Two Categories of Great Apps


If you are like me, you love smartphone apps.   But, you are also overloaded by the number of apps that exist in the app store and also that you've downloaded to your device.  As an investor in both Tapjoy and Flurry, I spend a lot of time thinking about what makes a great smartphone app.

To help me make sense of the overload, I've come up with two categories of great smartphone applications.
 
Category 1: Improved Web Apps
These are apps with functionality that already exist on the web, but that I would rather use on my smartphone even when sitting at my desktop with twin monitors and a T-1 connection. 

Why? Because they are simple to use, give you the information you want with as few clicks as possible without superfluous features/content or advertising.  Bottomline: the true essence of the application is simply captured better in a smartphone app setting with touchscreen device than on web with mouse.  

For me, examples in this category include:
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Pandora
  • TaskRabbit
  • The Weather Channel
  • DirecTV
  • Flixster
  • Wells Fargo
  • GoToMeeting, Webex, Join.me (iPad)
  • Showyou (iPad)


Category 2: "Truly" Mobile Apps
The other type of great smartphone apps are those that are "truly" mobile.  In other words, these apps couldn't have existed 3 years ago because they take advantage of what is unique about a modern smartphone.  Namely, they have camera, GPS, accelerometer and microphone.   And, ideally they also take advantage of the fact that there is now a network of millions of these connected devices.  

For me, examples in this category include:

  • Strava
  • Waze
  • Instagram
  • Banjo
  • Google Maps
  • Uber
  • Shazam
I am most interested in finding investments that are in this second category.  I believe there will be a wave of new companies created that take advantage of the fact that there is now a network of millions of connected devices that have GPS, cameras, microphones, and accelerometers.   If you are building one, give me a call!

Also, let me know if you think I've categorized these correctly and what apps I'm missing from each list.   Thanks!

37 comments:

  1. I guess that your two categories could also be looked at as startups that are designing for "mobile first" vs startups that are building cross platform.

    Whilst it's great that apps like Uber, Postmates etc. are designing for "mobile first" and building their entire business around a mobile experience, I also find it a limitation to growth.

    Startups like Gilt, Facebook etc. are more favourable for me as they are with me wherever I am; if I am at my desktop, I don't want to be forced to use the limited screen real-estate on my iphone to use the service, it is much faster for me to access it using my computer and have what I'm doing synced to my mobile device. For me, you have to provide a good cross-platform experience to become truly indispensable to my work routine.

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