How to Fight the App Fatigue

Since I work for an app development company, I download apps for work. But the last app I downloaded for personal use was Primer, which offers marketing lessons from Google. I downloaded it about five months ago.

When was the last time you went to the App Store to look for something new? Our favorite apps are already sitting on our screens. We don’t really need any others.

It seems that the world of apps as we know them is experiencing a massive transformation. Technologies have progressed dramatically since the first app was built; and the world of apps has grown beyond a healthy size. Mobile app development may change sooner than we think due to evolving technologies and “app fatigue.”

app fatigue

[Image source: comScore]

App Fatigue

According to a report from Statista, the number of apps that people regularly use stopped increasing three years ago. As somebody famously said, there’s an app for every need, but there's no need for every app.

In fact, so-called “app fatigue” is not even new; it was first mentioned in 2011. As of 2016, US smartphone owners download an average of zero apps per month, according to comScore’s mobile app report. While people do spend more time on smart devices, they devote most of this time to a few select apps. Facebook alone accounts for over 50 percent of time spent in apps. Oh, and there’s also Pokemon Go, of course.

So why are we losing interest in really cool apps that’ll transform our lives?

  • More apps mean more wasted time and less storage space on our device
  • We already have all the apps we need
  • Ditching an old favorite app in favor of a new one doesn’t make much sense for most of us
  • There’s no real value in single-purpose apps created with the slogan “there’s an app for that.”

App fatigue is a user disease. But what about the crowds of entrepreneurs? Are they still willing to invest in app development? In fact, they are. The only thing is, it’s becoming much harder for apps to rise above the competition. And organic growth via native apps doesn’t have the pull it once did, with the costs of user acquisition constantly growing.

Application fatigue seriously challenges any entrant to the mobile market. How do entrepreneurs respond? They either try entering new markets or jump on new technology trends.

1. Entering new markets

There are many markets around the world where apps still have room to grow. At Yalantis, we get a lot of requests for app development from entrepreneurs from UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Persian Gulf states.

But according to statistics, the countries showing the fastest growth are in Asia and Latin America. But while Asia and Latin America sell the largest number of smartphones, app-fatigued European and North American markets support stronger app sales. This means that making money through apps in new Asian and Latin American markets is likely to be more challenging.

This brings us to the next option – enterprise app development.

2. Enterprise app development

the future of apps

[Enterprise app development. Image Source: Forbes]

Gartner’s projections point to a lucrative potential future for app development in the enterprise app market. Worldwide spending on enterprise application software will increase from $149.9 billion in 2015 to more than $201 billion by 2019.

This sounds very optimistic, but keep in mind that enterprise users are also people. And just like any other people, enterprise customers are prone to app fatigue.

One way to avoid app fatigue is to add real value to your enterprise app and to offer this value to a chosen group of professionals, not the mass market. The value of an enterprise app lies in its ability to save time and achieve specific business goals. No matter the type of enterprise, the sole purpose of an enterprise app should be to address what a company needs most: to make work better.

The best way to develop an enterprise app is by thinking of this app as a second “workspace” within the phones of enterprise employees. From CRM to project management and content creation software, there is a whole universe of enterprise app types you can develop.

Entering a new market or building an enterprise app can still bring you ROI. But we should also keep our eyes on new, emerging technologies.

3. Progressive Web Apps and Accelerated Mobile Pages

You might be wondering why I mention web apps in an article about the future of mobile app development. But let’s be honest. From the customer’s perspective, you don’t always need to install a mobile app to read an article or check out a restaurant menu. You can do that with a mobile website.

Two years ago I wrote an article that discussed native vs cross-platform app development, and included a brief paragraph about the mobile web. At that time, the biggest drawback of mobile websites was their performance. But time flies. And now we’re talking about something called Progressive Web Apps  — a new architecture that isn’t only going to fix mobile web performance issues, but will also make websites behave more like native apps on mobile platforms.

Progressive apps not only speed up page load time. They also have access to app-like properties such as notifications and offline functionality. But what’s even more exciting is that you can add web apps to your home screen. The Application Shell Architecture and Service Workers are two functions that empower progressive apps.

progressive web apps

[Progressive web apps architecture. Image source: Codelabs]

A Service Worker stores the basic interface and design of a web app. This allows the Service Worker to deliver content to the user almost instantly.

In the Application Architecture, a shell is a user interface that is built with minimal HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. This UI is kept local, so it’s loaded fast and cached once loaded. New content is delivered dynamically through API requests.

Progressive web apps have every opportunity to become the future of web development, especially for sites that have a lot of dynamic content that is updated frequently.

But there’re also innovative solutions for static web pages such as text-based articles. Take, for instance, the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project that Google and Twitter are currently working on. The largest publishers in the world, including Vox Media and The New York Times, are already using AMP to deliver web content to their mobile audiences.

To make mobile web apps faster and less cumbersome, AMP limits some CSS code and bans JavaScript, which is the main culprit of heavy websites. To make your website load instantly you would need to integrate the AMP HTML library.

Progressive web apps and AMP prove that growing frustration with the slow mobile web has created a market for an alternative. And the growing usage of messaging apps has created a market for AI-powered digital assistants.

4. AI and chatbots

AI-powered personal assistants — integrated into messaging interfaces — manage more and more of our digital activities. They might eventually make apps and the app stores that sell them obsolete.

But looking at chatbots as killers of mobile apps isn’t the best way to survive the digital transformation. Instead, we should look at them as a logical evolution of technology and the Internet of Things.

People will continue using mobile phones and (probably) tablets, but for developers, the game is changing. There are already apps like Lola, a personal travel service, and Penny, a personal finance coach that rely on AI-powered messaging interfaces. These apps are a serious threat for competing apps that don’t use AI technology.

AI-powered chatbot apps

[Lola travel app. Image source: Tech.Firstpost]

Smart agents that exist today are not that smart after all. But the market predicts that by 2020 Artificial Intelligence will become the new norm. We will build personal assistants that can generate suggestions autonomously and communicate them to users.

When will apps become an army of robots living behind messaging interfaces? I have no idea. But don’t be too surprised if we call Yalantis a chat bot app development company in a year or so.

We’re seeing a dramatic shift in the field of app development. Populating screens with icons, behind which are independent apps, is making less and less sense. What’s more, new web app technologies are questioning the need for native app development altogether.

With app fatigue setting in among customers, and bot-driven messaging apps emerging, we are entering a new era. We’re about to discover what this new age will look like.

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