The first smartphone was launched by the personal computers’ giant, IBM. Back then, the Simon by IBM came with a particularly different skill-set as compared to the smartphones available 13 years down the line. The Simon had a touch-screen, came with e-mail capability and an in-built calculators. And yet, it wasn’t this phone that changed the world. And yet, it was the iPhone by Steve Jobs’ Apple that changed the world.
In the brief interlude of 13 years between the two,
What made smartphones the cornerstone of the new digital world and what made it an indispensable part of the lives of more than half the people of this planet?
Some call this the smartphone revolution. Respectfully disagreeing, it has been the application revolution that has truly changed lives because without the highly ingenious strings of code compiled into the apps, the iPhone was just another fancy name for a piece of hardware that was previously known as the Simon.
Mobile applications have changed our lives in so many manners that some would even say that the notion of technology overtaking the world is already in play and a reality. It starts from something as simple as using the call book app to save contacts and the calculator app to compute even basic math to playing complexly coded gaming apps to pass time to using messenger apps to stay in touch with literally everyone you know to using social media apps to catalogue your lives and/or building a business to e-commerce apps to sell your products and services to a virtual market and much more.
The number of applications have also changed from 500 in the 2000s to 5 million and counting that are currently present on the Google Play Store.
This figure, of course doesn’t figure in the number of apps that are exclusively present on the App Store and the apps that are present outside these two app markets.
The global app industry is expected to grow from 100 billion dollars to half a billion dollars by 2026 at an average growth of 20%. Considering this rate, the app industry will touch a trillion dollars much before this decade sees a close.
Moreover, this number takes into account only the growth in revenue from paid apps and in-app paid services. The figures of other revenue models like advertisements and e-retails are astronomical and so invaluable that a figure can’t be attached to these assets of the app industry. And if this level of growth wasn’t enough, the SARS-CoV-2 became an unlikely ally for this industry. From being mere softwares on smartphones, apps became the literal doorway to the virtual world which became the real world. As a result, almost every part of this industry has seen growth so unprecedented that in the future, this period will be compared to the Arabs and their period of oil discovery.
Our modern reality with all the technology is so wrapped around the presence of multiple entities in the form of mobile applications on our cell phones that we don’t even realize the amount of leverage these apps hold in our lives.
If only the app of Gmail were to vanish suddenly, 1.8 billion people around the world would be left without an application for sending business communication through e-mail and/or receiving spam mails.
If Whatsapp were to be down for a down, 133 countries around the world would be unable to use their favorite messengers and 65 Billion + messages would not be delivered on that day.
If PayPal were to go down for 3 months, payments worth 221.73 billion dollars would not be transacted.
If Uber were to go bankrupt suddenly, 80 million users would be left stranded on the road without a cab and 3 million drivers would be left without an employer. The list, as you see, is endless and the integration of applications into our daily life is seamless and deep.
In the year 2019, users around the world caused 194 billion apps to be downloaded.
76 billion apps were downloaded using the Google Play Store and approximately 30 billion downloads over the Apple App Store.
The total hours that the users of these applications clocked were close to 1400 billion hours.
To give to you a perspective, the total number of people in the world that are connected by the internet and cell phones is just shy of 5.1 billion people.
However, even if you consider the entire world population of close to 8 billion people, these numbers average to every person of Planet Earth, irrespective of age, country, social status etc, spending 175 man-hours over 24 downloaded applications.
Users of social media applications around the world saw a 10% YoY increase. From your perspective, a 10% increase in social media users is equal to adding the entire population of the United States of America to social media applications year-on-year.
The average user has 9 social accounts, a huge factor behind the growth of these social media behemoths.
Statistics of 2019 also showed acceptance of groundbreaking innovative apps that have created an industry of their own. For example, the download of the top-5 food delivery apps saw a 300% increase from the numbers of 2016, an average of 100% y-o-y growth.
If these numbers bemuse you and are giving you a migraine, then hold your aspirins and read further to know what a globally disrupting pandemic has done for the Mobile Applications Industry. The numbers were already hitting the roofs when the virus hadn’t started wreaking havoc all across the world. Applications like TikTok were already hitting the headlines. And when the World Health Organisation declared the novel Coronavirus or Covid-19 as a global pandemic, the collective reality of the world was in for a drastic change. Before the pandemic, the lines between the real world and the virtual world were blurred but with the pandemic and the lockdowns and the social distancing and the masks and the public safety announcements and mass public paranoia and the whatnot, it felt like the real world had ceased to exist. Life everywhere had become like the climax of a globally acclaimed sci-fi movie.
