Trends in Mobile App Discovery and Opportunities with Location Technology

Some interesting findings have been recently shared by Forbes. They looked at how and why people (consumers/business) search for apps along with trends in app-related searches conducted on Google – for the developer, think Opportunity! 

Become a GEOMentor - Image credit: Joseph Kerski
Image credit: Joseph Kerski

There are some very interesting trends that identify hot topics on the minds of people. even more interesting, the applications that are being discovered often have a location-aware component (ie. find/locate me, discover near me), or if they don’t they really should!

From the findings, Google has shared that over a 4-year span, users have shown an affinity for apps that help them to:

  • Discover conveniences or be more productive – this mainly includes applications that enable search for delivery or pick up apps, retail photo app search, and restaurant/entertainment apps.
  • Learn – Overall, top searches here have been for K-12 learning, language learning, and parenting or family help apps.
  • Improve health and mind – top items here that are in demand are results for athletic clothing, fitness tracking, and wellness apps.
  • Save money – Overall, the biggest demand here has been for coupon (Groupon), discount, and free food or drink deal apps.

According to Brian Solis… “What these search trends demonstrate is that successful apps don’t have to be all things to all people. Taking a user-centered view to see how people search and what they’re seeking and why, modern marketers can learn how to precisely target new users. Their mobile search behavior says everything.”

So, for the GEO developer and location technology professional, what’s the big deal? Well, the opportunity of course. The demand for mobile applications and mobile solutions has never been greater. For those skilled in GIS, mapping, and location technologies these findings reveal some very clear opportunities as well as ideas for your next project or application. Looking at the findings above, it is clear that applications that target these topic areas all should incorporate location and location search capabilities in order to be popular and effective.  Search and discover, track me, find “near me” are capabilities that consumers expect in their apps.

Getting started is easy. You now have a seed planted for an idea. All you need is some data, dev tools, and some support. The following are a few resources to assist you in building the next hot mobile app!

Access Data

Government and organizations are under pressure from the public to be open and transparent, this means opening up data portals and enabling developers with data, tools, APIs, SDKs and even access to real-time sensor data. Need ideas for places to get data? Look no further than the ArcGIS Hub Resource, Esri’s open data platform for Government and NGOs. Additionally, for users of ArcGIS Online, The Living Atlas is growing daily and provides access to a wealth of data.

open data

65 percent of Americans search online for information about their government. Yet, less than 10 percent report finding what they need. ArcGIS Hub aims to remedy this!

Developer Tools

Tools for building mobile applications are plentiful and becoming easy to use, often without the need for any coding skills at all (although you’ll greatly benefit if you do). ArcGIS Web AppBuilder enables users to quickly and easily leverage data from the Living Atlas, build and test applications, and deploy to any platform – without any manual coding at all!


web appbuilder

Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS includes built-in tools so you can create 2D and 3D web apps for your workflows and your brand. It’s user-friendly, flexible, and full of GIS functionality. Developers can build custom widgets and themes to extend Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS.    

Getting started with Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS is easy!


Finally, with ArcGIS Online, students, developers, and professionals have access to a platform for hosting and deploying their apps as well as a vibrant community of developers and professionals to assist and guide them – think GeoNet, Github, Esri learning resources, Esri Communities, MOOCs, Dev Meetups, and other online learning resources. See for example, this free online course on cartography.

ArcGIS for Developers
ArcGIS for Developers

So remember, your apps don’t have to be all things to all people. Identify a problem that people are having, come up with a solution, use the resources at our disposal, and build the next killer [location-aware] app! Oh, and be sure to tell us about it.

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GEOspatial Evangelist & CMO

Geographer, GIS professional, writer, and fan of all things mobile.