Will apps soon be dead amid the rise of the bots?
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has suggested that bots are hot and apps are not.
He told the company’s F8 developer conference in San Francisco that bots were a better method of communicating with services than specialised apps or phone calls.
And Facebook has now redesigned its Messenger app homescreen with an eye on integrating businesses and services at a later date.
So are mobile applications dead?
With app downloads expected to hit a whopping 224 billion this year there’s certainly life in the old dog yet - but things are changing.
Statistically users spend the bulk of their mobile time on just five apps, so it’s a competitive marketplace.
Matthew Hunt is the CEO of Apadmi Enterprise - part of Manchester-based app developer Apadmi - and believes that not everyone needs an app.
“You should be looking up what you want to do, what you need in terms of functionality, and the things you think either customers or employees could get or do on mobile,” he says.
“That’s the starting point. Once you’ve established that you come to companies like us to understand how to achieve it – it might be an app or some other piece of tech.
“Apps aren’t right for some companies and I would advise them to spend their budget elsewhere, but for others apps are perfect; you can see real added benefit for efficiency, return on investment, and a real USP for that company against competition.
“In those scenarios apps are absolutely the way forward, it just depends what you’re trying to do.”
Graham Whistance, MD of Warrington software company firm My Mobile Workers, which helps companies manage their field workers using a mobile app, agrees that apps may not be the answer for every business.
However, he says that with a rising mobile workforce, native apps – apps that work without an internet connection – are still a necessity.
“There are better ways to do most things than with a mobile app but the reality of the world is that there are certain times when you don’t have that option,” he says.
As the current landscape stands, claims Whistance, apps are crucial for anyone who needs to access business information the move, such as email.
“I for one can’t do my job if I haven’t got access to that type of information,” he concludes.
Healthcare Group’s app-based healthcare service Dr Now offers users access to a GP “literally at their fingertips” from anywhere in the world.
Through the app customers can speak to a GP and order a prescription as part of the same integrated service.
“The benefit of the app is that via your smartphone you can see the doctor live,” says founder and CEO Lee Dentith.
“The patient gets the reassurance of speaking to a real doctor and doctors like to see people - they love what we’re doing.”
Laundrapp – an app-based laundry and dry cleaning service – also brings an on-demand service to customers, by collecting and delivering users’ washing to their door.
“You can use it anywhere – for example, if you’re travelling and staying in a hotel – which is why smartphone seems to be a good basis for this type of outsource service,” says founder and CEO Ed Relf.
Using apps on TV screens is another area that Relf sees taking off, allowing for the typically isolating mobile app experience to become one that embraces the entire family.
“It’s a family discussion as opposed to passing around a six inch screen,” he says. “One example is the Airbnb app for Apple TV - now the whole family can sit there and collaborate rather than having someone sat behind their laptop screen.
“We even used a karaoke app the other night on the TV that connects to the lights so they flash like a disco.
“Do I think that people are going to sit around and talk about laundry on TV? Hell no!
“It’s not going to be right for everything but it’s just an opportunity to put engagement and conversation back into these digital households.”
A look at the international market also offers ideas for where the future might lie, says Relf.
WeChat – a Chinese messenger service similar to WhatsApp – has already integrated an “app ecosystem” as part of its service, he says.
“Users can order things like pizza or Uber using a tool similar to WhatsApp or Skype – it’s like the e-butler services. That’s going to happen, no question.”
Jamie Wilson is the CEO of app developer Appitized and says the key with apps are making them relevant.
“If an app has a purpose and buy-in from people, if it’s something they need for everyday lives and the user gets regular updates and push notifications, then I can’t see apps falling off a cliff any time soon,” he says.
“The point everyone needs to bear in mind is that typically a person picks up their phone at 7.30am and it’s the last thing they look at before they go to bed.
“It’s always within arms’ reach and most people refer to it about 150 times a day. It’s a major convenience factor now that most people are so comfortable using mobile devices.”