The Paradox of (App) Choice…

On February 22, 2009

In 2004 psychology professor Barry Schwartz wrote a fascinating book entitled-  The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less.

Schwartz suggests that we now have far too many choices and that they offer "an illusion of a multitude of options when few honestly different ones actually exist".

When we are faced with a bewildering array of choices, he writes, we become flooded and increasingly anxious. In short- we THINK more choices are better and make us happier when it may well be exactly the opposite.

Case in point- the iTunes App Store.

There are now more than 15,000 applications available for download. Since the App Store went online iPhone and iPod Touch enthusiasts have downloaded apps more than 500 million times. And yet…

According to Pinch Media’s tracking of application USE users who download free apps BARELY use them. Only 20 percent of downloaders actually use the app the next day and with each day that number decreases further still.

How do paid apps do, you ask?? Not much better as the percentage jumps from 20 to just 30% with a similar drop-off rate as time goes forward. In all about 1% of downloaders become LONG TERM users of an app. 1%!!!!

I have to say, I’m not all that surprised by these numbers. Every day I look at the new and updated apps that become available and I am overwhelmed by the numbers. There are now over 550 applications on my computer and I’ve been running an experiment — I haven’t updated apps when updates are available in two weeks. There are now 87 applications waiting to be updated. (I appreciate the fact that developers are constantly updating their applications. That’s not the issue. The sheer volume of applications and updates is.)

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some gems that come out. There are new applications — be they utilities or games- that are released and are superb. The problem is actually finding them. (That’s where we can help each other out — recommendations are always the best way to find something whether it is a place to eat or an iPhone app.)

This bit of news also got me thinking — which applications do I actually use on a daily basis. I’m compiling a list but before I share mine I thought I’d ask all of you — which applications you find that you used at least once a day?