Apps have become incredibly popular ever since the rise of the iPhone – these little self-contained computer programs have delivered unique benefits for a variety of situations and have opened up new possibilities for people to interact with the mobile web. But as mobile technology continues to evolve, apps have lost their luster. Apps tend to be inefficient – for example, according to this article in TechCrunch, only ¼ of apps on a typical person's phone get any use within a given month, and the average app loses 77% of its users within 3 days of download. Instead of being “killer apps” that transform the routines of everyday life into a succession of elegantly convenient swipes and taps like Apple's TV commercials promised us, many apps have become a graveyard of neglected visual clutter.
Maybe soon, people will no longer be so excited to say "there's an app for that." Instead of apps, the future of the mobile web is moving in complex, exciting new directions that might be signaling the end of the "app era."
TechCrunch describes a few big trends that are driving the shape of the post-app world:
Instead of having multiple apps for the same type of content (with each company or brand having its own app), perhaps one model for the future is the rise of aggregation – where “megaportals” connect people with exactly the content and information that they care about – but in a way that is brand-agnostic. The author describes a possible model of megaportals that offer access to all relevant sites or apps for key categories of information that can be customized by user, such as Travel (Uber and Priceline), Events (movie theater tickets, concerts, etc.), Social Networks (Facebook and LinkedIn, etc.) and Content (music, TV, video, etc.). This “megaportal” model of the mobile web would require complex partnerships from content providers, but it might be a more useful, less-cluttered way for people to access their favorite content and information.
The mobile web of the future is likely to be much more personalized, with targeted messages and suggested content and prompts that are highly focused and relevant to whatever the person is interested in at the moment. For example, what if your phone could anticipate your needs and interests based on a Facebook Messenger conversation about making plans with friends for a night out, and then present you with immediate access to movie times, dinner reservations, and transportation? The mobile web is likely to become much more seamless, with concierge-like accuracy at anticipating your needs – without having to manually enter and exit out of multiple apps.
The Internet is becoming less of a “place” that we “go” to, and more of a layer of information and notifications that is constantly surrounding us and interacting with our minds. Artificial intelligence and chat bots are going to get better at knowing what we're doing, anticipating our needs, and automating our lives – for example, by prompting us to book an Uber ride when we're running late or offering a dinner reservation after a favorite restaurant had a cancellation, or suggesting a different flight time. Our phones are going to get smarter at figuring out what we want before we even have to ask for it – or before we even “know” what we want.
This all sounds fascinating, and perhaps a bit unsettling or invasive. But the post-app world is part of the larger trend toward our smartphones becoming ever more integrated with the way our minds work. Our smartphones are not just a device; they are an extension of our minds and personalities. The post-app mobile web is going to get even more intimately connected to what's on our minds and what we need at every moment of the day. No buttons required!
For more about this topic, check out this article in TechCrunch.