10 years of the mobile-app economy

It can seem like mobile apps have been here forever, but it was 2008 when the Apple App Store and the Android Play Store were launched.

Over 25th-26th of October this year, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of our Android conference: droidcon London. Ten years. No WhatsApp, no Uber, no Instagram. A decade later, mobile apps are a $100+ billion market, with more than six million apps that have been developed by over twelve million mobile developers.

First of all: That’s a lot of work. On behalf of all those millions of users that use your apps every day, thank you to mobile developers, designers, and entrepreneurs for all the effort. There is immense value in what you create.

Mobile developers at droidcon London 2017

I challenge you to write down the number of apps you use daily, and how often you use them. It is estimated that in the US people spend on average just under 3 hours per day on their phones— I hardly know anyone who would fall below that figure. After recently returning from the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions in China, I would imagine that this figure is even higher in a region that has adopted tech with so much ferver.

When we look at the most downloaded mobile apps, we find in the rankings:

  • Whatsapp
  • Facebook Messenger
  • Instagram
  • WeChat (Chinese messenger app)
  • iQiyi (Youtube in China)
  • QQ (Chinese version of Facebook/ Messenger app)
  • Facebook
  • Youtube
  • Google Maps

Most of them started as a channel for peer-to-peer communications, but have been generating ecosystems around them that have had profound impact on their usage. WeChat is a great example, becoming a more popular payment method than cash in China.

We also see how just a few companies are dominating this massive market. The giants behind the marketplaces (Apple and Google), Tencent and Facebook own the biggest part of the pie, with the US and China in constant competition with each other as origin points for these tech titans.

So…where are we heading, and what are the new things coming up after 10 years of mobile development?


One of the main issues that appeared soon after the appearance of the mobile app marketplaces was the fragmentation of it. Nowadays, with the appearance of SDKs like Flutter, the development of mobile apps doesn’t need to be constrained to a specific Operating System as well as becoming increasingly accessible to those who previously considered themselves outside of the tech community.


Virtual Reality has been an interesting field of development in the last five years. Since the purchase of Oculus by Facebook, the appearance of the Google Daydream platform and VR mobile phone apps, this is a space where we should expect huge innovation in the near future and a much larger integration with our daily lives.

Artificial Intelligence

AI is increasingly permeating so many aspects of society and mobile apps are benefiting from it. Many of the new innovations in ‘traditional’ mobile services are related to the utilisation of Machine Learning algorithms that enhance the mobile user experience.

Extending Mobile borders: wearables, drones & IoT

These days, almost any object has a software component to it. In recent years we have seen the appearance of smartwatches (now we have watchOS and wearOS for Apple and Google platforms, with marketplaces associated to them), but also all sorts of devices like drones that can be controlled using just a mobile phone, generating entirely new distribution channels and new regulations to make sure these are positive and monitored influences on society.

While Smart Toasters may seem trivial, once they begin to be incorporated into our healthcare systems to make sure older members of society can stay longer in their own homes, the IoT begins to show its potential as tech for good.

Looking beyond tech

We thought that with tech still at a relatively young age, and development continuing at such a pace, it was important to look at where we are headed in the future of tech and who we bring along with us. With that in mind, we have launched BeyondTech 2019, a forum for discussions about the role of tech in society and our responsibilities around both the products we create and the environments in which we work.

Still a long way to go

Even if the world has transformed into an app-powered economy, there is still so much to be done. Sometimes it is just good to look back, breathe, celebrate with friends on what has been accomplished, and then get back to work.

Happy 10th anniversary to all of those passionate members of the tech community who continue to drive app development forward!

— Alvaro Sanmartin

Alvaro Sanmartin Cid

Written by

Founder @Minds Studio and PAZ.ai

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