Do we need apps?

Nicolas El Azzi
Feb 20, 2018 · 4 min read

Two years ago, I left Sydney to go on a 2 months trip which took me back to Paris. On my way to the airport, my iPhone almost lost his “touch” feature… Bummer… No Google Maps, no Uber, no TripAdvisor, no everything… One thought crossed my mind : “What am I going to do without a phone?”. Desperate for a miracle, my angry finger ripped the home button long enough in order to wake a forgotten Siri up… Suddenly, (limited) options were still available after all.

Is voice the new hand?

As I hadn’t used Siri that much, I had to see what it was capable of. Lucky me, examples popped up on my screen as I didn’t ask for anything. I began to explore its potential and learn how to talk to her/him but I realised it was kinda limited, especially in the countries I have visited. Of course, I could do the basic things like:
- Sending emails and messages to friends and family
- Make some Facetime calls
- See where I was on a map and ask for direction
- Find out if I needed an umbrella
- Find out currency rate
As it was set up in my mother tongue (French), I have been able to talk to her/him like I could have talked to someone, maybe some kind of servant I admit, in order to help me. But as I was on a trip, I still needed other things from my phone like:
- Play my playlist on Spotify
- Grab a cab on Uber (that is now possible)
- Reviews of hotels and restaurants I could find on TripAdvisor
- And many more things like finding a place on Airbnb, booking airplane tickets or even searching for specific information any city guide would provide.
I realised that voice input allowed me to give commands very quickly for any straightforward actions. No need to search for the app on my phone or go through a menu to accomplish my task. But in other cases, “complex” ones, I still needed my screen as the voice command was only the first step of a task. In my case : Siri could find great places in cities in response to my command but I still needed to tap on my screen to check them or compare them.

What about messaging?

Last year, I came across the article “K I get Uber” from M.G. Siegler which tells the story of an Uber order through Facebook Messenger and the below gif which shows how we can interact with bots in order to book an airplane ticket.

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How easy is that? As People are usually using 6 to 10 apps on a regular basis, it’s more and more complicated to convince them to download new ones, especially if it’s for a minor use. But it’s also proved that they tend to use messaging app twice more.

Think of that: how many time can you picture yourself saying to a friend while texting “hang on, I’m going to see on / do it on [name of the application]”. Adding a dedicated interface in the messaging app is a great interaction because the conversation flow isn’t interrupted and you don’t need to share or take a picture of what you’re looking for with your recipient, things we usually do nowadays. That’s why a lot of compagnies this year have created targeted apps for messaging apps with basic functionalities. Those targeted apps let user share files or specific informations, pay, play games and much more.

A chatbot is a personal assistant that can serve all your needs. It can simulate conversations like a normal human. It’s easy to install and users don’t have to learn a new interface as it is a chat one. If I stick to my gif above, why would I run through looking for my airline app, open it, login in it, searching and paying for a flight if I can just tell the chatbot the details of my trip. Using Artificial Intelligence like Clara does, he can also learn my behaviours like my preferred airport in Paris or my preferred seats in an airplane. If I go further, let’s say I need to contact the customer service of this airline. Once again: no need to search (for hours) the customer number or the app, I just have to write / talk to the bot and it will give me answers.

So… Do we need apps?

Bots or messaging app (spoken or written) seem more simple and handy when the need can be translated into a fluid conversation. but with an app, users have various options and can choose whatever they want and brands can customise it using its style guide. Even if users are less convince by downloading new apps, as we know them: apps won’t die anytime soon. They may need an overall thinking in order to be more integrated in our everyday life and Google might have find a good solution with its progressive web apps which are basically websites that act and provide similar functionalities to regular apps.

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A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
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