the beginning of the end for the app store?

Screenshot of Home Run Derby 3D by Com2Us
Screenshot of Home Run Derby 3D by Com2Us

Maybe its just me, but I can’t remember the last time I got excited to hear about an iPhone app.¬† This is a scary thought, because I would consider myself slightly more excitable than the average bear when it comes to new software or games – just ask me how I feel about New Super Mario Brothers for Wii.

At first I didn’t notice anything. I had been checking the top 25 lists on the App Store for the past few weeks, but didn’t really come across anything. More Pocket God games, stick figures fighting, social networking apps, blah blah blah. Same old same old.

Then this morning I was sitting there staring at my Apps and for the first time I thought: “I’m bored.” Much to my suprise, I can only play Home Run Derby 3D so many times before it lost its appeal…

It dawned on me that I haven’t found anything REALLY exciting on the App store in the last month or so. I know about 10 different people with iPhones or iPod touches, and I haven’t gotten a single MMS or text saying – “DUDE you have to check this out!!” Could this be a warning of a coming storm for the App Store?

There are a few different problems to consider if we try to analyze this seriously:

1. Oversaturation
With over 100,000 Apps available, its quite possible that all the good ones are getting lost. While there are a plethora of sites available that do App reviews, they may be coming out at a rate that simply makes it impossible for any individual to keep up with given a reasonable amount of effort. It’s a real thing that some call “decision fatigue” that sets in when a consumer is presented with too many choices at the same time. Generally speaking, most people can choose between 3 or 4 options, but ask them to make a choice between 300 and you might as well get comfortable.

2. Innovation Deceleration
The iPhone/iPod touch has been out for three years now, and has not had any major advances in physical hardware. Its always had a camera, its always had data and voice, and its always had a touchscreen and an accelerometer. GPS was a big addition to be sure, but any other changes have been based around speed¬† (no, I don’t count the compass as a significant upgrade). Its quite possible that we are reaching the point where developers have exhausted most of the interesting things we can do with the phone in its current state. Eventually, there will be a point where virtually every conceivable App has been created, and then true innovation will come far less frequently. If we truly are at that point, then the days of going on the App Store once a week to potentially have your mind blown (do you remember the first time you opened up Shazam?) are long gone.

3. Exciting New Platforms
Has anybody heard of this new phone called the Droid? Or an operating system called Android? Well, the coolest free apps that I’ve heard about lately have been exclusives for Android! How is this possible?! Google Goggles, Google Navigation… all only available on Android. That’s what happens when there is new hardware and dramatic updates in software platforms, new and exciting things can come out. Instead, Apple hasn’t updated their User Interface since they introduced the ability to add “pages” to the home screen. You can’t even change the color of the background from black to hot-pink. Unfortunately for Apple, resistance to change, random rejections of people hard work, and hatred of the open-source community actually stifles developers desire to work on your platform, and will eventually force them to other platforms – just ask the Google Voice team.

4. Everybody’s Cashing In
Unfortunately for us consumers, app developers have realized that while getting 1 million downloads of your app in a single weekend is pretty sweet, it doesn’t exactly pay the bills. More and more apps cost a couple of bucks at least – with several that are upwards of $100. While I love my phone and I carry it everywhere I go, it doesn’t mean I’m crazy and have lost all grasp on the meaning of value. I hate to say it, but that $1.99 will actually stand in the way of me trying out your App, because I don’t want to go through the disappointment if it turns out I wasted my money. Hear that Occipital’s Red Laser?? As much as I could possibly love you, and even though you’ve been #1 on the Top Paid Apps list for about a month, you’re still not worth the $2 risk. Sorry.

What needs to happen??

Look, I’m not saying that the iPhone is in desperation mode here. Clearly, things are going great and the phone has a lion’s share of the market for smart phones. However, the longer they rest on the laurels of the innovation from the original iPhone, the more time they give their competitors to catch up. According to me, here’s what the iPhone needs:

  1. A user interface overhaul – at this point, its about as interesting as using XP.
  2. Basic New Features – HD Video, Adobe Flash, a camera flash too for that matter, a front facing camera, etc
  3. Loosen the reigns! – I’m not saying make the iPhone OS open source, but for crying out loud at least let me add music from two different computers without having to delete everything on the phone. JEEEEEEZ.

Am I missing any sweet apps that have come out that have blown your mind? Has anybody else noticed a drop off in the excitement around apps lately? Let me know!

*as usual, all Apple, iPhone, and iPod stuff is the sole trademark of Apple of Cupertino. Just to be clear.

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