It is safe to say that applications have changed the world in a myriad of ways. They have altered the way we do business, orient ourselves, take part in culture, and even find our way around a new city.
A huge amount of innovative energy is poured into app development. The power of the hardware that we have in our pockets or sitting on our desks has been exploited in all sorts of amazing ways by app development innovators.
Here are five types of apps that have had a noticeable impact on the world. This is by no means an exhaustive list – almost every element of our society has been altered in some way by the use of applications.
Music Streaming Apps
Music streaming apps like Spotify have completely changed the dynamics of the music industry. They work on a subscription basis. Instead of a user purchasing the albums and tracks that they want from the artists they like, they pay a subscription fee and gain access to the entire library held by the service.
This is good in some ways: customers are able to access near limitless variety for a low price. Unfortunately, these apps have had a negative impact on the musicians and small record labels that relied upon record sales to earn money. Artists are compensated for plays on streaming sites, but not by much. Artists receive only a small fraction of a dollar for each stream. It takes around 250 streams for an artist to receive a single dollar in payments.
This has led to some backlash – the streaming economy has been condemned as unsustainable and even received scrutiny from government committees. Some artists have even formed quasi unions to help fight for better pay from streaming services. Protests have already taken place in New York, Los Angeles, and London.
Project management is highly complex. The planning, monitoring, and management of business projects historically involved juggling many tasks on a great many platforms simultaneously. Although not as publicly impactful as the other applications on this list, project management apps have had a massive impact on business practice.
Project management apps are like control hubs: they allow a project manager to see communications with team members, assign tasks, view achievements, set goals, and all sorts of other talks that previously would have been achieved desperately. They have both mobile and desktop accessibility.
These apps have freed up countless hours that would otherwise have been spent switching between spreadsheets and chasing up team members for reports on progress.
Short Form Video
Vine, Tik Tok, Snapchat, and Instagram all have one thing in common: they let users create and share short-form videos using their mobile hardware. Short-form video creation has become a communicative medium unique to people growing up as part of ‘generation z’. It has blossomed into a complex memetic tool allowing for protest, humor, intelligent comment, and of course, self-aggrandizement. Tik Tok is just the latest in a series of short-form video tools that have taken the world by storm. Whether you think it is a peril or an opportunity for expression, you have to admit that the impact of short-form video apps is going to be felt for a long time to come.
At the time of writing, Tik Tok had a whopping 689 million active users – dominating the short-form video market.
Mapping applications are ubiquitous on modern smartphones. They are truly a technological innovation – allowing users to pinpoint their exact location in real-time on a very well fleshed out map of the entire world.
Mapping apps use the Global Positioning System to locate the app user. GPS was launched – quite literally – during the Cold War by the United States. It consists of a network of 31 satellites. Each satellite sends out signals that that can be received on the ground. By computing the difference between the time a signal is sent and when it is received, a receiver can figure out where the satellite is in the atmosphere, and by comparing it with other signals from other satellites, it can determine location.
Mapping apps use data from a phone’s internal GPS receiver before interpreting it onto the global map. Interestingly, the Soviet Union launched its own satellite navigation system called GLONASS, which is made up of 24 orbiting space units. Most modern GPS receivers can also interpret information sent by GLONASS satellites.
Although there are imitators, there is only one company dominating the “taxi” app market: Uber. However, Uber doesn’t really run a taxi network at all. Instead, they have used technology to create a decentralized network of app users: some of whom are drivers and some of whom are passengers.
This has created a rather dangerous precedent. Uber treats the people that drive with the help of its app as freelance contractors – not staff. This means that they can effectively save money by denying their drivers the rights afforded to employees like pension schemes and (in the USA) medical cover.
The app and freelancer system used by Uber has allowed the company to grow exponentially without taking demands for reasonable pay and fair contracting seriously. They have recently faced some significant backlash for their app-based middleman strategy. Some Uber drivers have won the right to be considered as employees, and some cities have banned the company altogether.
Despite the app being downloaded millions of times, and the company dominating the ridesharing market, Uber has never made a profit. It relies upon the subsidizing of prices through investment to maintain growth, with the end goal being the monopolization of a market they can artificially alter.
The likelihood of this happening has spawned hundreds of copycat companies looking to use the app-based freelance gig economy to dominate markets and draw investment that they can use to artificially subsidize pricing. Everything from food delivery to dog walking has been exploited in this way. The Uber app changed business forever.