Thanks to Google, the End of the Mobile App is Near

Yesterday’s Google I/O 2017 Conference was short on the big product releases that companies like Apple have trained us to expect year after year. No new Google Pixel phones were released. No startling new Google Home product to take on Amazon’s new Alexa that features a screen, and the Echo Show’s video calling. It didn’t release yet another Snapchat-clone like Facebook did at their F8 conference.

What Google has announced is the death of mobile apps.

How Google Assistant Will Change Everything

A little back story:

At the 2017 Google I/O Conference Google Assistant was announced and it will change everything in several ways…

What you need to know:

  1. Google Assistant integrates all of its services and mountains of data and computing power into a very easy-to-use chat interface that appeals to young and old;
  2. By launching on the iPhone iOS operating system, Google can expand on their already 2 billion active installs globally and become the most dominant data provider in the world;
  3. Google has been building and acquiring talent and companies in the Artificial Intelligence, Natural Language Processing, Machine Learning spaces for years with the goal of simplifying how we interact with technology down to simple commands;
  4. Thanks to the more than 2.7 million apps in the Google Play store the Assistant product can easily integrate with many of them to make transactions like “Order delivery from Panera” easier than it has ever been.
  5. Thanks to mountains of data from Google Places, Maps, Street View, Photos, reviews, and your search results they can power a camera that help you find what you’re looking for without needing to type anything;

And to top it all off Google’s greatest developer update is that Google Assistant can access apps that you have not downloaded or setup an account with. Don’t have an account or app for Pizza Hut? No problem, Google Assistant will use your Google Play and location information to connect, order and pay.

Combine that with the fact that mobile app adoption has slowed to a crawl and we are entering an era where apps are no longer mandatory, only the API is.

We Don’t Need or Want Apps Anymore, We Want Simplicity

The fact is this: mobile apps only are successful when they provide unmatched access (Amazon, Waze), unmatched ease-of-use (Netflix, Google Search), unmatched sense of community (Facebook, Meetup), unmatched layer of privacy (Signal, dating apps), features that can’t be offered any other way (Pokemon Go, Hearthstone).

How we look at the banking, retail, travel industries are largely transactional or recommendation-based and are better suited to a chat-based system. Finn.AI, a Vancouver chat-based fintech startup, is doing just that for banking institutions who are facing a stark reality: their customers want to interact with bankers as little as possible and on their own schedule.

While businesses were falsely sold on the promise of chat bots by Facebook and others — 70% of them have failed — and they failed because consumers are tired of using countless interfaces and chatting with fifty new people, on ten different platforms.

The data also shows that the chat bots were a tiny bit dumb in many cases. This is partly due to the number of poorly built ones that rushed to market, but also due to the limited natural language processing capabilities. Though Facebook has since been introducing tools like DeepText to help developers be more successful to address this.

More importantly the AI that powers Google Assistant and similar will improve when it can learn. Repeated use improves it, and more importantly, teaching it slang improves it. Google’s acquisition of IFTTT turned out to be very valuable as they demonstrated that it can expedite how we can now teach Google Assistant slang like “make it romantic” — that then sets your smart home lighting and content to suit.

In the end if your app doesn’t drive home simplicity and value, you might as well create an integration to Google Assistant, Apple Siri, Facebook M, Amazon Alexa, Samsung Bixby, or Microsoft Cortana.

One AI Assistant to Rule Them All

Google releases are yet another step towards access to data and services becoming a battle for real estate and ad dollars. Just like today, business will be forced to work with Facebook, Google except it will no longer be to handle marketing, it will be to handle your commerce and customer data.

But as company after company will start seeing less value in creating mobile applications, Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store will shrink in importance.

What will rise in importance is how well you integrate into a new ecosystem of smart assistants and new types of experiences that will enhance those that can imagine an AR- and VR-filled world.

Will any single assistant conquer others? Very unlikely. But just like today, each will have a specialty that will serve you and your businesses in very unique ways.

Before you build you next app consider what your customer’s behaviours and needs will be 1, 5, 10 years from now. You’ll see that building your tech stack with future integrations in mind will enable you to scale and not get trapped in legacy thinking.


Arpy Dragffy is a Digital Product Strategist and Innovation Consultant in Vancouver, Canada. As President of PH1 Media he leads innovation workshops and designs products and strategies for businesses who want to future-proof their relationships with customers.