3 Apps That Stand Out in Crowded Categories

There are millions of apps available. This trio broke out of the fray and earned loyal followings.

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By Rahul Varshneya

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There are just a limited number of categories in the app stores, but each holds millions of apps.

Here are three examples of apps from across categories that launched in a crowded space, yet became extremely successful. Each had its differentiating strategy that made them stand out and create a mark on the market.

1. Instagram -- find a problem and solve it. "The hard part is finding a problem to solve. Solutions actually come pretty easily for the majority of problems," Kevin Systrom said while talking about what led to the creation of Instagram. "We wanted to build an app that could solve problems and not just build something that was cool."

Related: How to Stand Out in a Crowded Marketplace

Systrom and his co-founder Mike Krieger wrote down top five problems people had with mobile photos. When they listed out the problems, the top three that motivated them to create Instagram were that mobile photos just didn't look so great when people took them. They would be washed out, etc. Second, uploads on mobile phones took a really long time (they solved it by starting the upload even before a user is done editing the caption and size down the photo to fit on the screen). Finally, users wanted to share to multiple services at once, instead of taking a photo with a specific service each time.

2. 8tracks -- change the fundamental of a service. Every music service in the market has been approaching streaming in pretty much the same manner, with some differences. How do you then turn the tables around and challenge some of the most popular music streaming apps that already exist on the app store?

You create an app that, at the core, changes the way music is discovered. Enter 8tracks. This app let's users listen to playlists based on their current mood. For content creation, it allows people to create playlists based on a certain mood, theme or subject.

Very simply, the app went back to understanding human psychology of how people associate music with their moods and like to play certain types of music at certain times.

Related: Operating in a Crowded Market? Here's How to Shine.

This app not only has 8 million active subscribers, but is also profitable.

3. Clear -- innovate on technology. A to-do list app? Seriously? Isn't that a category dominated by behemoths? It all started with building an app that was a major leap forward in design, with no buttons at all. This app's uniqueness was the simplicity of use in a highly cluttered and complex set of to-do list apps.

The kicker for Clear was in its usability with a no-nonsense interface, dominated by natural interaction instincts, stripping it bare of all complex features (often associated with to-do apps), but one -- maintaining a list, quickly and in a fun way.

Using simple swipes and pinch zoom, this app is refreshingly different from any of the existing ones on the app store. The usability design was so unique that it caught the fancy of the press and users alike, helping the developer sell over 350,000 copies of the app within the first nine days of the launch.

You don't always have to look for a completely unique idea. It's all about the execution. The above apps are some great examples of existing ideas executed brilliantly. Draw your cues from the strategies adopted by these entrepreneurs and I'm sure you can create your own app that stands out.

Related: Why You Shouldn't Fear Copycat Developers

Rahul Varshneya

Co-founder at Arkenea

Rahul Varshneya is the co-founder of Arkenea, an award-winning web and mobile app development agency.

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