As we conclude the last quarter of 2013, there has already been massive changes in the mobile industry this year alone. This year we saw mobile companies, providers, and user experiences changed and re-defined. Blackberry is finalizing details on sale of their company, in Canada, the battle between providers and consumers rages on, and Apple debuted one of its biggest changes in UX through iOS 7… And the year hasn’t even finished yet.
What can we look forward to in 2014? Most likely another iPhone, more advances in the Android market, and more competition against Apple’s huge market share. All this is of course exciting and relevant, but we need to expand upon this idea of mobile use in the future. The key point that I want to touch on, is who exactly will have smartphones in 2 to 5 years?
Recently, I was lucky enough to sit in on a talk from Gary Kovacks, CEO of Mozilla. He touched on the idea of where our Global Mobile Landscape is headed, and brought an important topic to the front of the audience’s minds. He believes that “the next 2 billion Internet users will skip straight to mobile.” In a couple years, people in developing countries will finally have access to consistent wireless internet access. This emerging market will not buy desktop computers first, as was the way in North America and Europe, but instead will purchase smartphones. This is for a myriad of reasons, but at the forefront are price and accessibility. Smartphones will enable communities to access internet and its resources from some of the most remote locations in the world.
Will simply having internet access and smartphones solve World Hunger and decrease the poverty rate in developing countries? Absolutely not. But, I hope important advances will come from this adoption including: enhanced communication, education, and jobs. Imagine living 100 miles away from the nearest town and needing medical attention? Your smartphone reaches medical dispatch, through enhanced cell towers, and dispatch has reported that help is on the way. In the meantime, people can browse the internet on their smartphones and read about what to do to help you. Through this one example, citizens were able to reach aid, learn about how to help the patient via the internet, and jobs have been created from the need for emergency dispatch responders. Therefore, there is huge potential to improving the lives of people in developing countries, through smartphones and wireless internet access.
So what does it mean for our industry? There are parts of the tech industry that are still discovering amazing technology and building incredible software to enhance the lives of businesses and consumers. And then there are parts of the industry that are building technology that isn’t super helpful for mankind. My prime example are fart apps. On App Annie, there are currently 453 different apps and 16 pages completely devoted to fart sounds, fart simulators, and fart puzzles. Yes, this is 100% true. Am I a prude? Absolutely not, but I fail to see why app developers would continue making fart apps? Besides the endlesss giggles, of course.
In creation of an app, developers either gain monetary value or development experience. Most of these fart apps, were probably created to help developers gain experience, or to play around with monetization in the early days of apps. Other developers may have been on the quest to create the best fart app in the market, with the idea of millions of downloads and money raining from the sky, or if you will ‘the one fart app to rule them all.’ Innovation and improving existing technology is extremely important in our industry, but unless you are going to completely re-invent the fart app, maybe instead use your skills for a different project. There are now 453 fart apps, so lets move forward and use our resources towards a a cause more deserving of our time.
My case and point being, we should start looking to improve the lives of people in developing countries through technology, not just for ourselves in North America. Take this company for example. Mobile developers in Africa, received an award from the US government for winning the Apps 4 Africa: Climate Change Challenge. The winner, an app called The Grainy Bunch created a national grain supply management system to monitor prices, distribution, storage levels, and consumption of grain across the nation. A system to monitor current grain prices, supply, and distribution to help local farmers understand the marketplace and get more from their crop. This one system helps to increase both economic and food security for the entire nation. This is a perfect example how technology and smartphones, can be used to solve important and unique problems in developing countries.
There is massive potential to partner with developing countries to help to develop solutions to their unique problems, or to invest in them. For more information, check out Apps 4 Africa accelerator, and discover how they are helping to improve the lives of Africans through technology.
So enough of the fart apps, lets put our time and money into technology that can be useful.