Is my app a Painkiller or a Vitamin?

There are two distinct types of apps in this world-

  1. Those that solve a problem and this problem can be any size, any niche (“need to have”).
  2. Those that are in the “nice to have…” category. 

When coming up with an app idea, you should always ask yourself the question:
“Is this idea a “nice to have”, or is it a “need to have?”. Let me offer a few examples then you can be the judge which of the following apps are what I like to call “the painkillers”, and which are what I call “the vitamins”.

1) An app that automatically tracks all your calories

2) An app that shows you neighborhood crime rates

3) An app that immediately locates available parking spaces

4) An app that lets you send fart sounds to your friends

5) An app that lets you share photos of your dog with your neighbors

6) And finally an app that lets you rate viral videos.

I think you get the picture. Distinguishing the painkillers from the vitamins is easy. And that is why it’s so important to know exactly what kind of app idea you’re brewing.


A painkiller is an app that adeptly solves a problem or fulfills an essential need (need to have). Generally speaking most of our problems require solutions, and when it comes to apps, the best solutions often arrive even if/when we haven’t considered tackling the problem quite yet. So when your app is a painkiller, it will most likely focus on generating a solution for a problem that may not even have been identified as such…yet.

Relieving or deleting

There are two types of painkillers-

  1. Those that solve problems.
  2. Those that apply relief.  

Painkillers that solve problems are make your problems completely disappear!            
An example of a deleting painkiller would be an app that files your tax return automatically. This app would crunch the numbers then neatly wrap up your filing and deliver it to the IRS for you. The functionalities of such an app clearly perform a deleting effect- You never have to file your own taxes again!                                             
These type of problem-solving apps are not that common and require more than a little inspiration. What is far more common are the relieving type of painkillers.These painkillers organize, assemble, accelerate, collect, collate and in doing so, free up your time and resources to do more of what you want to do. These types of painkillers help you to overcome common problems in a much more convenient way.

So if you want to become an app Superstar, try brainstorming some deleting painkillers (trust me, it’s tough).

If you’re a bit more like the rest of us, you’ll probably wind  up with a batch of relieving painkillers (which is perfectly cool).

Defining your Problem Statement

The basic formula for a standard relieving painkiller looks like this-

Product/Service X saves you time when doing Y.

Product/Service X saves you money when buying Y.

Product/Service X provides you immediate, relevant information when doing Y.

Get the picture?

Defining your problem and solution is a major step in building out your app business. Once you have a clear vision of what problem you’re actually solving, you’ll have a much easier time convincing your potential market to grab your app and use it! Now let’s jump into the To-Do below (and if you’re having a hard time defining your problem statement, there’s a good possibility your idea is a vitamin).

To-Do: Define the problem you’re solving-

1) Describe the problem in one sentence

2) Describe your solution in one sentence

3) Paste your problem and solution together in a single sentence- Your Problem Statement.


Problem I have a long list of contacts in my business network that I want to regularly contact but at present fail to do so effectively.

Solution- An app that reminds me to get in touch with contacts from my business network every X days/weeks/months.

Problem Statement- This app helps me schedule/alert/remember to contact people from my business network I haven’t regularly contacted.

I Think My Idea is a Vitamin

So you think you have a “nice to have” app idea?

Don’t give up because there is hope.                                                                               There are many examples of app businesses that started out as vitamins, but then became painkillers. Wait, what is he saying? Vitamins that turn into painkillers, why is this so important?

There is just one basic rule- People pay money for painkillers!
Sure, occasionally they pay for vitamins too, but the vast majority of the time they don’t think twice when they’re presented a reliable, effective painkiller so the very best advice I can give is to come up with app ideas that are absolute painkillers! Painkillers are easier to market (everyone likes simple solutions) and you won’t have to convince your users of your apps functionality as the average Joe/Jane is more than willing to try the app out if it even seems like it might solve their problem. Of course individuals and companies have succeeded in making successful apps by being a vitamin at first, but the chances of viable, reliable success are much, much lower.

Consider this when continuing with this guide.
Do not try to fake your idea into a painkiller.
I have personally seen many entrepreneurs coming out with apps that are absolute vitamins, but they try desperately to falsely frame them so they look like painkillers.
Do not do this!

Describing a vitamin as a painkiller is bad for two reasons-
1) Users will expect you to deliver an immediate solution! The moment you disappoint, they’ll disappear. And don’t think you’ll be able to get those users back. Building a big userbase is about trust, hooking, and addiction. If you’ve failed on the trust part, your app is doomed to fail from moment one.
2) Marketing a Fake Painkiller when you’re a Real Vitamin will only alienate your potential users. When the flaw is revealed (which happens 99/100 times) potential users will smell fraud and drop your app instantly. Those potential users will not download your app and you will not be able to grow your app business.

Pro Tip: Define your problem statement

Pro Tip: When creating your first ever app. Try to go for a Real Painkiller.