In this sci-fi, while the villain the size of nanometers continued, and as of the date of writing, continues taking lives, the beneficiaries of this pandemic in a big way were all applications and businesses associated with the digital world and its services. As we saw the pandemic unfolding, workplaces were shut down and all work shifted from work from workplace to work from home. Public gatherings, by all means, were banned worldwide either through statutory declarations or through the people’s own paranoia. As social gatherings were banned and lockdowns were imposed in more than half the world, social media applications became the new social gatherings.
Video conferencing software like Zoom and Microsoft Teams emerged as the biggest winners as, within 3 months, the total user stats of these applications saw a 300% increase.
What years of liberal workspace culture couldn’t do, the pandemic did it within a few months as work from home became the new normal.
Global Social Media Users increased by almost 15% Y-o-Y this year. For perspective, the increase in social media users could repopulate the country of Russia over 4 times, going by the present statistics on population numbers of Russia.
The current penetration of internet and mobile devices is 66% of the present World Population.
The penetration of the internet and mobile devices directly correlates to the penetration of mobile applications as every function that is performed on a mobile device is essentially through a comment fed to a set of codes compiled in the form of a visible interface of an application. Even transactions over mobile browsers are essentially through the browsers’ apps. The consumption of infotainment i.e. fitness-related applications, education-related applications has also increased manifold. The jury is still out on how much the application based infotainment industry has stood to gain from the pandemic induced self-care fervor in the population
But experts suggest a 50% year-on-year gain for the industry.
67% of users between the ages of 16 to 64 claim to have paid for some sort of digital content available online.
Usage of healthcare applications has gained a lot of ground during this period with 47% of the world’s internet users between the ages of 16 to 64 accepting that they’ve used some sort of a healthcare app during this lockdown.
With remote working being the new big thing, the growth of cloud computing industries has been accelerated like never before. Cloud computing applications that facilitate seamless integration of workers to create the virtual workplace are in hot demand.
The industry is expected to grow from a revenue of 325 billion dollars to 832 billion dollars by 2025.
A lot of that growth is owed to the pandemic and the subsequent faith in remote working and “work from anywhere”.
Here are some examples of growth in the usage of applications in the times of Covid-19 has benefitted industries and allowed other businesses to benefit due to the trickle-down effect that this new normal has created. Read on to also know how your business can also benefit from this phenomenon that I would like to call as ‘ a pandemic surge’
The Social Dilemma
If there is any application industry that has been at the forefront of the surge of digital apps, it is a social media application. Applications that belong to internet behemoths have just gone on to become more and more universal as more and more people, irrespective of age, sex, social status, educational background, nationality, and so on and so forth have started accepting these apps. The key contributor to the unrealistic growth in this industry is the fact that with social distancing in play, social media apps were the only facilitators and doorways to the world for everyone.
The collective penetration of social media apps is 51% of the total population which computes to a figure in the surrounding of 3.5 billion people.
And the 3.5 billion people that are accessible through social media are just about the real target market for any brand. So if your target market is that of children, youngsters, or older people, social media applications are the best means to get your brand out there.
In fact, 67% of Europe’s population from the ages of 18 and above can be accessed through some social media apps.
Social media applications are particularly beneficial for brand advertisements. The numbers are just too good to ignore.
88% of the total users of social media applications are active.
This means that 88% of the total users are ‘ad-eligible users’ i.e. users that can be accessed for advertisements.
Amongst the apps, Facebook has about 2.6 billion active users.
Whatsapp has 2 billion users and Instagram has 1.082 users.
Facebook has seen its reach increase by 3.3% and Instagram by 11%.
More and more businesses are using the Whatsapp API and Whatsapp Business to better reach their customer’s on the world’s biggest texting service.
LinkedIn has seen an increase of 3.8% in its monthly active users.
All these numbers mean an increased exposure for brands and companies if used and advertised correctly.
52% of the world’s population between 16 and 64 claim to have found a new brand through social media.
Spend on social media use has increased 20% average y-o-y from 2016. The 20% growth for this year has already been achieved by June this year with an expected spend of 5 billion dollars yet to come.
Given the rise in spend to grab the eyeballs of social media app users, the spend per ad has in fact decreased from 5.53 dollars average per every 1000 users to 5.35 dollars. The impressions (number of people witnessing the ad) has increased by 20% y-o-y. 27% of users claim to find new brands entirely through paid ads and 13% of users claim to directly buy products from these paid ads.
