When it comes to apps, there is a such thing as having too many options. As of July 2015, there are 1.6 million apps in Google Play (Android’s app store) and 1.5 million apps in the Apple App Store. That’s a lot of apps to choose from going to waste considering the fact that most people don’t download any apps in any given month.
Either app discovery is super hard (validating the need for ASO) or people are just content with the few apps they have. Either way, many apps don’t succeed, but app developers can increase their chances of success by staying away from certain types of apps.
The last thing I want to do is discourage people from creating great apps. This is more of a post to help you make a better decision for a more successful app. Here are the four app categories that you should avoid.
The mobile gaming market is extremely crowded and isn’t nice to new developers. The most successful mobile game developers have reaped the benefits of virality (e.g. Flappy Bird) and several rounds of funding (e.g. Machine Zone, King, Rovio). Then there are the underrated, mid-level, awesome games that do well, such as Dots (and Two Dots). All other gaming apps have experienced quiet success, minimal to no success, or are completely fraud and malware traps.
Additionally, as large developers like Nintendo enter the mobile game market, free mobile games will face even more competition. Out of all the mobile games that are launched monthly, very few become hits. However, if massive revenue and tons of downloads and traction for your game is not what you are looking for, by all means develop on!
News & Magazine Apps
News and magazine apps have become somewhat redundant. You can read the same news story across several apps without a noticeable difference. Almost every major news site has created an individual app, and there are a slew of other news and content aggregator apps like SmartNews, Flipboard, and Google Currents that use algorithms to give you the most interesting and top content in different ways. Frankly, people only need a few ways to read news (if not one), and a lot of people use social apps like Facebook or Twitter to read news. Plus, Apple is touting its own native apps, as it prepares to release a news app in iOS 9.
Developing another news app would be redundant, unless you can clearly differentiate your app, target a niche, and/or cleverly incorporate the human touch with algorithms, it’s best to avoid developing a news or magazine app.
Food Delivery Apps
The great thing about living in a popular metropolitan area that is tech heavy (mainly NYC and San Francisco) is that there are so many options for delivery and concierge apps. You don’t have get up and do anything anymore, which is good and bad. The type of apps that have been popping up a lot lately are food and drink delivery apps. Some of the best of them are Seamless, Postmates, Caviar, and Drizly. Then you have apps like SpoonRocket or EnvoyNow, who target a specific market or do something unique like make their own food.
Ever since GrubHub, we’ve seen a slew of food delivery apps pop up, and ever since GrubHub and Seamless merged, it seems as if Seamless is all people use. If your food delivery app doesn’t have a clear differentiator and can’t cover the same zip codes as the larger apps, your app won’t be able to pick up enough traction to be successful. An alternative would be to create an app like Push For Pizza, which is simple, interactive, and targeted (pizza lovers only). Maybe a salad-only delivery app would work?
Antivirus apps, cleaners, memory boosters, data usage widgets, etc. These are all considered utility apps — apps that will improve the performance of your phone in some fashion. If you browse through the app stores, you’ll see a ton of these, and only a few have dominated the category, such as Clean Master, 360 Security, Lookout, and PhoneClean.
If you’re an iPhone user, you’ve probably never had a virus on your iPhone, nor has your iPhone been bogged down by junk files you usually see on Android phones. Plus, Apple has done a good job of incorporating settings to help with device upkeep. So, if you’re primarily an iOS developer, developing a utility app is almost pointless. If Android is your platform of choice, be prepared to face hefty competition.
On the bright side, there are some great opportunities in other app categories (e.g. productivity, fitness, and communication). In the meantime, here are some developer resources to help you in your developer journey.