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Why mobile apps still make sense

Mathijs Vreeman
November 5, 2018

Last week I spoke to an organization that recently launched a new platform. I told them that a mobile app would be a good idea for this platform too, but had a hard time convincing them as their strategy for now was fully web oriented.

I’m not sure if they will go for a mobile app eventually, but I think my arguments were quite solid. These are the most important ones:

Mobile apps drive branding and engagement

I strongly believe this is the reason why many major players have mobile apps. One shouldn’t underestimate what having an app on the user’s phone does for the branding of your product. For example: each time I unlock my phone in a bored moment, I’m immediately confronted with the app icons of Twitter and LinkedIn. The result is pretty interesting. According to my iPhone roughly 40% of my time is spent in those two apps. Just because they are so present on my homescreen. Note to self: hiding them would be a good productivity hack.

How I wasted my time the last 48 hours

Additionally, mobile apps unleash the power of push messages. If push messages are useful, like in the case of a chatting with friends, important news alerts, updates on your account balance etc. they can help keep your users engaged to your product. Websites and Progressive Web Apps offer push messages as well (Android, not iOS), but not in the same way as mobile apps can. More on that later.

The average person uses 9 apps per day, 30 apps per month. Of course it’s challenging to become one of the 30, but not impossible. Especially niche apps for a select group of people, or apps for a broader group of people that are used temporarily have a good chance of ending up there. For exactly that reason I have AirBNB on my phone right now. After my trip is over, I’d probably remove it to install it again when needed.

Mobile apps allow for a better user experience and speed

Mobile apps can be instantly available with just one tap. More taps/swipes if the user decides to not put it on the homescreen. Mobile websites always need to be navigated to in a browser. This is just less convenient.

Interacting with native apps is just way smoother and easier than navigating webpages. Smooth transitions when navigating to a new view, snappy visual and haptic feedback on user interactions, the full animation possibilities iOS and Android have to offer that CSS hardly can match. There is also the argument of offline usage. I want to use Spotify and Netflix too when I’m in an airplane or train. Mobile apps can use the device’s local storage in a way that websites can’t. And they can even play audio in the background, something many mobile web browsers don’t support.

Also, Android devices have a back button, iPhone’s don’t. When creating a mobile app for both platforms, one should consider adjusting the app’s navigation elements accordingly, which adds to the user’s experience. Technically that’s possible on web too, but rather uncommon.

Mobile apps allow for use of native features

Last but not least: native apps can do things on your phone that a website can’t. For example:

More and more of those are becoming available on web too, but it will take at least a few years, if ever, before web is on the same level as app. If ever.

Progressive Web Apps (PWA)are just not yet there

Progressive Web Apps have huge potential. But because of the arguments above they are not a full alternative to mobile apps and even more important, PWA support on iOS is pretty limited. I’m curious to see how that will change towards the future. At Lightbase we’re keeping up with the latest developments so get in touch when you want to talk about your specific situation.

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