I remember back when the iPhone first released there was a tag line which still rings true: “There’s an app for that!” It’s amazing to see how quickly this idea took hold. Today there are nearly 2 million apps in the iOS ecosystem alone, for everything from rideshare (Uber/Lyft) to Home Thermostat monitoring.  (Fun fact: it would cost $1 million to buy out the app store.) It has become apparent that the market, which still has an insatiable appetite for the next big app, has become a burden for the end-user who is struggling to choose the “right” app from the huge number of options available to them. Ratings and user reviews only go so far in explaining the value and user experience.

Understanding why an app is different from a browser

Today, the market for device making has fundamentally changed. We are no longer tied to our desks or even our laptops – in work or play. More and more demand is coming from mobile devices, such as mobile phones, tablets, and even the hybrid Phablet (a cross between a phone and a tablet). And, as screens get smaller, some Web browsers, such as Internet Explorer, are being phased out while others such as Mozilla and Google Chrome have simply created mobile-optimized apps. We are also seeing many apps such as the Washington Post, Buzzfeed, and Twitter Apps that contain their own rudimentary browsers, which keep the user inside their platform when sharing, commenting, or interacting.

Trade-offs between browsers and apps

As more and more apps are released with this in-browser, we’re seeing some interesting behaviors develop. First, all apps, no matter their purpose, want to mine your data. Every action within an app is monitored by frequency of clicks and use. If an app crashes or performs poorly on an action, the ratings system becomes a powerful way to let developers know how to direct their next updates. At the same time, something is lost in this pattern. Browsers such as Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Google Chrome, and even Internet Explorer all helped to define effective HTML rendering, the language that drives most of the pages seen on the Internet. iOS and Android do the same thing through mobile API calls to sites to render in a certain way.

With such changes, smaller screens, apps, and the drive to keep people inside an app, there’s a loss in how browsers are supposed to render quality content. This is the trade-off of convenience and staying inside an app. Whether this is good or bad thing, it appears to be what the users want. As such developers will continue to respond to this need.

Silo issues on iOS

A known issue, which many android developers and users complain about when testing iOS apps, is how controlled and siloed these apps are. This is a valid point and a difference between how iOS and Android use and share data between apps. Managing how to share and leverage your own data on your phone is something a lot of iOS users leave to the iOS devices to manage, but this is increasingly changing, as revealed by recent iOS updates. As users become more aware of how data is mined and managed by their phone, they will demand simpler controls to manage personal information.

Nuances with Android

Ask any developer about developing for Android and he or she will have a litany of issues to talk about. This list includes how fragmented the Android market is, including the issue of phone screen size and operating system, anti-malware, data mining, and how much to let the Android platform run the show versus custom scripts. Another issue is the saturation and nightmare around flash management. Google announced just this year about changes to the Google Play coding requirements for submission of apps to the ecosystem, which will transform the market into something more resembling iOS.

Collaborating in the app world

Recently Microsoft announced cross-platform availability of its core Office and OneDrive apps with iOS and eventually Android. This is a huge shift in the collaboration world. This is a market indicator that more and more work is going to be done not only in the cloud, but also on mobile devices. With that comes functionality management. With limited screens and battery life, as well as Wi-Fi connections, changes are going to be made in how people work on mobile devices. Luckily, the Huddle platform already allows users to make comments, view content, share with others, and allow users an auditable trail to keep them aware of what others are doing. These sorts of abilities will continue to be enhanced as the market continues to mature, but more and more work will be app-focused and driven by mobile collaboration. 

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