The history of mobile phone apps is not as old as we might believe. A brief overview of their history reveals that mobile apps have been around for a while even though we might associate their emergence with the popularity of smartphones. A mobile phone app can be a program or application, designed exclusively to operate on a mobile telecommunication device. Their basic purpose is usually to increase the functionality of these devices to bring them at par with the functionality of a computer.

The Use of Mobile Apps Today

Today, life without mobile apps has become unimaginable. We use apps to order food, get around, learn about our health, run our businesses, and entertain ourselves. Today, the average person spends more time using a smartphone than a traditional desktop computer. So what was life like before the App Store?

The Earliest Mobile Apps

Well, the earliest of our mobile phones did have some mobile apps, such as the calendar, calculator and address book. Yes, those simple tools were the precursors of our new-fangled apps. Some basic games like the brick game or elongating snake were also forms of rudimentary apps. These apps played a big part in making Nokia phones popular around the world.

Enter the BlackBerry

The next phase in the growth of mobile apps came with the emergence of BlackBerry in 2002. This was the first kind of smartphone. It featured one of the earliest email apps that could enable users to send emails on the go, even without being anywhere near a computer or laptop. The convenience offered by the email app opened people’s eyes to the convenience of these apps and encouraged developers to design apps that are more functional. Over the next few years, this trend grew large in order to spawn an entirely new industry dedicated to developing apps for smartphones.

Teething Troubles

Technology, however, had to develop at a faster pace to keep up with the creativity and excitement of developers and users. For example, the earliest of these phones had to charge for at least 10 hours before people could use them for only 30 minutes. Network coverage was also severely restricted in those days, which meant that content for apps was also very simple and basic. It was not also possible or convenient to use these apps for a long time because the phones on which they ran were large and heavy. This limited the functionality of the apps. However, the technology fascinated the general market, which was still too expensive for them and out of their reach.

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Smartphones become a Commodity

One of the effects of this impetus was that smartphones became cheaper and affordable for regular users and were no longer restricted to busy executives and businesspersons. The needs also changed accordingly. People began to demand apps that could help them do their regular tasks as well as access different types of content for their entertainment. Businesses also latched on to the potential of engaging with their customers through mobile apps.

In the early days, WAP connectivity was required to download and use any apps. When manufacturers began to offer WAP functionality within their phones, users could download apps, but these were only restricted to the ones that the specific WAP of the phone manufacturer could support.

2010 – The Year of the App

Then came 2010 and the birth of the iPhone 4. This was the year when mobile apps really took off in a big way. This phone offered touchscreen functionality and a digital keyboard, which greatly enhanced the user experience. By this time, Apple had already seen success with the online App Store. Hundreds of free apps were available for instant download. Which led to the download of millions of these apps in just a week. Since, then app developers all over the world began developing apps for all kinds of uses—games, finding directions, home management, office management, exercise, learning languages, cooking, painting, and so on.

Today, nearly 20 percent of the global population owns a smartphone. On average, these people spend at least 2 hours on these devices, using one or the other application. In fact, more people use mobile apps on their smartphones than using desktop computers. They have the option to download any of the above 5 million mobile phone apps available on the market.