NEW YORK: A wide range of companies are now using mobile apps to tap into changing consumer habits and accelerate the trends resulting from the rise of social media.

Facebook's recent $1bn acquisition of Instagram, a photo-sharing mobile app boasting only a relatively limited formal online representation, has sharpened attention on this channel.

"Everything is going mobile," Scott Ellison, an analyst at IDC, said. "We've got the hardware side figured out now. It's really about the apps and the user experience. And Facebook's next billion users are going to come from the mobile space."

Foursquare, a location-based mobile service offering shoppers "rewards" for checking in to certain places, now retains 15m members, It has also pursued tie-ups with marketers like PepsiCo and Red Bull.

"Mobile-first is the direction that many social networks are headed," said Holger Luedorf, head of business development at Foursquare. He added that these tools should feel "baked into" handsets.

Path, a mobile-specific social network set up by Dave Morin, who previously worked for Facebook on platform development, is already attempting to exploit this trend.

"Because you take your smartphone with you everywhere, you can quickly and easily take a photo or video, map your location or jot down a note or a thought," said Morin.

One core advantage for companies pushing apps is the straightforward model for reaching consumers through app stores, few meaningful alternatives to which exist on the internet.

The success of Catch's note-taking app exemplifies the efficiency of these distribution channels. "In February we had close to 900,000 downloads. How would we do that on the web?" Andreas Schobel, Catch's CEO, said.

"When you're on the phone you need the experience to be instantaneous. You just can't do that yet on the web."

Angry Birds, a popular game developed by Rovio, was first made available on the iPhone, and has since moved online, with a related movie also currently in the pipeline.

"Businesses that are thinking that way are planning for the future," said Ben Lerer, of Lerer Ventures, the investment group which tool an early stake in OMGPop, a gaming firm bought for $200m by Zynga.

Georg Petschnigg, a creator of Paper, a sketchbook iPad app, argued technology is more "intimate and pervasive" than ever before.

"We have it with us all the time, and we have to reimagine innovative new interfaces and experiences around that," he added.

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by Warc staff