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Why Native Apps Are Dying

Why Native Apps Are Dying

By Marc Reifenrath on February 8, 2018 in Development

It’s 2018. We’ve been using apps on our phones since 2008 when Apple debuted the “App Store” that July. This, of course, is the “modern” version of an app. We aren’t going to count that game you used to play on your Nokia 6110 called “Snake.” Apps had a good run – at first, it was all the rage! Almost every one of our clients at one point in time or another thought they needed an app. The reality is that only a handful actually needed an app.

So, call me crazy, but I’ve been saying this for years: apps are dying! It’s true and I’m not alone in saying this. If you’ve listened closely to what Apple and Google have said, they agree. If you don’t agree with me, let’s ask a few simple questions.

  • How many apps do you download per month?
  • How many different apps do you use on any given day?
  • How many apps do you have installed and haven’t used in the past 45 days?

My guess is that I can answer most of these for you. You download one or two apps a month and then likely uninstall them within 30 days. You likely use three to five apps per day and those would be Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and one or two others. The theme here is that they are all social apps. You also likely have more apps than you can count that you haven’t used in the past 45 days.

Smartphone Users' Number of App Downloads Per Month

Apps are becoming less popular with users because mobile sites are becoming more powerful. Many of the features that were once restricted to native applications, like taking and uploading pictures, GPS/Geoinformation, NFC and Bluetooth connectivity, are now available via your mobile browser.

Does my business need a mobile app?

You may need an app if:

  • Push notifications are a vital piece of your strategy
  • Functionality you desire is exclusive to native apps
  • Increased speed is vital
  • Home screen visibility

Before developing an app, consider:

  • Development cost and maintenance updates
  • Apps require a user download – taking up storage space on phone
  • Lengthy approval process for app store
  • Hiding content in an app can have negative SEO implications
  • It’s difficult getting found in the app store

The bottom line

The major drawback to native apps is the expense required to build and maintain multiple versions to satisfy Apple and Android. Rarely does it make financial sense to build an app and keep maintaining it with the ever-changing standards for screen size, resolution, and graphic requirements.

We often work with clients to build data feeds (API’s, XML, etc.) to share data directly from their website into their app. This allows them to keep the app content up to date from one central location. This saves on cost but still doesn’t mean that an app is necessary or warranted. I think many of us will relate when I say, “I know we don’t need an app but our 'fill in the blank higher up people' feel strongly that we need one."

Let’s look at some stats that will tell a better story. We still use apps – we actually use them quite a bit. According to the 2017 comScore U.S. Mobile App Report, we are spending more than two hours a day using apps. The younger you are, the more time you are spending, which tops out at 3.2 hours per day.

  • 51% of smartphone users don’t download any apps in a month
  • The number one reason a user deletes an app is due to usage frequency
  • Google and Facebook own eight of the top 10 most used apps. Snapchat and Pandora were the only others in the top ten.
  • Facebook is the number one app for monthly users
  • Some of the top apps in their respective categories: Gaming – Words with Friends; Shopping – Amazon; Travel – Uber; Sports – ESPN; and Dating – Tinder.

Top ten most used apps

Source: TechCrunch

So, maybe not all apps are dying, but if you aren’t in the social space it is a tough go. My predictions stay the same as they have for many years on this topic. Apps are dying and everything will inherently become more “available” via your mobile device without having to download something. You can and will still be able to create buttons or shortcuts to your favorite sites and services, but installing something on your phone locally will become less and less of a need.

What do you think? Am I crazy!?!

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