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May 23

@techlatino Guest Blogger: Howard Tullman: We Have Reached Peak Apps

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Spare us your “killer apps.” We don’t need any more. What we do need is an app that kills all the underutilized or just plain useless apps that are taking up space on our phones.

I’m good. No mas. In fact, I’m up to here in unused apps and mystery buttons that, at best, are befuddling because I no longer have any idea of what they do or what they’re for. It’s great to have a cool-looking button for your app– unless no one can remember or figure out what it means or does 3or 4 days later. I’m sure that when I downloaded each and every one of these mission-critical apps, there was a very solid reason and a crucial need (hah!). Today I don’t have a clue. It reminds me of the days when you’d automatically accept every LinkedIn or Facebook request to connect because– after all– who could have too many contacts or friends? Be the first on your block to download the newest app, need it or not.

I’m now pondering whether I can spare the space on my phone any longer for these rusty and remnant placeholders from the near and distant past. And it’s a little depressing each week when the App Store reminds me that I have 87 updates to download as well. So, thanks, but no thanks. Please do me and my mobile a favor and don’t bring me your newest app to add to the vast array of orphans already sitting unloved and long untouched on my phone. We have jumped the shark and reached peak apps. It’s all downhill from here.
Spare us your “killer apps.” We don’t need any more. What we do need is an app that kills all the underutilized or just plain useless apps that are taking up space on our phones.
Even if I could find your new app among the 40,000+ new entries each month, I’m basically not interested because my plate is more than full. Of course, the very fact that it’s so noisy, cluttered and expensive to try to launch a new app and get the word out to the marketplace and especially to the likely users is the second reason why it’s pretty much a waste of breath to bring me your new breakthrough productivity product or umpteenth social media solution.

If I wasn’t such a lousy housekeeper, 70% of these tired and tiresome things would be gone and no longer taking up the very precious parcels of real estate that are the screens on my phone. In fact, while some of the buttons are vaguely familiar, I’d say that I have no concept whatsoever of what 25 of these things are even supposed to do. Neither do you, dear reader. What’s happening on your phone is no different from what I’m looking at. Whatever these things were supposed to be doing to us or for us, they’re not doing squat today.

It seems that we’re all digital hoarders for no good reason. I’d say that it’s just another instance of the persistence of the path of least resistance. Honestly, it takes about two taps on an icon and a simple press on the little “x” to make these things disappear, but we can’t bring ourselves to do it. Is it because we got them for free and we love hanging on to a bargain? Are we saving this stuff for a rainy day– just in case there’s a pressing need for some conference event app that you last used in 2012? Maybe. Too bad there’s not a Task Rabbit to take care of this torture for me.

The real explanation for the problem is actually older than time. It’s mostly about custom and utility. We are completely creatures of habit, loyal or lazy (you decide) and we get set in our ways, sheer inertia takes over, and we’re reluctant to budge because what’s working now is fine (or at least good enough) for us. (See Keep it Simple, Stupid.) The numbers we’re seeing from ComScore and others don’t lie and they are frighteningly consistent. We might “touch” a dozen or two dozen apps a month; that estimate seems way too high, but, even if it’s accurate, it’s a fleeting affair at best. We stick with the stuff that works and dance with the one(s) we brought to the party.

Right now, we are spending almost half of our phone time on a single app (usually our primary social network) and we spend 90% of the time on the 5 apps that we use the most. This doesn’t leave much running room for any of the new kids on the block and when you see how quickly the Instagram knockoff of Snapchat Stories blew right by it, you can also understand that, even if we’re willing to take a quick look at something new, we’re suckers for the tried and true. There’s a lot to be said for one-stop shopping. As I’ve said, the power of the ubiquitous platform (See Why Platforms is the New Plastic.) is the heart of Facebook’s continued dominance. Facebook remains the No. 1 app for anyone 25 and older. (See Facebook’s Fabulous Future.)

 

Bottom line: No one’s looking for new places to go. And we don’t need a newfangled app to tell us that.

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