The download numbers of popular social media apps and messaging apps on Google's Android app store Google Play are breath-taking. While Instagram reached 1 million downloads in just 24 hours when it arrived on Android last April, now a predominantly Korean messaging service took over the home screen of 500,000 Android users within only 9 days and now already has 50-100m installs. Google shares rough download numbers for each app on its Google Play page and the classical Facebook app is currently listed with 100 million to 500 million downloads, while Facebook's Android launcher Home received 500k downloads within a week, but also a fair bit of criticism through the review function still only with 2.5 stars out of 5.
Google and its mobile hardware partners seem to have found a winning formular and it is no wonder that Apple is now under pressure. 90 percent of Korean smartphones are already Androids.... pretty much the opposite to the still Apple-dominated Australian mobile landscape.
It is amazing to watch how the internet and mobile space get disrupted by open APIs, open IDs or single-sign on solutions like google+ Sign-On, Sign in with Twitter or Facebook-Login, which already allowed social games or instagram - to just name two examples - and to grow at unprecedented rates. Most modern websites today have either a Facebook or Twitter sign-in.
In addition to the massively reduced technical entry barriers / switching costs and quicker reach of app users, the Android operating system also allows apps to play dominant roles around the whole usability of a phone and even take over the Home screen as the app launcher of Facebook demonstrates:
Looking into the future, the above means that we will see many more apps that grow at explosive rates e.g. like Instagram, leveraging a clever mix of existing authentication mechanisms, smartphone features, viral sharing through existing social network APIs plus through running a website with unique content owned by the app developer. Will Facebook and Twitter facilitate the growth of their own competition in the future through opening up so much? How easy will it be in the future to replicate a Facebook or Twitter through simply better usability and more cleverness by tapping into the smartphones of customers and enriching existing Facebook or Twitter experiences plus by introducing value-adding or completely new features that will allow the app developer to then own the user completely? Luckily the big existing social networks incl. Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo+Tumblr!? or the Kakao's of the world, still have the instrument of simply acquiring fast-growing apps such as Instagram once they become too dangerous... Happy days for app developers...
Bjorn Behrendt is a serial entrepreneur with an extensive knowledge about online retail, payments and mobile commerce.