It’s difficult to imagine a world without apps, and the latest generation of smart device users won’t actually remember one! Before the App Store, some may remember the first ever smartphone (IBM’s Simon), launched in 1994, which had preloaded ‘features’ such as a calculator, calendar, note book and a sketch pad. Not what we would necessarily recognise as an app by today’s standards, but a seminal moment none the less.
Several subsequent handsets had these and other similar built-in features - who can forget the game ‘Snake’ on the old Nokias? However, it wasn’t until Apple launched the App Store in 2008 that we saw a seismic shift in smartphone applications as the landscape was opened up to third party developers. Ten million app downloads in the first week speaks for itself and the word ‘app’ was named word of the year in 2010!
To mark national app day we at Electronic Specifier have taken a look at some of the most influential apps of all time. We have however taken the decision to omit the usual suspects – WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, Messenger, Skype, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube et al. We figured that telling you that Facebook for example, was one of the most downloaded apps of all time wouldn’t be news to anyone!
Tencent QQ, also known as QQ, is an instant messaging software service developed by the Chinese company Shenzhen Tencent Computer System Co. QQ also offers services that provide online social games, music, shopping, micro-blogging, movies, and group and voice chat software. At the end of June 2016, there were 899 million active QQ accounts, and it also holds the Guinness World Record for the highest number of simultaneous online users on an instant messaging programme with 210,212,085 users online on 3rd July 2014.
Founded in 2009, with an app launch in 2011, the ridesharing app has become a significant disrupter to taxi services around the world. The app allows consumers to order a private or shared car with a few taps of a mobile app, with payment taken automatically from users’ accounts. As well as being more convenient than hailing a traditional cab, it also offers its service at a considerably lower price point. According to statistics, around 15 million Uber trips are completed each day, it is available in over 600 cities and is spread across 65 countries.
8. Candy Crush Saga
Candy Crush Saga is a puzzle video game released in 2012, for Facebook - other versions for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Windows 10 followed. In the game, players complete levels by swapping coloured pieces of candy on a game board to make a match of three or more of the same colour, eliminating those candies from the board and replacing them with new ones, which could potentially create further matches.
Candy Crush Saga is considered one of the first and most successful uses of a freemium model; while the game can be played completely through without spending money, players can buy special actions to help clear more difficult boards. Five years after its release on mobile, the Candy Crush Saga series had received over 2.7 billion downloads, and the game has been one of the highest-grossing and most-played mobile apps during that time.
Viber is a cross-platform instant messaging and voice over IP (VoIP) application operated by Japanese multi-national company Rakuten, provided as freeware for the Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, Android and iOS platforms. In addition to instant messaging it allows users to exchange media such as images and video records. As of December 2016, Viber had 800 million registered users. The software was originally developed by Israel-based Viber Media, which was bought by Rakuten in 2014.
As apps go, Shazam, the application that can identify music, movies, advertising, and television shows, based on a short sample, is something of an industry veteran. Little has changed since its 1999 launch and now, 19 years later the app has more than 100 million active monthly users worldwide and has been used on more than 500 million mobile devices.
Shazam identifies songs via an audio fingerprint based on a time-frequency graph called a spectrogram. It uses a smartphone built-in microphone to gather a brief sample of audio being played. Shazam stores a catalogue of audio fingerprints in a database, ending years’ of frustration for music lovers everywhere.
5. Angry Birds
Launched in 2009 Angry Birds is a puzzle video game developed by Rovio Entertainment. Inspired primarily by a sketch of stylised wingless birds, the game was first released for iOS and Maemo devices in December 2009. Since that time, over 12 million copies of the game have been purchased from the iOS App Store, which has prompted the company to design versions for other touchscreen-based smartphones, most notably those using the Android, Symbian, Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10 devices.
Its popularity led to many spin-offs, versions of Angry Birds being created for PCs and video game consoles, a market for merchandise featuring its characters, a televised cartoon series, and a feature film. As of July 2015, the series' games had been downloaded more than three billion times collectively, making it the most downloaded freemium game series of all time.
4. Google Street View
Although it is its own app, Google Street View is a technology that is also featured in two other major apps - Google Maps and Google Earth, which each provide panoramic views from positions along many streets in the world. It was launched in 2007 in several cities in the US, and has since expanded to include cities and rural areas worldwide.
Google Street View displays panoramas of stitched images. Most photography is done by car, but some is done by trekker, tricycle, walking, boat, snowmobile, and underwater apparatus. In celebration of its tenth anniversary in 2017, Google Street View announced that it had mapped ten million miles in 83 countries.
The app came to the iPhone in 2009 as one of the first (legal) ways to stream music on demand on mobile. It also lets you save songs for offline listening — provided you paid the monthly fee. Nearly ten years later, Spotify the app continues to be one of the most popular ways to listen to music and podcasts on the go, and has been boosted by the rapid growth in voice activation speakers.
Spotify is available in most of Europe, most of the Americas, Australia, New Zealand and parts of Africa and Asia. It is available for most modern devices, including Windows, macOS, and Linux computers, iOS, Windows Phone and Android smartphones and tablets, as well as TVs via factory-installed means, Roku Players, Amazon FireTV Devices, the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One home consoles.
Spotify provides access to more than 40 million songs and as of November 2018, it had 191 million monthly active users, including 87 million paying subscribers.
2. Find My iPhone
The app has helped recover countless devices — whether dropped, stolen or in your pocket the whole time. The app not only shows you a detailed map with the device's last location clearly marked, but it also lets you trigger an alarm for extra help in finding it as well as remotely wipe the device if those tools fail.
Find My iPhone was released initially as an app in June 2010 for users of MobileMe. In November 2010 with iOS 4.2, Find My iPhone was available for free for such devices. With the release of iCloud in October 2011, the service became free for all iCloud users.
eBay was founded by Pierre Omidyar in 1995, and became a notable success story of the dot-com bubble. The company manages eBay.com, the online auction and shopping website in which people and businesses buy and sell a wide variety of goods and services worldwide. The website is free to use for buyers, but sellers are charged fees for listing items after a limited number of free listings, and again when those items are sold.
When eBay released its iPhone app back in 2008, the whole concept of m-commerce (mobile commerce) was still new, but the concept of finding, buying and selling through an iPhone app helped to transform the culture of consumer spending. eBay now also offers an Apple Watch app for tracking transactions from your wrist.