Comments Off on The History of Mobile Apps
Posted By

Aaron Mireles


Before Don Frieden started his company, gas stations hadn’t innovated their payment technology
since 1997. He knew that needed to change.

Original Post | Innovationmap

Before Don Frieden started his company, gas stations hadn't innovated their payment technology since 1997. He knew that needed to change.

P97, founded in 2012, exists to use innovative technologies to simplify and energize daily journeys, Frieden explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast.

The fast-growing company — which has nearly 200 employees, most of whom work from Houston — has raised over $100 million in venture funding, according to Crunchbase, most recently closing a $40 million series C round earlier this year. This funding has supported P97 as its expanded its technology, even expanding outside of gas station payments and into other sectors, like consumer packaged goods, mobile app development, and alternative fuel sources.

Part of what P97 is focused on too is adapting new technologies, including biometrics, and applying them to the payments world. Voice-enabled payments is something in particular that Frieden is working on.

"One of the things we’re most excited about is voice enable payments through our partnership with Amazon's Alexa," he explains. "The landscape of payments at gas stations underwent this next revolution, and we're using cutting-edge speech recognition and artificial intelligence to allow drivers to pay for fuel just using their voice.

"It makes the process faster and more efficient, and is completely hands-free," he continues, explaining that biometrics are also safer compared to card transactions. "From this time I say, 'Alexa, buy gas,' six seconds later, the gas would be turned on and any loyalty rewards I have would be applied, all from the comfort of my car."

Frieden shares more about the future of P97, payments, and the energy industry as it intersects with P97 — including the future of alternative fuels — on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.

From Serpent to Servant: The History of the Mobile App 

What was the first mobile app available for on-phone entertainment? When asked this question, most people will automatically (and understandably) think of their first iPhone. But would you believe the first mobile app was actually offered on the Nokia 6110? For those of you that don’t even remember that phone, you’ll have to go all the way back to 1997 in your memory bank. And if you that had one of these, you’ll remember a built-in arcade game called “Snake.” Many consider this the first “official” mobile app, followed shortly after by Solitaire and Brick with the first iPod release. 

Now, that’s the first official app that went into mainstream production. But if I were to ask you when the first concept of the app was presented… how far would you have to go back then? All the way back to 1983, when a young Steve Jobs first presented a very basic vision of the app store. He imagined a place where “software could be bought over phonelines.” Shortly after this, Apple launched its first version of the iTunes Store, followed immediately after by the iPod, and in 2007, the first iPhone. As a result of its critical success, native apps were then created in high-demand and one year later, the app store was launched. 

A Phased Approach 

So, how have we gone from serpent-based to service-based in what is considered to be a relatively short amount of time, given the advancement in technology? Some say it’s been a phased approach, with three dominant categories

  1. The first incarnation of the app offered the capacity to transform your phone into a multi-purpose device. It could be a phone, a messaging tool, or even a calculator. 

  1. The second incarnation was considered to be more of a race to the top, with every app vying for its space on your most prime real estate – your home screen. This gave way to a plethora of apps that were design-driven and data-dense. 

  1. In the third incarnation (where we are today) apps are less about the look and feel and more about the service and functionality. They are built with a purpose and it’s not idle browsing. Now, these apps are geared towards customer engagement through meaningful strategy. 


Throughout their lineage, mobile apps have changed our lives and the way we conduct business at a very high level. Regardless of the question, the answer is: There’s an app for that! 

Companies are using mobile apps as a way to enhance customer acquisition and retention strategies through loyalty offers, more convenient purchasing and a safer payments experience. And that’s just the B2C side of the equation. The very basic truth in this digitally-dominated society seems to be: If it doesn’t have an app, it doesn’t have a future. 

At Your Service 

From loyalty apps to payment apps, to convenience retail and fuel, they all have one common theme.  Service is the name of the game. Why? Because the easier you make the transaction and the more engaging you make the offers, the more likely your customers are to return. Convenience and satisfaction are the ultimate goals here.  

When it comes to convenience retail and fuel specifically, the name says it all. Customers want the convenience of being able to buy what they need as quickly and conveniently as possible so they can get on with their day. A coherent app experience not only allows your customers to pay for fuel and everyday items when, where and how they want, it also presents the opportunity for any convenience retailer to enhance the customer experience and ensure repeat purchasing with:  

  • Loyalty offers 
  • Geolocation perks 
  • On-site promotions  
  • And secure payment options. 

And the trend towards service-based apps is rapidly turning into a consumer expectation. In fact, 40% of consumers used their mobile phones as a shopping channel more since the global pandemic – a number that is predicted to grow exponentially. 

So, from a longevity perspective, this latest incarnation of the app seems to have some legs – especially when it comes to convenience retail and fuel services. 

Are you along for the ride? 

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