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There Are Too Many Apps For That

This past weekend, I gave into temptation and bought myself an iPad2. I wasn’t as thrilled as I thought I’d be but that’s another story. This story is about apps, because one of the first things I did, when I took it out of the box, is look for apps to load.

I started with the ones I use most on my iPhone, like Skype, eBay and GetGlue. I also use a lot of shopping apps, but those didn’t make sense. I won’t be taking my iPad to the grocery store, but I do carry and use my iPhone there. Then I remembered the advice I’m always giving in this column — iPad apps shouldn’t simply be resized versions of iPhone apps or web pages, they should encompass the whole iPad experience. And therein lies the problem.

When I bought the machine, the salesman told me it would change my life and he genuinely believes that. My iPhone certainly changed the way I work and communicate so it’s likely the iPad will to, as soon as we all figure out how to make it work like a tablet and not like an over-sized smartphone.

The key to that is apps and there are plenty of them out there. So many, deciding which ones to choose is overwhelming, especially since many of them have price tags attached.

eMarketer collected the numbers on app usage and found that the average mobile phone owner regularly uses less than 7 apps. Only 17% use more than 10, that number climbs to 37% for tablet users. News is the most popular category with social media and gaming following that.

So why aren’t we downloading and using more apps? Is it because we can’t find good ones? Estimates say that more than 1 million apps have been developed in the past few years, so surely we aren’t hurting for content. Maybe the problem is one of too many apps. I went in looking for a PDF reader for the iPad and discovered dozens of options. The apps with the highest ratings cost from $5.00 to $9.99 and I wasn’t about to hand over that amount without a test run. I ended up downloading a freebie which really didn’t fill my needs.

Mobile apps need to be marketed in the same way we sell a book or a piece of software. Kindle offers a free sample of ebooks, software developers have trial versions. Paid apps need to come with a limited trial, too. Freemium rules and more developers need to jump on that app wagon. We also need a better way of sorting and categorizing the growing number of apps.

Apps can be an excellent marketing tool, but only if you can get people to download and use them. Right now, you’re fighting to take one of less than 10 places on the average mobile device. In the future, that number will certainly rise but will your company be ready?

I’m happy to download your app, Mr. Brand Advertiser. Just give me something I can use.