Bri Manning

App Life Expectancy

November 1, 2013

I’ve been using Nike+ Running for the past few months to track my running and progress (and get competitive with my fiancee who still regularly runs more than I do). Here’s a picture of along one of my normal routes:

Santa Monica Beach

If you’re not familiar with the internals of the app, there are levels of progression for a user. Right now I’m at level two out of seven, named “Orange,” hopefully advancing to level three, named “Green,” by the end of November.

What I realized recently is that the top level, “Volt,” requires you to have run 9,320 miles. 9,320!

I’ve been averaging about 30 miles a month recently. That would mean it would take me over 25 years of consistent 30 mile months.┬áNow, I think that I run a bit, but not a crazy amount like some of my friends. I asked them, and the real crazy runners averaged 1,500-2,000 miles a year. That is still 4-6 years or so.

Now, that is doable, don’t get me wrong. But, will Nike+ be around then?

How long does an app live usually? You could say this is similar to asking how long a company lives, and in many cases that’s 100% accurate – there are a lot of companies whose livelihood and existence is tied directly to their app. But, when you consider an app as being just a product produced by a company, like the Nike+ Running app produced by Nike, then you realize that there are a lot of products that eventually die.

Crystal Pepsi, car models, etc. There are plenty of examples of things no longer produced. We often hear about the plentiful abundance of choices that consumers and users have. How many more types of food there are to buy, how many more apps there are added to every type of app store each month – those numbers are assumed to be ever increasing.

What about the ones that go away? What about apps removed from app stores? And for what reasons? The new, cool and noteworthy apps are exalted and pushed in front of us, but there’s no graveyard of dead apps.

Maybe that’s for the better – they’re likely a study in failures and hopes being crushed, but there are also lessons. We can learn a lot from these dead apps, yet we never hear anything about them.