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How many apps do you have on your smartphone? And how many do you actually use on a daily basis?
smartphone apps

There are apparently over 500,000 applications for the iPhone and iPad, more than 300,000 for Android, and thousands more on other platforms. The average smartphone user has 65 apps installed on their phone (source: Flurry). Many of us have more (yes you – I’m looking at you). The increasing problem has become finding the apps you already have installed on your smartphone when you want/need them.

How Many Apps?

How many apps do people actually use? According to Flurry, the average consumer uses only 15 apps per week. How ’bout you? How many do you use? Think about it, that means that the majority of the apps installed on your phone are only used occasionally. These are things like games, tip calculators, calorie counters, garage sale finders, and the like.

The App Problem.

Searching for an app on your device is severely lacking, at least on the two major platforms, iPhone and Android. For example, on an iPhone you can’t pull up Groupon or LivingSocial by typing in “deals” into the iPhone’s Spotlight Search box. It doesn’t work on Android, either – you have to type the app’s name.

However, if the app has optimized its name for search it can work. Type in “recipes” on iPhone and Epicurious appears. But not on Android. Type in “deals” on iPhone, and there comes BiteHunter. Type “Shopping” on iPhone, and there’s FastMall and Zoomingo, but not Target or Best Buy. And, in similar tests on Android, apps have to be searched for by name, not function.

Why is this happening?

Some app makers are better than others at maximizing the on-device search capabilities provided by iOS. That is, they’re stuffing their app’s name with keywords. (Epicurious is actually called “Epicurious Recipes Shopping List,” for example).

This is a problem because search is the quickest way to find apps on your phone. After all, (stock) Android is designed so that you’ll hide most of your apps, only pinning favorites to your homescreen. Meanwhile, iOS addresses the app overload situation with folders.

It would be so much better to have an efficient search mechanism. But even as useful as keyword-based searching is today, given that it ranks results alphabetically, it won’t continue to be as useful in the future. Imagine if that’s how Google ranked the web! Of course, the app store ecosystem is hardly as large as the web and app stores won’t grow to the web’s size. In time, our app addiction will likely also give us “app-ified” mobile experiences designed for the small screen, and built with HTML5. But the app ecosystem is insanely huge and still growing.

Only So Much

In the meantime, we will begin to hit a stopping point with apps – a psychological barrier – not only due to the limited storage space on their phones, but also because we simply can’t deal with a phone that has some 500 or 1,000 apps installed.

We Need A Search Engine

Why not give our devices a real search engine – one that’s as powerful as the app store’s engine, if not better. Apps can be keyword-optimized, ranked and rated by dozens of signals. The on-device app search engine should know what apps you have installed, how often you use them, how long you’ve had them, when you bought them, their ratings, your ratings, which of your friends use them, and everything the apps can and can’t do. We should be able to quickly access those apps we’ve deemed our favorites, whether or not they’re on the device we have now. iCloud is a good first step to this – your favorite apps could be stored in the cloud and surfaced through Spotlight Search. And Google, a company that built the world’s best web search engine, could surely do a better job of building an engine for searching the apps on our phones.

We’re getting to a point where, if this situation doesn’t change, no one will try a new app because they have enough apps already.

What about You?

How do you manage YOUR apps? Do you have some trick, some organization scheme? I try to cluster similar apps on similar pages on my Android Phone.

Image credits: top – Appstream via Appsfire; iPhone apps – Flickr user Karin Beil