The data from most apps is already available online, usually from a mobile-oriented website (the most common formulae are m.xyz.com, xyz.com/m, mobile.xyz.com, or xyz.com/mobile). Website providers want you to download an app instead of visiting their mobile website -- even if it does little to enhance your productivity. Why? First, some users don't know how to use the browser on their mobile phones or find it clunky. Second, when a user installs an app, the user will become "sticky" and more likely to develop loyalty to the underlying website. Third, apps are a platform to sell advertising.
I think we see the downside, though, in overusing discrete apps instead of a browser.
- Many apps are poorly designed.
- Many apps crash often. (Since you don't pay for these apps, the provider has little incentive to test them thoroughly.)
- Apps fill the home screens of your phone and make it difficult to find the app you're looking for.
- Some apps generate insidious ongoing traffic that run up your data cost. Watch out for this if you travel outside the 48 states!
- Large apps take time to back up or sync whenever you connect your smartphone to your PC.
- Apps are updated frequently, but every update requires a visit to the app store. I'm already tired of entering my password for the iPhone app store merely to receive the update for an app.