Why a Native Mobile App Isn’t Central to Our Strategy and Shouldn’t Be for Yours Either

There are more than two million apps on the Apple App Store and, just last year, it was reported that iPhone users clocked in over 100 billion downloads since the launch of iOS in 2008. With those kind of stats, it would seem an an iPhone and Android app would solve almost any user engagement issue. It suggests that a mobile app should be central to any tech strategy.

ProofPilot’s primary focus is to make it easy and fun for participants to join and engage in research studies on a whole host of topics. Today, most research studies are conducted manually in research facilities that are essentially the human equivalent of test-tubes. But real life doesn’t happen in a test tube. It happens out in the real world.

Technology on mobile phones, desktop computers, and connected health devices help bring research studies to the participant rather than requiring them to travel to a study clinic. However, the walled garden of a mobile app doesn’t completely eliminate the test tube either. It still requires the participant to download and return regularly to the app.

In September, Recode reported that half of Americans download zero apps on a monthly basis. Recent research also suggests that most apps lose 80 percent of their users within several weeks. In fact, a full third of apps downloaded are never opened more than twice. Those stats equal failure for any research study.

ProofPilot takes a different approach. ProofPilot is among many successful online brands that have deprioritized native mobile apps in the last five years. Kickstarter, the enormously popular crowdfunding site, for example, didn’t have an iPhone or Android app for the first three years of its existence.

And then, there’s porn. Apple’s iTunes App Store explicitly bans porn apps. Google Play (the largest Android app store) maintains a strong stand against erotic content as well. But yet, porn continues to dominate internet traffic with more than a third of internet downloads being erotic content — not surprisingly, over half were downloading it on a mobile device.

At ProofPilot, we believe the research study should come to the participant, in whatever form is most convenient. Each ProofPilot study is broken into micro-interactions called study tasks. A study task might be a data collection activity, a treatment reminder or a reward.

Today, with chat and Messenger apps dominating the most downloaded and most used mobile apps in the world, we want to use these popular channels to deliver the study to users. We bring that study task to the participant via e-mail message, SMS text message, mobile phone push notification, Viber or Facebook notifications (with others coming soon).

Someday, we might even bring those tasks via something like Siri or Amazon’s Echo.

Many study tasks on ProofPilot have app-like experiences, so with today’s browsers and connectivity, recreating the app experience on the mobile web is easy and more efficient.

The best part? Users don’t need to download everything all at once, which helps reduce data requirements and using precious phone storage.

ProofPilot uses a newer approach to the mobile experience. Progressive web apps are a hybrid of regular web pages (or websites) and a mobile application. Users can access these apps from whatever Internet-connected device and browser they are using. This means that whether a user is on a Mac, PC, Android, iPhone, or even Linux desktop, they can complete the appropriate study task. Also, since no data is being stored, it ensures the security of personal and private information.

Take a look at the Financial Times’ mobile experience. Use Chrome on Android or Safari on an iOS device. Add the app to your home screen. You literally can’t tell the difference between a native app downloaded form the Apple or Google Play Store.

ProofPilot may provide a native mobile app in the future as it is a channel that a relatively small portion of users prefer (about 13 percent of mobile users download a vast majority of all apps). But, it is not central to our tech, marketing or service strategy. We believe there are other technology techniques that are better at solving key research problems.