Ever since the creation of the first smartphone, often attributed to Apple’s iPhone, mobile app development has been constantly on the rise. Now, in late 2021 I’d like to reevaluate the mobile app market and assess its perspectives for the next years. With over $143 billion spent on mobile apps in 2020 the market is stronger than ever, growing at 20% YoY (up from $101B in 2018, Statista, 2020), it shows no signs of stopping or even slowing down. In this post we'd like to share our thoughts about the causes and implications of this rapid expansion from an insider perspective.
The demographics are fundamental
Let’s start with identifying the key drivers of recent growth of the mobile app development market. Mobile app market is, naturally, highly correlated with the number of active smartphone users. As seen on the graph below, it has almost doubled since 2016 and is now encompassing a vast majority of global population. It is especially important to understand that mobile apps are the first truly global medium: while the access to internet resources has been available through the use of personal computers, it was unevenly distributed across the world. Most of computer users were concentrated in developed countries, leaving developing countries in Asia and Africa heavily behind in universal access to the internet.
Less expensive, mobile and accessible smartphones were a solution to many barriers facing users from developing countries, which is why their reach is so widespread. Now, China alone has over 900 million smartphone users. As we see, the forecasts predict that the number of smartphone users will keep growing steadily, reaching most of the human population, meaning that the rich of mobile apps will truly be universal.
An unlimited potential
Going further, we need to find out what the users do on their smartphones and how they use them. The short answer is: a lot. Statistics show that US adults spend almost 3 hours each day on average on their phones (eMarketer, 2019). Moreover, 55% of global web traffic is coming from mobile devices. This is an immense market and outreach. Jakub wirtes: "In my time as project manager, I’ve worked with a number of clients requesting mobile apps specifically to catch up with the mobile market and explore it. The potential of full market penetration is, I think, one of the greatest advantages of releasing mobile apps for the general public."
The business approach
Understandably, businesses wish to reach as much people as they can with their offering. But, as many clients pointed out, their mobile apps were also a necessity to uncap the full potential of their products. For example, the companies we’ve worked with wished to create apps expanding on their web environment to offer extra features available everywhere while still operating within their set environment. Others wished their apps to be standalone products because the mobile environment is often more accessible and comfortable to users than web model. Yet another type of clients wanted apps simply for their internal use, making sure that their employees are always up to date with the most recent information and have constant access to the crucial features needed. Even though these apps were often fairly simple and inexpensive, especially in comparison to the scope of operations of these companies, they were able to add value and improve operations, communication and make the key ideas come to life.
The time of the mobile has come
Summing these experiences up, we started to understand why the market for mobile is such a powerful entity - mobile adaptation is essentially an equivalent of digitalisation in the 1990s/early 2000s. Those who haven’t done it quickly enough fell behind with their full potential unrealised. We're starting to think of a catchy term for this phenomenon - mobilisation is after all already taken. On second thought, it kind of fits.