3 Unexpected Ways Apps Are Changing Our Lives: What’s Next?

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Remember the “dark days” of 2006?

A decade ago, we were still busy scrolling through email on our Blackberry phones. It was hard to imagine using our phones to summon on-demand rides, virtually deposit checks, stream music for free, or even find instant turn-by-turn directions to our destinations. A decade later, Apple’s mantra “there’s an app for that” has become a way of life.

Whether we’re reading, playing, shopping, learning, writing, emailing, running, traveling or sleeping, apps put the world at our fingertips.

The app-driven life kicked the mobile phone revolution into high gear. Globally, we’ve adopted smartphones and tablets 10 times faster than personal computers in the 1980s and twice as fast as the Internet boom of the 1990s, according to app-tracking firm Flurry. Young adults spend an estimated one-third of their waking lives on smartphones, reports Huffington Post, with most of us checking our phones twice as often as we think we do. We’re using phones an estimated five hours a day thanks in part to habitual automatic behaviors. Waiting in the grocery line or for your morning coffee? Time to check Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. More than half of our smartphone usage comes in short bursts of less than 30 seconds of activity, which is one reason we often underestimate our usage.

Here are three key ways apps are changing our lives — and how your small business can leverage these changes for success:

1. Digital payments. Last month, popular mobile payment app Venmo processed more than $1 billion in mobile payments. Google Wallet and Apple Pay have both launched contactless payment options, allowing users to pay simply by using a thumb to verify identity on their mobile phones. Industry analysts predict mobile payments are on the edge of going mainstream: soon, paying with our phones will seem as natural as swiping a credit card. Cash will be a thing of the past, reports Due.com. And while Bitcoin may never catch on as a new digital currency, the blockchain technology that it’s based on is taking off with unexpected applications. Innovation opportunities: The digital currency marketplace is wide open for innovation. There are a number of innovative companies experimenting with blockchain technology to make transactions cheaper, easier and safer. For example, BitWage uses blockchain technology to make international payroll cheaper, faster and more reliable. Voatz is working to eliminate voting fraud and make elections cheaper and more transparent.

2. Healthcare at our fingertips. Forget heart rate monitoring during a workout; today’s healthcare apps are truly transforming the patient-provider relationship. Last September, Apple demonstrated how the new Air Strip app can change how doctors and patients interact; doctors can monitor a patient’s heart rate and other acute health statistics via the app. This would allow doctors to better monitor patients with chronic health conditions like heart disease and diabetes without ever having to make the trip to the hospital, reports Popular Science. Innovation opportunities: A number of health care apps are hitting the app marketplace, all aimed at simplifying symptom monitoring and management. The HIPAA-compliant app CaptureProof lets patients virtually “show and tell” their symptoms; patients snap a photo of symptoms and send it to their doctor to monitor progress, reducing unnecessary follow-up appointments. For busy parents, Fever Scout provides continuous temperature monitoring during the night, gently waking parents when a child’s temperature exceeds a pre-determined level.

3. Virtual house hunting. A decade ago, searching for your dream home required a big stack of MLS listings and a lot of in-person home visits on the weekends. Now, apps like Trulia, Zillow and Redfin have made the house hunt virtual. “Apps put real estate listings directly at a house hunter’s fingertips,” says Ocala real estate agent Fred Franks. “They let house hunters hone in on a specific community or a handful of property listings, streamlining the search process. These apps are especially helpful for homeowners who are relocating from other cities or states and aren’t able to drop by every open house on the weekend since they’re not living in town yet.” Innovation opportunities: The house hunt is about more than just finding the perfect listing; would-be homeowners need great credit and mortgage pre-approval, as well as a clear understanding of the neighborhood. Zillow’s mortgage app gives users a better idea of what their homes will actually cost when they factor in property taxes, interest, home insurance and other expenses. And apps aren’t just for house hunters; Homesnap Pro is an app built specifically for agents that gives realtors access to real-time agent-only MLS data.

Bottom Line

From how we search for our dream homes to how we split the cost of brunch with friends, new apps are changing virtually every aspect of our daily lives. Understanding these patterns of usage, including evolving consumer preferences for when and how we interact with our phones, is essential for successful mobile marketing.

Mobile Apps Photo via Shutterstock