Labor of love, or Trends in indie app development

It seems that the days when an non-gaming indie project was able to take over the stores and win the mass smartphone owner hearts are almost over. If you Google Search “best indie apps” , chances are the top articles will be dated somewhere between 2012 and 2016. How come? It is not uncommon in 2020 for a single developer to create a game and find a publisher to bring it to the top of the charts, but other verticals are not that lucky: looks like nowadays indie dev is more about crazy ideas, niche demands or altruistic utilities. Many things that were “ideas” and novelties 5 years ago, like sharing your travel experiences, collecting smartphone usage data or instant messaging in a funky way, have been included into major’s (Apple, Google, Facebook) great products or pre-installed onto the devices.

To what extent is this true? How do you know a trend when you see one? Where can you find daring initiatives? You don’t just go to the applications store and search for an app that doesn’t have many downloads. What is more, not all of the products are free: even if you don’t aspire to earn millions of dollars or are strictly non-profit, you need to fund the product maintenance, maybe a small team, eat and sleep, at the very least. 

So where does the fashion live? There is a great number of resources, forums and Facebook groups, but we need b2c tools, don’t we? That’s when sites like and the independent Medium channel Hackernoon may come handy. Also, good old Kickstarter is quite representative of the trends, even though it focuses on things that have an offline incarnation.

We have surfed through those media and found some regularities in product categories.

Blockchain whatever. 

Not the new black in 2020, but still stirs the dev imagination. Besides, it help you get a well-paid remote job. We won’t mention any specific projects, many valuable initiatives get funded instantly (ICOs not dead, huh), so indies are more into amusement: decentralized gaming apps (aka dapps) are in plenty and, at the same time, are yet to gain the attention of of the mass player.

Social networks add-ons and communication tools, maybe get all of the information in one place.

Analyse your subscriptions and unsubscriptions, track your behavior, turn yourself into a data source.

Also, find your neighbors, people in the neighborhood to borrow a drill driver from, lunch company in the selected area, et cetera. 

Aggregate information: for example, a calendar app that gather insights about the people and companies you meet with. 

Productivity tools:

Though this niche is considered commercial, there are still loads of people who think they can contribute to your ultimate efficiency by creating a tool that is a slightest bit different/more comfy/meets one more demand than the ones that are present at the market.

How many pomodoro trackers do you see on picture#2?

Also, work utilities integration helpers. Products like Slack and Jira have loads of integrations with smaller or more specific products, all sorts of services, in fact, but new custom add-ons are created almost every day.  The author of this is planning to try one after they finish the text you’re reading.

Ecology utilities:

Find a recycling center (in the areas where waste sorting is not mandatory) of a place to hand your old kitchenware in), maybe a zero waste ( = no package goods, like soap or rice by weight), report non-organized dump site, measure your plastic/fuel footprint.

Those are usually free, but you are often suggested to donate to support the initiative

AI whatever generators/finders (mostly pictures, though)/

Make your drawn cat a more realistic one, recognize drawn concepts, create a song of the kind, turn your selfie into a portrait by Munch.

Also, all kind of shopping assistants: this trend we expect to be followed by majors, but for there’s no significant leader at the market.

Developers’ tools:

No one expects you to write code from your iPhone (doesn’t mean one never does this), but why not build something, a prototype, maybe, using a no-code constructor?


Mindfulness and meditation. Also, mental health and personal growth. 

When you need to stimulate positive life changes, why not try a dozen apps instead of leaving a pile of money to a psychologist. (irony aside, this is not a piece of advice, if you believe you have real medical issues, refer to a doctor in the first place). 

The latest trend is COVID-specific stress management tools. Would you use one yourself?

Fun/random offline stuff to get.

Silicon Valley style: why not get yourself a random lunch at a random time from places within 10 miles radius? Maybe, a casual clothes kit every month? Maybe, all of the mentioned in one app?

Would you yourself create an app for the fun of it (if you could)? Do you have any DIY apps installed on your smartphone?

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