Isn’t it strange how adding a single, simple app can often throw your whole homescreen off? Even stranger; how many of these new, intrusive apps we’d never heard of until we couldn’t live without them.
There was Zoom, which buzzed onto the conference calling scene — presumably much to Skype’s dismay. There was the NHS Covid-19 app; with its constant check-ins and insidious ‘ghost’ notifications. There was even that whole download-delete-download-delete relationship we had with Houseparty.
But the fact remains, these brightly-coloured building blocks are the tools that hold our handsets together — whether they be tried-and-tested or brand new releases. So which will be the biggest apps of 2021?
Pocket is a handy way to absorb great content
What is it? Previously known as ‘Read It Later’, Pocket helps users manage an endless reading list of online articles, blogs and even videos from the internet. Don’t have time to read it now? Pocket it. It’s a simple — but practical and effective idea.
Why will it be popular? For that very reason. The idea of Pocket may have been around since 2007, but over the last year we’ve all grown accustomed to having a certain amount of free time. As the world becomes busier, that time will decrease, and we’ll be thankful to have somewhere to store long reads for later.
Who developed it? Originally, it was a browser extension for Mozilla Firefox — remember that? Created by Nathan Weiner, a Silicon Valley tech-head, the app has seen a spike in downloads since January.
Both Signal and Telegram could be the new WhatsApp
What is it? Both are cross-platform messaging services. Signal is centralised and encrypted; a WhatsApp for a more cautious type of texter. Telegram is similar, offering end-to-end encrypted voice and video calls.
Why will it be popular? Because WhatsApp is pushing our buttons. Imminently, the messaging giant will ask us to accept some controversial new privacy terms, and many high profile tech entrepreneurs (Elon Musk among them) are encouraging users to switch to an alternative app.
Who developed it? Signal was initially released in 2014, but its first stable release was made available in February by the non-profit Signal Foundation, funded by WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton. Telegram made its stable debut last year, bankrolled by the Russian Durov brothers — and was the world’s most downloaded app in January 2021.
Clubhouse is a new type of social networking app
What is it? An invitation-only audio-chat app. Or a social networking app. We’re still slightly unclear as to what Clubhouse does — but people seem to love it. It’s not a patch, of course, on the Gentleman’s Journal subscription package of the same name.
Why will it be popular? Because important people like it. And because the invite-only model makes it appear exclusive. Elon Musk (again) sang the app’s praises in January, before asking Kanye West and Vladimir Putin to chat with him on it. German and Japanese celebrities are also pushing Clubhouse into the mainstream — and it recently reached a valuation of $1 billion.
Who developed it? Paul Davison and Rohan Seth of Alpha Exploration Co. But the real jumpstart came when venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz invested $12 million into the project last May. Today, the app features a wide variety of ‘clubs’ and virtual ‘rooms’ hosting conversations on diverse topics.
InstaSize and Snapseed are preparing for social media's restart
What is it? Both of these photo-editing apps have seen a surge of popularity in the early months of 2021 — alongside other, similar programs such as Adobe Lightroom. They all share the same basic function; add effects, enhancements and filters to your photographs.
Why will it be popular? Presumably, because there’ll be things worth photographing again. There’ll be brunches to document and nights out to immortalise. And, now both InstaSize and Snapseed can directly share your creations to social media, they’re easier to use than ever.
Who developed it? Nik Software launched Snapseed in 2011, before Google acquired it in 2012 — and it has been a consistently popular tablet app ever since. InstaSize is slightly newer, released in 2012. As of this year, it has 150 million downloads, and half a million paying subscribers.
Anchor is a godsend for prospective podcasters
What is it? A free platform for podcast creation — and a beginner-friendly one, at that. So, in a world where every man and his dog want to stream their innermost thoughts into the podsphere, Anchor is a tool that’ll let them do it — whether that be advisable or not…
Why will it be popular? Because of that ease. Anchor contains tools that allow users to record and edit audio, arrange it into episodes, publish to listening platforms, and monetise their podcasts by collecting listener contributions or adding in advertisements.
Who developed it? Michael Mignano and Nir Zicherman. The former made Forbes’ ’40 under 40′ list in 2019 after pivoting from podcasting itself (his title flopped) to the mechanics of the medium. Today, the platform operates as part of Spotify — doubtless another reason it’s seeing a surge in popularity.