The End Is Near for Mobile Apps” is wrong & outdated

The basic mobile mistruth that has been preached endlessly for a decade. A decade. Of being wrong. That’s kind of, embarrassing.

Oh boy, what is blowing up the internet this month (besides politics, which breaks the internet hourly)? And why do people keep on falling for these polarizing hyperbolic shitstorms?

Hyperbole to human nature is like sugar to…well, humans as well (I was going to say bees).

Somebody — don’t ask me who, but it’s ok, as I’m a nobody too — wrote a totes original blog post how the end is near for mobile apps. Normally I would put this kind of opinion in the “lack of credibility = don’t care, move on” bin.

But it’s kind of alarming how many people are taking the bait on this. The fact that this same dang discussion won’t die in the 8 years that I’ve been involved in mobile development, is tech’s equivalent to endlessly having the same dang discussion about climate change. Disclaimer: I’m also a previous, and in a way, current, web developer. I’m by no means a good or even average web developer, but I believe that having perspective from both sides is important in prefacing strong opinions.

And 8 years should tell you something about the validity on saying that mobile is dead…that’s a long time to keep saying the same shit against the contrary.

Try 5000 times. So over this same conversation.

But enough of an animated intro. Let’s explore the main content of the original blog post.

Not so fast

First though, let’s preface every main point with a few conventions that I’m pretty sure should be very well established in 2018. I’m going to name these the obvious platform conventions for reference below:

  1. Websites exist for different reasons to apps. Whether on mobile or in the browser. Websites are mainly just static holders of information, such as long and winded ways of describing company values.
  2. Mobile apps aren’t websites — and web apps aren’t websites either! Apps are platforms with stickiness and dynamic data, not static holders of boring information that you only visit once per lifetime (refer to point 1).
  3. Developers are needed for apps (refer to point 2) — not websites!Developers haven’t been needed for websites since Wordpress, Wix, Template Monster, etc, came and saved us all from the boredom involved from creating an “about us” and “contact us” for Ma & Pa’s Country Jam. Why does this even need discussing?!

These points are going to be relayed against the main hyperbolic premise… and in case you need a reminder, that’s the part in the title: “The End Is Near for Mobile Apps”. Yes, the end. It must be true, I read it on Medium, I should share it on my LinkedIn.

1. We can only put up with about 50–100 apps on our phones.

Hell yes! I would even argue for 20.

But hey, we can only put up with about 20 web tabs (or 50–100 if you’re that person). So we should stop making web apps, right? Ridiculous.

2. Apps must fulfill a frequent, functional purpose instead of just providing information.
The truth is, unless you are a major retailer or content publisher that needs to sell or deliver to customers frequently, all you really need is a mobile-friendly website. If information is all people want, they’re going to Google it in a browser.

Well, yes. Refer to point 1 of the 3 obvious platform conventions above. For the boring, static information, they’re going to go to the browser.

Or Google/Apple Maps, or Yelp, or Foursquare like I do. Oops, they’re apps. I’m not supposed to use those anymore.

3. Smaller apps will become part of social media and mobile wallet ecosystems.
Consider Go-Jek, the biggest motorcycle ride-share app in Indonesia. To many people, it’s an all-in-one mobile wallet, ride-hailing, food delivery, and lifestyle services app.
In turn, these food delivery apps are consolidating with mobile wallet or ride-share apps to provide synergy and convenience to users.

The rest are kind of moot points, but this one probably needs the most unpacking. I can empathize how someone could draw a cynical conclusion on this.

I don’t know Go-Jek specifically, but I assume it’s kind of similar in consolidation to the way that Ritual has done this for food ordering — instead of trying to find if my favorite sushi store has an app that I can use to place my order, I search for it on Ritual and order it from there.

This isn’t a mobile vs web app argument. It doesn’t matter if I use Ritual’s web app or mobile app, I’m still going to use it to order food. The platform doesn’t matter, the process is what is important.

Refer to points 2 & 3 of the obvious platform conventions. Apps are available on the web or on mobile, yes we know this. If Ritual has disrupted a previous way of ordering food, it’s disrupted a service, not a channel for ordering!

4. Even successful native apps will consolidate.
No matter how wonderful a new app idea may be, it costs more and more in advertising and promotion before it reaches critical mass to effectively monetize, much less break even.

Isn’t this the same as everything? Does the author even know how saturated the web is? Again, it comes down to the point that this isn’t a mobile vs web app argument. So why is this even being presented as such?

This is more of an “apps are hard to market” point. Which I agree on. But it’s regardless of platform. Why should mobile take all the heat?

He then goes on about SaaS as though that’s a web-exclusive concept as well. Anyway, I’m getting tired of this. I think I’ve made my point. The question remaining is, do I need to make it a billion more times? Because if I do, let me know and I’ll go and build my reclusive fantasy hut on the side of a mountain, so I don’t have to talk to humans other than my wife anymore.