National App Day: Why are apps important?

You might remember the old slogan “There’s an app for that,” and it turns out there’s a day for that as well: December 11 is National App Day! Today we celebrate the not-so-humble app – and the Mail App in particular. So, if you have ever wondered what an app actually is and why apps are important, there is an explainer for that, too!
by Alyssa Schmitt
Smiling woman with cat on lap looks at smartphone
Online shopping for cat treats, directions to the vet, or sharing links to cat videos – mobile apps make it all possible.

Like most of us today, you may have your smart phone with you 99% of the time. And if so, mobile apps are part of your daily life. Activities that many of us consider essential – keeping up with friends on social media, checking the weather or traffic before leaving the house, and even reading emails – are all made possible by mobile apps.

What is a mobile app?

“App” is an abbreviation for “application,” a word that originally meant “putting something to use” or “the way something is put to use.” As computers became part of our everyday lives, we also started using the word “application” to describe a program that performs a certain task, like a spreadsheet program. And by the early 1980s, the word “application” was shortened down to “app” when talking about software.

A ”mobile application” is an application that was specifically developed to run on a mobile device like your smartphone or tablet. A lot of the time they are a scaled-down version of a similar program that you use on your laptop or desktop computer. In everyday life we simply call them “apps,” or sometimes “iPhone apps” or “smartphone apps.”

These apps let you play games on your phone, access news and weather updates, shop and book travel online… the list goes on and on. Although they provide a diverse range of functions and services, what they have in common is that they are made to work on mobile devices, usually specifically taking into account the constraints and capabilities of the device they are built for. They often take advantage of functions offered by your device – e.g. a sports tracker app works with your phone’s GPS, or the app for iOS integrates your iPhone’s scan function.

A brief history of the mobile app

Can you remember a time before apps? With apps taking center stage in our lives nowadays, it’s hard to believe that they’ve only been widely used for around 15 years. In the late 1990s, personal digital assistants (PDAs) like the PalmPilot came with mobile apps such as a calendar, a calculator, etc.. And what Gen Xer can forget the early mobile games offered on our cell phones, like Nokia’s “Snake”? The rise of the Blackberry in the 2000s also marked the beginning of mobile email. But the true start of the app boom can be dated to the release of Apple’s first iPhone (and iPod Touch) in 2007. Apple’s devices came with a host of “native apps” (i.e., developed and installed by the company) that we had never seen before, like photo and map applications.

Just a year later in 2008, Apple launched a mobile app store containing 500 apps that users could select and download to their devices. In addition to native apps, it allowed outside developers to offer applications that they designed for use on Apple devices. And later that same year, the Android Market was launched to provide a similar marketplace for non-Apple users. To say that these apps were a success is an understatement – there were over 10 million downloads in the first 3 days after the Apple App Store was launched.

Fun facts about apps

Apps came in with a bang and have only continued to grow in popularity. In 2022, consumers downloaded 255 billion mobile apps to their devices worldwide – up by more than 80 percent from 2016.
  • In June 2023, Instagram was the most-downloaded app from the Google Play Store – it was downloaded almost 70 million times during that month. Facebook came in second place.
  • In Apple’s App Store, the Google search engine was the most popular iPhone app in June 2023, with 6.36 million downloads. Second place went to CapCut.
  • The number of apps available in the App Store peaked in 2021 at 2.22 million – an amazing increase from the 500 apps initially offered in 2008.
  • Nearly 90% of the time Americans are on their phones is spent using apps
  • Most users have more than 80 apps on their phones

Mobile apps from

Launched in 1997, has always been a pioneering email provider. Just three years after the start of the App Store, in 2011 we introduced our own email app for the iPhone. Our app developed specially for Android devices followed in 2016. Our mobile apps, which let users access their email and cloud storage seamlessly on their mobile devices, were an instant hit and are still going strong. The mobile app has been downloaded more than one million times in 2023 – and the year is not over yet!

To celebrate National App Day, why not try out our five favorite features in the mobile app?
  1. Enhance your app security by activating biometric authentication (AKA facial of fingerprint identification).
  2. Use your phone’s camera to scan documents right in the app so you can store them to your Cloud or send them as attachments.
  3. Activate automatic photo uploads to back up your photos to your free Cloud.
  4. Set up email address and calendar syncing so contacts and appointments saved directly on your phone will automatically appear in your address book and vice-versa.
  5. Make the mobile app the default email app on your phone.
And if you love the app but would like to go ad-free or scale up your Cloud storage, never fear: our Premium upgrades are available as in-app purchases. This explainer shows you how to get started: Upgrade to Premium in our mobile apps

Bonus explainer: Mobile app or mobile website? What is the difference?

You may have heard of a mobile website – is that the same as an app? Not really. A mobile website is a version of a regular website that is optimized to work on a mobile device like your phone or tablet. You access it through the device’s browser application (e.g., Safari on an iPhone) without installing any further software on your phone. So, for example, you can access your email account on your phone either by installing our mobile app, or by going to in your mobile web browser. A mobile app, on the other hand, is a separate software program that either comes pre-installed on your device, or that you select from an app store yourself. Since the app is downloaded and installed on your device, it can be customized to your needs, e.g. enabling push notifications to keep you up to date. Many can even be used offline.

We hope this post has given you a new appreciation for the mobile app and the role it plays in our lives. Maybe you even agree that it deserves a special day to be honored! We look forward to your feedback below!

Images: 1&1/Shutterstock

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