Apple announced last week that in just 3 years 15 billion apps have been downloaded through it’s online store.
With a sizeable revenue cut of paid programmes, it has become the accidental goose who has laid the golden egg for Steve Jobs.
And although Apple did not invent the smartphone application, its system has defined the user experience. iOS apps are simplicity at every turn – payment, installation and use.
Others have followed-suit, with great success. Android Market passed three billion downloads in May.
But after a period of rapid growth, native smartphone apps are facing a fight for survival.
That threat comes from web apps – software that runs in a browser rather than being downloaded and installed on the device’s operating system.
Mubaloo, one of the UK’s biggest mobile app developers, estimates that requests from clients for web apps has doubled in recent months – enough to make them the third big player in app development.
The reason for that is simple – developing web apps solves several headaches.
Firstly, like the regular internet, a good web app can be made to adapt to a wide variety of devices rather than forcing the developer to create different products for each platform – be it iPhone or Android, smartphone or tablet.
Secondly, by circumventing the strict guidelines associated with official stores, Mr Mason’s clients can have exactly what they want, and can say for certain when it will be ready for the public.
Should any changes need to be made once the app is live, they can be made instantly, rather than wait several days for approval.
And then there’s the matter of money.
Put an app in the App Store and 30% of each sale goes to Apple. Android takes the same, but the cash goes to payment processors and mobile carriers. Microsoft and BlackBerry also get a cut of what sells in their stores.
Web apps offer developers the chance to cut out the middle man.
If that was not enough of an incentive to fly solo, in February of this year, Apple announced that it would also be taking 30% of revenue from in-app subscription payments.
It is that levy which may have proved be the final straw for cash-strapped publishers relying on a lucrative digital strategy to keep operations moving.
The first major player to adopt a web-apped approach to mobile subscribers was the Financial Times (FT). In June, the newspaper released its debut web app. Since launch it has attracted 200,000 users.
FT bosses have said subsequently that future app development will be focused on web platforms rather than native.
Key improvements in smartphones’ ability to power staple web components mean the FT web app does almost everything the company would expect from a downloaded app – including offline reading.