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Brace yourself, here comes the mobile appsplosion

Mike Elgan | April 14, 2014
Prediction: The tech industry's aggressive push to give every feature its own app will drive a pandemic of app fatigue.

A company called Automatic plugs into your car's data port to deliver details on the car's functioning and performance via a smartphone app.

Philips, Samsung and LG Electronics now sell smart lightbulbs. Now you need an app to turn on the light.

Google recently bought Nest, which makes smart thermostats and smart smoke detectors, both app-controllable.

A new world of smart washing machines and smart refrigerators and smart air conditioners from companies like Samsung and LG will usher in a new world of apps that control physical things in our homes.

Related to the Internet of Things, we'll see apps to go with our wearable devices, including smartwatches and smart glasses.

It seems that every exciting new trend in computing these days involves more and more mobile apps.

Users are certainly spending a lot of time with apps. At least that's what mobile analytics firm Flurry found when it measured usage patterns on 1.3 billion smartphones worldwide. According to Flurry, U.S. users on average spend about two hours and 42 minutes each day actively using their smartphones or tablets. Some 86% of the time that people spend using smartphones involves the use of apps, rather than surfing the mobile Web.

This abandonment of the mobile Web and the embrace of the mobile app is no surprise. Just about every major company or organization offering content on the Web eventually comes out with a mobile app for better presenting their information or services on a small touchscreen.

Each individual change that brings new apps for things that didn't used to have apps makes perfect sense and represents an improvement in how things work and how users interact.

Inevitably, though, a kind of app fatigue will set in. At some point, there will be too many apps for the average user to deal with.

I already find myself using the Play Store to find apps I know I've already installed simply because it's faster and easier than finding them on the phone. Every user is or will soon feel the strain of trying to cope. It takes longer and longer to hunt for the mobile app we're looking for.

That's why major companies are buying Android apps that help you deal with app overload. For example, Yahoo bought Aviate. More recently, Twitter bought Cover. Both these apps automatically find a user's most frequently accessed apps and make them readily available on the home screen so they're not lost in the haystack of apps on the phone.

Apps that automatically bring forward other apps are nice. But ultimately they're not a solution to the coming app overload problem.

Call it the mobile appsplosion. It's coming. And it's not going to be pretty.


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