The shift from mobile limited to mobile abundance
Not too long ago (circa 2010) building an app meant designing around limitations.
- Embedding browsers into your app would likely crash it when loading image heavy webpages.
- Most users were on EDGE network. At just 75-135Kbps it is excruciating slow.
- Screens were tiny. With only 3.5 inches of display to play with apps had to perform a single task per screen.
- Apps were foreign concepts to many. I recall early Gigwalk users giving me weird looks when I told them they could download an app from the App Store and earn money by doing small tasks.
Successful apps of this generation understood these limitations. WhatsApp - the #1 messaging app - is boring but good boring. They understood that people don’t want to learn snazzy user interfaces. Instagram understood the issues with uploading photos on slow networks so they used a series of smart tactics to make it feel faster.
The times are- a changin. The era of a limited mobile world is quickly fading. The most popular devices including the iPhone 5, HTC One, and Samsung Galaxy S4 include:
- 3 to 15x more RAM. That’s a lot of horsepower to play with.
- Displays are 15 to 42% larger. You can show and do more on each screen.
- LTE networks are 30 to 100x faster than EDGE networks. This may be the single most important change.
App Stores still have structural issues that I’ve written about yet with 50 billion app downloaded I think we can agree they are not foreign to users.
Why is all of this important? Well, the types of apps that can be built for this new era are different than the ones we’ve been building so far. A service like YouTube could not exist prior to the rollout of broadband to the majority of US households.
In the new era of mobile abundance app developers need to shift their mindset and start taking advantage of these new found toys. Just to be clear that is not a license to overload apps with gimmicky Samsung style features:-)