The Future for these apps- With social media apps becoming absolute essentials, these are not going down, perhaps, forever. So every buck spent on this endless sea is worth it as the pool of users that download these apps and can be advertised to is only going to increase. At the present rate of growth, you are looking at another 600 million users added to the pool. And with covid-19 likely to stay for a year more, the user engagement rate is likely to stay the same as well.
However, with issues concerning data privacy, mobile addiction, and social media trolling, there may be some amount of turbulence for these apps. Authorities around the world have continued to raise eyes at how these companies are working in an unregulated environment. As a result, anti-trust hearings and voices against the use of data monetization are increasing but they are likely to pass through, given the amount of importance that these apps have in daily lives.
After these numbers, if you still feel that social media is not a giant business opportunity for you on the covid-19 steroids, then remembering that you are disagreeing with the 55.5 billion dollars that have been spent on social media ads this year already.
Good content is good business.
Another set of industries that been on the rise in the digital content industry. Any industry that creates content for any genre for people to consume belongs to this set of gainers. Be it the healthcare industry, the fitness industry, the education industry, the podcast industry, the video content industry amongst others.
Content creation as an industry is one that can become a business itself and can also be treated by businesses as an ancillary industries to promote their product and services, directly and/or indirectly. As a result, with the amount the users that have downloaded content sharing apps and are using it, the content industry is a lucrative opportunity for newer businesses and individuals looking to monetize it.
At its peak levels, educational apps saw a 90% increase in the number of downloads. Countries like the United Kingdom saw a 150% increase.
Medical-content-oriented apps saw a65% increase, podcasts apps saw a 33% increase. However, the lion’s share markets of this set go to the video-sharing industry with two applications, Youtube and TikTok at the forefront of a creator-oriented video-sharing model and apps like Netflix and Disney+ at the forefront.
Youtube witnesses 2 billion active users whereas TikTok sees 800 million active users and touched 2 billion downloads this year.
1 billion hours of content is consumed on Youtube each year.
The global content creator industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and is on track to becoming a trillion-dollar industry.
Almost 50% of the world’s internet population claimed to have spent double the time on consuming content from content-sharing apps.
The global leader in the streaming services industry, Netflix added 16 million users to its paid subscribers’ base since the pandemic began. For perspective, it had added around the same number in the whole of 2019.
The Way Forward- With the unprecedented consumption of content across apps, the demand is expected to slightly subside as countries continue opening up and easing of restrictions. However, with newer users getting exposed to this way of consuming content in this manner, the apps are going to continue increasing their user base.
A Remote World
As the lockdown began, all kinds of commercial activities also got disturbed. Markets crashed and the people had no idea about handling a pandemic. However, the world quickly began getting back on its feet. A key example of getting back up on feet was the way the world adapted to remote working and to e-commerce transactions.
Work from Home was frowned upon by most countries before the pandemic began. However, with the incoming of covid-19, a lot of companies realized the benefits of WFH. The amount of expenditure that can be cut by allowing non-essential workers to work from home or adopting a work from office-work from home mix made the companies realize the perks of continuing work from home even after the pandemic goes away.
27% of the working population of the world wishes to continue the work-from-home culture even after the pandemic gets over.
67% of white-collared workers are happy with remote working with 25% saying that it helps them become more efficient on projects and assignments.
Video conferencing apps have also tripled in size and usage owing to virtual meeting.
Zoom which has the lion’s share of the market has benefitted the most. In fact, it has been a raging bull (if you understand stock markets, then it is a pun intended) with a 300% y-o-y growth.
E-commerce apps, both B2C and B2B have also increased like never before. As a result, of social distancing and public health scare, more and more people have opened up to purchasing from e-commerce apps.
There has been a 20% increase in e-commerce with a 56% increase in the usage of e-wallets.
44% of the world’s population looks to continue using e-commerce apps like Amazon even after the pandemic.
Amazon enjoys a conversion rate of 21.6% which is a very attractive stat.
Businesses of almost all sectors have enjoyed this growth in e-commerce with apps from the hospitality sector having shrunk due to obvious reasons.
The Way Forward- Work from Home is expected to continue being a prominent of the work from Home culture as more and more companies seek to make it a permanent fixture. E-commerce apps may experience a temporary downfall as economies around the world open up, but over the long run, e-commerce apps will take away the lion’s share from real-world commerce as more and more businesses seek to move online.
The numbers speaks for how much our lives revolve around strings of codes programmed into an app. The omnipresence and importance of applications will only continue to increase even long after the pandemic as life continues to become more and more digital.
The only way forward is towards the sky. The question is, are you going adapt or are you going to let it all go away?