Stop Making Apps

There are a bunch of iPhone apps I own though I have no clue what they do. These apps include but aren’t limited to; FLUD, Apptitude, Cartoonatic, Can’t Wait!, Punch, Pah, Prize Claw, Traveler, Concur, Jajah, Fast Customer, Pimple Popper and many more whose names I can’t even remember.

Occupying my valuable homescreen real estate are also a bunch of apps whose purpose I remember only because they were built by people I know or am friends with, but that I sadly never use. And in some cases I really wish I did, because it would make my friends happy and the world a better place.

The few apps that I actually open daily (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Foursquare, Spotify, Reminders, Safari, Messenger, and Yammer sadly enough) are securely fastened to my homescreen. For those relegated to the “app ghetto” I usually either substitute Google or SMS because I’ve forgotten that I’ve downloaded them and am too lazy to swipe past my first screen.

Dispersed throughout my app ghetto, or the neighborhood ten or so swipe screens past the iPhone homescreen, are things I’ve downloaded for work, apps that people joke about not using (Color, Path), new apps that people are still trying to figure out (Batch, Oink) and perfectly legitimate apps that lend themselves to more casual usage (Uber, Quora, Yelp). And all the apps that fit into one or more of those categories. Oh, and I just bought Camera+ (not to be confused with Camera Plus) — it’s  not homescreen worthy just yet though it might just be the best 99 cents I’ve ever spent.

If I ever want to use an app ghetto app I just use iPhone search (a swipe right) because there are just too many! There should be some sort of app that makes your app ghetto apps disappear if you haven’t used them in a while.

Sure we’ve written before about app fatigue, but it seemingly hasn’t discouraged app makers from continuing to churn out countless useless apps or SocialMobileLocal offerings that would be better suited as sub-features of Foursquare. And it doesn’t look like they’re going to stop anytime soon; Android growth is insane, iOS influence is crazy. Coupled with minimal development costs, you get the fact that the Bump app has 50 million downloads. Yes, Bump, that thing that lets you “bump” contact info over your phone and nobody I know uses.

If Bump’s existence proves anything, it’s that many SoMoLo apps are basically competing with SMS. Why go through another tiresome two-second increment of human communication and exchange your contact info WHEN YOU CAN “BUMP”? YES THERE IS INDEED AN APP FOR THAT.

I realize that asking y’all to stop making apps is a quixotic endeavor (so go ahead and have at me in the comments); 74% percent of you think that the world needs more mobile apps even though we’ve already got over 500K of them with 18 billion plus downloads– on iOS alone.

The app economy is/will be huge and is inexorable, and I don’t want to deprive anyone of the jobs it will eventually create, even though a lot them will be building things that will eventually fail. Oh well. The truth is that if you imagine the homescreen of your phone ten years from now, your favorite apps will be ones that don’t even exist yet. And that’s pretty amazing.

So if you can’t beat them join them. But if you join them I’m going to ask you to consider one thing; rethink the notion of an app versus a service; Stop making apps, or gimmicks, things that don’t solve problems. Don’t build something silly and ill-thought out just because you have a celebrity co-founder and/or lots of investor money that will help you scale initially no matter what.

The truth is that the hardest part is hanging onto that first spike of users, and there is no number of TechCrunch posts about your every-single-decimal point update that will get you there, you actually need to solve a problem – even if that problem is “How the hell do I entertain myself for the next fifteen minutes?”

Focus on building a service not just an app; a service may have an app component — like Spotify, for example — but that app component must only exist to make life easier for the user of your service, exist to add value not just to be cool.

Listen to PGstart with a problem, then let your mind wander just far enough for new ideas to form. It’s pretty simple, solve a problem and focus on solving that problem across as many platforms as you can, even if one of those platforms is an app store.

This whole “solving a problem thing” is why people are liking Batch, even if they’re skeptical at first, because it solves the real problem of, “What do I do with all these random photos on my phone?” Maybe that’s not enough to be a long-term business? Well, at least it’s a start.