My personal smartphone currently holds close to 80 applications, of which I use about a fourth on any given day. While on-the-go, I can tackle numerous functions through a variety of application types, from business to games, and everything in between. Smartphones are not truly smartphones without connectivity, and that doesn’t merely stop at internet access. The difference between a smartphone and feature phone is somewhat ambiguous, but one cardinal trait of smartphones is that application programming interfaces (APIs) enable third-party applications with superior integration, whether using the internet or not.
The developer community is therefore fundamental to the connectivity and functionality of smartphones. While the range and quality of applications are important, volume is the quickest indicator of the advancement of app stores. Apple’s iPhone App Store and the Google Play store for Android devices both have over 500,000 apps available for users. The Windows Phone Marketplace has over 100,000 apps, and with the rollout of Windows 8, the new Windows 8 phones are suited to attract even more developers to build many, many more apps.
Business applications are important enough to categorize in separate hubs. For example, the Microsoft’s Marketplace will feature a distinct area—the Company Hub—for custom enterprise apps. Apple’s App Store has a Volume Purchasing Program that allows businesses to easily buy and distribute hundreds or thousands of applications to employees. Small and medium businesses (SMBs) are increasingly interested in using their smartphones for a variety of business applications, especially given recent bring your own device (BYOD)-related trends that have further accelerated mobile device adoption. Mobile employees are well beyond using their smartphones for traditional uses: accessing company e-mail, instant messaging/chat, and calendar & contact information. They are quickly utilizing smartphones (and likewise tablets) to access a variety of communications, business process, and industry-specific applications (see list below), so that they can stay connected far away from their cubicles.
The use cases are endless for mobile apps. For example, a delivery services employee can now collect credit card payments on the road using a simple mobile app and card reader (such as the Square Card Reader or Intuit GoPayment). SMBs can pre-set prices, collect payments, receive confirmations, and send receipts via e-mail or text within seconds and entirely from their phones.
As customized mobile apps are being developed to support various end-user needs, developers and publishers are continuing to monetize creatively with in-app ads and in-app purchase offerings, in addition to the initial download fees. But with millions of apps downloaded each day, there is surely not a lack of money flowing through app stores.
So while applications continue to improve in quality and capability, the easiest way to alleviate the growing appetite for business applications is by simply providing more. The rest will take care of itself.
-Monik Sheth, Research Analyst