The Industries Being Disrupted by Apps

In 2009, Apple ran a series of ads demonstrating the diversity of its App Store. They were simple, demonstrating everyday things you might find useful to do on your iPhone like checking where you parked your car or logging how many calories you ate. Each time, the narrator would say “there’s an app for that”.

It also made an ad targeted at small business owners, demonstrating that you could use the iPhone for taking card payments, printing shipping labels, and other work-related tasks just by installing a few extra apps.

Through these apps, Apple has been able to disrupt almost every industry on the planet without having to actually get involved in most of them. Everything from flower delivery to language tuition is different today compared to how it was back before App Store launched in July 2008. However, of all the industries that have been touched by these pocket-sized applications, these have seen the biggest changes.

Gaming

For decades, gaming was something done on big arcade machines, computers, and consoles. It meant you’d have to stay within a few steps of a desk because the device would need to draw power from a wall outlet. Portable consoles like the Nintendo Game Boy changed this a little, but they were still too big to put in your pocket and didn’t get mainstream acceptance.

Smartphone apps completely changed this since it has meant that almost everyone has a gaming device that they carry around with them all day every day.

This has helped the gaming industry to reach new demographics, particularly women and older people, who had previously shown little interest in playing on consoles and computers.

Another factor in this success has been the increased variety that is offered by smartphone gaming. In addition to the classic racing, shooting, and RPG games that have been staples of the industry for years, casual and hypercasual titles have appealed to people that only want to play games for a few minutes at a time and prefer to go at their own pace. Online casinos have also appealed to a broader demographic this way too as players can dip in and out of classic table games like blackjack on a mobile casino app whenever they please.

In the future, many experts predict that smartphones could replace consoles as the main way for people to play even the biggest video games. In the same way that video streaming services like Zee5 and Netflix have revolutionized the way we watch movies and TV shows, gaming streaming services could do the same to video games. Through Google Stadia, it is already possible to access AAA titles from a smartphone and stream them to your TV. While it’s not perfect right now, the technology will only keep on improving.

Retail

In the past, when you wanted to buy a new tool to do some DIY, you went to a local hardware store. When you wanted a book, you went to the book store, and when you wanted some new electrical equipment, you went to an electrical retailer.

Today, businesses from the tiny “mom and pop” stores through to the international chains are suffering declining footfall, revenues, and profits. The internet has played a big part in this since it’s easy for people to just head to their computer to buy whatever they want, but smartphone apps accelerated this trend exponentially.

In 2020, mobile commerce in the US had reached 45% of all online transactions and accounted for $284 billion. That figure is expected to keep growing over the coming years.

The real disruptive impact of smartphone apps is that it allows consumers to compare prices and shop wherever they are. It allows them to scan barcodes of products while in a physical store to see if they can get it cheaper online and even pay for it before they’ve left the shop.

CAPTION: FinTech companies like Revolut have changed people interact with their bank

Finance

The banking industry is one of the oldest in the world. Financial institutions often pride themselves on how long they’ve been trading, using it as a way to show they are a safe place for us to store our money.

It’s also one of the most regulated. To open a bank in most countries, you must acquire a license and meet a long list of regulatory requirements that are designed to protect the deposits of the people that save with you.

In most countries, the landscape of the consumer finance sector had changed very little until mobile apps disrupted everything.

First, companies like Monzo, Starling Bank, Revolut, and N26 began offering “mobile-first” banking products, introducing innovative features that made it easier for people to budget, track their spending, and save.

Then came services like Freetrade and Robinhood, fintech companies that began offering commission-free access to the stock market. To some degree, these services are responsible for the increase in the amount of interest in the stock market from retail investors, especially those that have helped to drive up the prices of popular companies like GameStop, Tesla, and AMC. Other investment apps like tickr, Moneybox, and Chip are helping less savvy consumers invest in the stock market and grow their wealth.

Finally, a new breed of mobile-first fintech companies are creating entirely new products rather than revolutionizing existing ones. Curve, a startup that wants to become a “financial super app” that connects all your bank accounts, credit cards, crypto wallets, and more into one single app. The company has been operating in Europe for a few years but plans to launch in the US in 2021.

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