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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Don't give me an app for that

If you have an iPhone, Android smart phone, or similar device: how many apps have you loaded onto it? I have 49 on mine, and I won't consider installing another app unless there's a strong argument for it.

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.
Just say no... unless it's a really cool app.