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The app factor: how smartphone apps changed our lives

A look at how apps have changed our lives and transformed us into digital denizens

Image Credit: Supplied
62% watch videos on mobile
Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: It is hard to believe that a little over eight years ago, smart phones and their seemingly endless number of apps did not even exist, and yet today, we have transformed into a digital society, nearly absolutely reliant on a pocket device that offers more and more more ways of making our life easier on a daily basis.

According to a 2015 research by Flurry Analytics, a mobile analytics company, over 90 per cent of the time spent with mobile phones is for app usage. Apps have changed how we communicate, work, learn, entertain ourselves, and manage our time and our daily lives. People have built entire companies on creating apps.

It all started in 2008 when Apple launched the App Store with around 500 apps. Today, the App Store and its rival Google Play offer over 2.5 million apps each and that number is increasing daily, with developers reportedly submitting around 1,000 apps a day to the App Store alone.



41% Play games on mobile phones


A UAE Marketing Report 2016 by We Are Social said that the UAE population spends more time on the internet than watching TV. According to the report, average daily internet use via a tablet or PC is 4 hours 25 minutes, while the average daily internet use via a mobile phone is 3 hours 37 minutes.

The report said that mobile penetration is rapidly growing with 71 per cent of the population are using the mobile messengers, 62 per cent population watch the videos on mobile, 41 per cent of the population play games on their mobile, 47 per cent of the population use mobile for mobile banking and 60 per cent of the population use map services.

With the use of the app technology growing at a phenomenal rate in the UAE and across the world, Gulf News explored the pros and cons of the app movement and looked to the trends in the UAE.

Third industrial revolution

According to Nordine Hadi, Director of Strategic Alliances in the Telecom/IT industry, “The Internet revolution has been the third industrial revolution. It changed the way we work, live, play. Every aspect of our lives has been affected and the changes have been gradual. As in all other modern societies, the UAE too has adopted apps for a variety of services: domestic help, house cleaning, doorstep laundry services, home food, grocery delivery, chauffeurs services [ to name a few],” said Hadi.

“Backed by a visionary government that places digital transformation at the core of its policies (in all sectors), the UAE is a place where apps have an amazing growth potential,” Hadi said.



47% Do mobile banking


Hadi referred to the Global Microbial Identifier 2015 (GMI) out of 9.58 million population in the UAE, 8.81 million were active Internet users and more than 56 per cent of the people in the UAE are active in social media, whereas the global average stands at 29 per cent.

“On a total of 5.4 million active social media accounts in the UAE, 4.6 million are mobile accounts. That means that 85 per cent of social media users access their accounts through a mobile device. The UAE population has clearly evolved to the digital age and is fully aware of the benefits provided by apps,” said Hadi.

According to Hadi, the app culture is growing fast for a simple reason, “Convenience.”

“Everything becomes available now. Distances disappear. Queues do not exist anymore. There is an app for almost everything, to subscribe for new services that deliver at your door, shaving blades, ingredients for the week or even diapers for the baby.”

However, Hadi warned that the technology does have its disadvantages, if over used. “Nomophobia or the smartphone addiction is becoming a real issue. The excitement caused by the compulsions fulfilment can be addictive and lead people to real troubles. Addiction to apps could impact anybody’s life through increasing loneliness, depression, physical addiction, disturbing sleep, anxiety, increasing stress, exacerbating attention deficit disorder, diminishing ability to concentrate, etc.”



60% Use map services on mobile


That having been said, Hadi said the app technology as we know it is coming to an end and a different future evolving.

“Recently, Apple and Google changed key components of their operating systems (IOS and Android) to modify the way users interact with their apps. Rather than being a destination by itself, apps are now becoming a set of notifications given an information in a specific dashboard.”

Hadi explained that the emergence of new devices such as smart watches are an example of how the way apps are used are being redefined. “With a smaller screen, the information itself becomes more important than the apps that generates it.”

What’s the app future?

“[It] will be focusing on apps as a service, On-Demand Resource (ODR),” said Hadi. “Both Google and Apple are working on it and the principle is easy. Rather than taking the full space of the app, we download only the part of the app we need.”

Hadi said the best example is for games. A game can be expensive and take a lot of storage on a smartphone. With the new ODR, the user will download the first level of the game and as soon as they evolve in the game, the new levels will be download on-demand, saving space and processing resources.

Du and Etisalat

According to the UAE Digital Marketing Report for 2016 there are 17.19 million mobile connections in the UAE, almost twice the size of approximately entire UAE population. Gulf News contacted UAE’s two telecom providers, Du and Etisalat to get their point of view on apps.

du’s sustainability report for 2015 stated that data now represents 32.2 per cent of their mobile service revenues. They have even developed their own app to keep with the growing trend.

Carlos Domingo, Chief New Business and Innovation Officer, du, said: “Apps are integral to the lives of our customers and this is why in du we have the vision that the du app becomes our busiest and most visited customer touchpoint.”

“We’ve worked hard to make sure du App offers a faster, more convenient way of doing things for our customers, and as a result we’ve seen the number of active users more than doubled year on year.

Domingo said that the app helps save time in accessing paying for services and they have seen a 50 per cent increase this year in those using it to check their bills and manage their spending.

Etisalat

“Our etisalat UAE mobile app addresses our customers’ need to stay connected on the go. It has recorded nearly 2 million downloads and 70 per cent year-on-year increase in payment transactions in 2015. The customer outreach ‘Live Chat’ feature has recorded more than 120,000 conversations with our customer care agents over the past year,” etisalat said in a statement.

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