There were many pixels spilled over a slew of new apps this past year. Some got more press than others and for some apps, the hype was well-deserved. Others, on the other hand, did not fare so well despite a positive launch. This is a short list of what hype I remember from 2014. It is in no way objective, based on actual numbers, or fair. It’s just my list.
Uber. What technology summary of 2014 would be complete without Uber, the ridesharing app known for its massive valuation and funding, for working extremely well, for surge pricing, incomplete driver background checks, and for corporate, well, let’s call them mishaps. Uber deserved most of the hype it received this year mostly because it is disrupting a very staid and inefficient industry that was resting on its laurels and medallions. But will it continue to thrive? The idea of connecting casual drivers and riders with an efficient platform is brilliant, true, but taxis will eventually catch on and create similar technology and regulators and insurance companies will undoubtedly change the playing field. That said, I believe that either Uber or another ridesharing company will be around in 10 years.
Yo. The simple messaging app that exploded in the spring and faded later in the year showed that we are not done with messaging apps. The easy onboarding and focused functionality proved to be a hit. WhatsApp, more popular outside the US, was sold to Facebook for $19B, showing that different messaging applications can find a huge market. And Facebook Messenger found success after users initially hated being forced to download it.
Clinkle. So much talk, so much funding and so much disappointment when it launched. It was just another credit-card based mobile payment app, with few features and high fees. Yet the space of mobile payments is alive and well. Apple Pay launched this year and was lauded for its ease of use and security features. On the other hand, the US retailers’ response to Apple Pay, CurrentC, might not have a smooth launch, or a wide acceptance rate.
Jelly. Again, much hype, not so much traction. A cute Q&A app based on images that never really caught on, but, oh, the hype.
Secret. Another indication that social networks are continually evolving, Secret launched with an interesting premise: the messages are anonymous but come from your social circle. It could have been an interesting social experiment, and some of the posts I saw were, indeed, passionate and heartfelt, but it quickly became a place where teens could bully classmates without any fear of retaliation. As a sad indication of what Secret was being used for, after adding some anti-bullying technology usage declined immensely. Perhaps this is not a model that will work for long-term use.
Tune in tomorrow when I attempt to predict what mobile trends started in 2014 have legs.