Is This the Beginning of the End of the App Age?

“There’s an app for that.” Millions and millions of them apparently. 

It was the mantra for a while, as brands across all industries invested heavily to create apps for their users. But according to Lance Ng writing in Medium, we’re fast approaching our collective saturation point.

“In the next three to seven years, I expect most mobile apps to disappear,” he writes. “With them, we’ll witness the loss of billions in venture capital that we’ve poured into the mobile startup sector. It will all be burned to ashes, with nothing left but stray lines of code.”

It might be hard to wrap your head around this, especially if you look at the app section on your phone, but Ng makes some persuasive observations about human behavior and the app industry to support his prediction.

“The truth is, unless you are a major retailer or content publisher that needs to sell or deliver to customers frequently, all you really need is a mobile-friendly website. If the information is all people want, they’re going to Google it in a browser,” he writes.

Instead of having 30, 50 or 100 individual apps on our phones, Ng sees the industry evolving into social media and mobile wallet ecosystems, something that’s already happening in Indonesia and China.

“A good example is how restaurants and cafes are integrating into food delivery apps instead of maintaining their own online order and delivery systems,” he explains. “In turn, these food delivery apps are consolidating with mobile wallet or ride-share apps to provide synergy and convenience to users. Consider Go-Jek, the biggest motorcycle ride-share app in Indonesia. To many people, it’s an all-in-one mobile wallet, ride-hailing, food delivery, and lifestyle services app.”

For brands, this means a radical rethinking of the need for apps. In many (most?) cases, Ng believes brands can achieve the same results – engaged users on mobile devices – by ditching their apps and creating better and more responsive mobile sites.

While this could leave the app venture capital industry in a rough spot, it would certainly free up a lot of resources for brands.

“Maintaining a mobile app requires time, effort, and money, especially when operating systems like iOS and Android update frequently,” he continues. “Have you noticed that every time you update the software on your phone, something goes wrong in one of your apps? Native apps are no longer as necessary as they once were. Consolidation is coming, and the era of ‘there’s an app for that’ is coming to a close.”

So what will be the equivalent to WeChat here in the states? Two years ago it looked like Facebook was on track to be the WeChat of the West, but the recent data scandals and user skepticism have probably tabled that. There’s talk that Anytime by Amazon could be a contender, and from a user trust perspective that might be a better bet.

It should be an interesting trend to follow. And in the meantime, if your company is still hot to create their own app, you might want to send this around.