Apps have truly revolutionized the way we connect with the virtual world and have been flag bearers of the internet revolution. They took off with the launch of the iPhone in 2007 and were designed to complete specific tasks. There was an app for almost everything, but as smartphones became mainstream and more people went online, developers started to launch multiple apps for the same tasks, leading to tough competition. With over 6.8 billion smartphone users worldwide, we now have close to 2 million apps on the Apple Play Store and over 3 million on the Google Play Store.
This competition is set to grow as millions of people join the smartphone world every year, spending more and more of their time on apps. Usage and engagement are the two main factors that an app company cares about, and an app on the home screen is typically used two times more than an app that must be manually found. With only 24 spots on the home screen for one app, the competition for home screen placement is fierce. Due to this competition, companies are increasingly considering how they can get on your home screen and stay there. The best way to do this is to offer as many services as possible through one app, also known as Super Apps.
What Are Super Apps?
Super apps are multifunctional mobile programs that offer a range of services, including social networking, e-commerce, payment options, travel, food delivery, and more. Essentially, a super app is a one-stop-shop for mobile applications that handle every requirement a user can have in a single location. This reduces the need to download several programs to carry out various tasks.
In 2010, Mike Lazaridis coined the phrase "super app," envisioning it as a marketplace with a variety of offerings that utilized internal technology and third-party connectors. Super apps offer a wide range of features, including social networking, shopping, banking, and more. Above all, developers keep the app user in mind when creating it. They want to provide users with a seamless integrated experience that enables them to use several services from a single app.
Pros and Cons of Super Apps
Let's explore some advantages of super apps. Firstly, they offer convenience to users by allowing them to access multiple services from a single app, eliminating the need to switch between various apps to carry out different operations. This has made user experience much more convenient by saving time and effort.
Secondly, super apps are designed to retain users' attention for longer periods of time. If an app has a wide selection of services and features, users are likely to spend more time on it, increasing engagement and loyalty.
Thirdly, super apps can generate revenue from various sources by providing a wide range of services. This successful business strategy allows them to invest in new products and services, increasing revenue.
Finally, super apps can offer effective customer care because they provide a variety of services under one roof. This enhances the user experience, as they have access to a vast amount of user data.
However, internet regulators in places like the United States and Europe are becoming concerned about the overall dominance of the technology industry and are being tough on corporations that create such apps. Local officials in China have ordered WeChat and other local businesses to make their platforms available to competitors. Additionally, some publications claim that replacing the super app concept would be challenging, particularly due to the global smartphone adoption rates reaching their pinnacle, which has resulted in overcrowded app stores and more stringent regulations on targeted advertising as authorities exercise greater control over businesses.
Technically speaking, compared to super apps, single-purpose apps are quicker, more responsive, and simpler to operate, which enhances the user experience. Overall, super apps are also more likely to keep larger volumes of user data on the platform in order to perform their services, which puts users at higher risk of suffering serious data breaches. A user who loses access to their account or is banned from a super app typically loses access to numerous offline and online services.
The Case Of WeChat
WeChat is widely recognized as one of the largest super apps currently in operation. The platform boasts over a billion daily users and is an integral part of daily life in China. Some might even argue that it is impossible to live in China without WeChat.
Although WeChat began as a messaging platform, similar to WhatsApp, it has evolved to incorporate a multitude of other systems and services. In addition to the chat function, users can also access a moments stream that resembles a Facebook feed, a search bar that displays news articles and popular topics, and a mini app section that opens up into a larger ecosystem of apps.
The mini apps themselves allow users to access a range of services such as hailing a ride, ordering and paying for food, and much more. WeChat also has an e-commerce platform that allows for buying, selling, and processing payments directly on the platform.
In addition to these features, WeChat incorporates real-time reviews of neighborhoods, and a QR Code system that has become an integral part of everyday life in China. However, WeChat's expansion into global markets, particularly Western countries, has been limited due to factors such as the language barrier and the lack of WeChat Pay, which is essential for many of the platform's services.
While there is a sister app version available internationally, it doesn't include WeChat Pay, and thus, has fewer useful features. The primary goal of these super apps is to ensure that users keep using the app every day, everywhere, as it integrates everyday activities into a single platform.
Why Haven’t Super Apps Gone Global?
Some Western tech giants are now aiming to build the American or Western equivalent of WeChat. Elon Musk has publicly stated his plans to turn Twitter into an app like WeChat, believing there is a huge opportunity to create an everyday app that is as useful and integral to everyday life as WeChat is in China. He describes this "everything app" as a combination of Twitter, PayPal, and other new features. The everything app could also integrate cryptocurrencies such as Dogecoin as a payment system with a great user interface. This grand vision for Twitter would help the company diversify its income and move from its current advertisement-focused revenue stream.
Other big tech companies are also looking to build new super apps. Mark Zuckerberg has a vision of building a metaverse that combines payments, games, and other aspects of daily life. Recently, people in India could buy their groceries on WhatsApp by messaging a business directly, getting replies from a chatbot, processing payments, and getting groceries delivered. Amazon's Alexa could also be a way to build a super app, as it already has services that encompass our homes, offices, and even cars. Microsoft has recently considered building its own super app that integrates shopping services, web searching, and others while drawing more users for its already existing services like Bing search and Microsoft Teams.
However, one potential drawback of these super apps is the regulatory issues they could raise, depending on the country and its policies. Super apps could even be illegal in certain countries. This may be a factor hindering WeChat's expansion into Western nations. Super apps also require a large amount of user data to understand user preferences, which may be an issue in countries where user data is closely guarded. It's also important to note the user experience aspect of super apps, as the overwhelming number of features could make users confused or cause pages to load more slowly. Data security also needs to be taken into account, as sensitive financial information would need to be shared with the app. If a user loses their password, login details, or gets hacked, the implications could extend to all aspects of their life.
Super apps are gaining popularity and expanding globally. Their flexibility and ease of service attract users and investors, providing improved value propositions for both. Super apps will accelerate the transition towards mobile-first experiences, as users increasingly rely on mobile devices for a range of services, consolidated within a single app.
Super apps are disrupting established industries by offering comparable services affordably and conveniently. This disruption will lead to the creation of new business models, impacting sectors such as retail, transportation, and financial services. For instance, e-commerce and ride-hailing companies can provide delivery services.
Super apps have access to a vast amount of user data, enabling tailored user experiences, relevant recommendations, and pertinent services, leading to greater customer satisfaction. This will spur new avenues for creativity as businesses differentiate themselves in a crowded market by developing new features and services. This will ultimately support the creation of new technologies and technical advancements.
Super applications are the future, and as app development technology advances, high-quality versatile apps are just around the corner. The primary challenge will be to create a great app that benefits users without becoming overwhelming. However, this challenge will be addressed as technology continues to improve each year.
At Solwey, we have a deep understanding of technology and we specialize in identifying and using the most effective tools to help businesses like yours achieve their growth objectives. Whether you have questions about our services or are interested in learning more about how our custom-tailored software solutions can address your unique needs, we invite you to reach out to us. Our team of experts is dedicated to providing you with the guidance and support you need to succeed in today's competitive marketplace.