started with the launch of the Apple App Store in 2008, which debuted with 500 apps. (There are now more than one million.) The initial crop of apps was made up largely of games and utilities. Matthew Panzarino, of TechCrunch, outlines the phases of app evolution we've moved through since then.
Here are three trends that are taking full advantage of the mobile revolution to make our lives easier, more productive and fun:
1. Machine Learning/Artificial Intelligence
Apps like Google Now, Siri, Flipora, Pandora etc. have taken us from the world of manual searching to automated discovery. These apps are largely about automatically understanding a user's intent or context and providing the right information at the right time. For eg. Siri & Google Now can offer intelligent recommendations regarding traffic, weather, flight details etc. when they know you're taking a trip. Services like Flipora are using Artificial Intelligence to automatically figure out what a user's interests are to recommend highly engaging and relevant content as a personalized feed that's formatted for mobile. Based on its understanding of a user's interests Flipora also automatically suggests other users to connect with and follow, in effect connecting the world around interests. The future of search might be no search at all.
It's intelligent discovery that removes the need to search. There's been a lot of discussion and debate about how Artificial Intelligence might be dangerous to humanity in the future with tech pioneers like Bill Gates and Elon Musk weighing in. But today's apps are all about using machine learning and artificial intelligence to empower humans with knowledge which in turns improves human productivity. Peter Thiel in his book Zero to One argues for the positive role of technology and Artificial Intelligence in our future and says that the most valuable businesses of the coming decades will be built by entrepreneurs who seek to empower people rather than make them obsolete. This view echoes Steve Jobs' initial vision for the personal computer as a bicycle for the mind that helps unleash the full potential of human creativity and productivity. Artificial Intelligence today in apps like Flipora and Google Now largely serves to amplify human intelligence by making us smarter and connecting us with relevant knowledge with almost zero friction.
2. Geo-location as context
Our Smartphones today leverage location to provide us with contextual information based on where we are and what we're doing. Swarm is one app that's taken advantage of this new level of data availability. It lets you extend online connections into the offline world by alerting you when friends are nearby and allowing you to spontaneously meet up with them. Starbucks is another app that's using location data to let you know when you're near a cup of coffee (or a place to find free wifi). A notification shows up on your home screen whenever you're near a Starbucks store, and it's a feature that other retail businesses are increasingly integrating into their apps. Shopular is another app that recommends cool shopping deals based on your current location that are personalized to your shopping behavior.
3. The On Demand Economy
It's kind of amazing to think about the remarkable change to our way of life Uber seemingly ushered in. It seems almost like it happened overnight. The order-a-car-service on-demand model seemed to spur a wave of entrepreneurs to apply that same model to a whole host of other services. There's Push for Pizza that lets you, well, push a button on your phone to have your favorite pizza ordered, paid for and delivered to you. Amazon has gone beyond just creating the app and actually supplies the button with Amazon Dash. With a little upfront input into the app (like the name of the product you want, your address and your payment information), you can then just simply press a small device with one button that attaches to a product, or even to your shelf, when you're running out or running low. It's only available to Prime Members, which means it's automatically shipped to you overnight for free. All of these on-demand apps are like having a remote control for the real world.
Artificial Intelligence, intelligent use of geo-location and the rise of the on demand economy when coupled with having a computer in your pocket at all times are going to connect us with knowledge and real world services like never before. It's all about intelligent apps doing all the work for us to provide us with the relevant information and services at the right time. These trends are sure to spawn even more Billion dollar companies as mobile software continues to eat the world.