The iOS App store started with just 500 apps back in 2008 and today they have more than 1.85 million different apps for users to download and use. The android apps on the other hand have even more apps to download and use with over 2.56 million apps that are available through the Google Play Store. While there are tons of apps to choose from, not many make the cut to stay on the phone for several quality issues or bugs within the app. And ofcourse, there is the issue of multiple apps for the same purpose. However, there is a new breed of apps that is making its way into the world of apps that fulfills many purposes using a single app – the Super Apps.
Today, we use multiple apps to perform various functions in our household. We use WhatsApp to send messages, we use facebook, instagram, snapchat, etc for social media, we use different apps to order our groceries and also use various ride sharing or cab hailing apps to get from one place to another, and the list goes on. The point I’m making here is that we use a lot of apps on a daily basis to go through with the day. But imagine if you could simply use a single app to meet all your needs, be it booking a cab, ordering groceries, paying your bills, etc. That is precisely what a Super App aims to do. Let us delve into Super Apps a bit more to understand how they work.
What are Super Apps?
The term ‘super app’ was coined back in 2010 by the founder of Blackberry Mike Lazaridis. He defined it as “a closed ecosystem of apps that people would use everyday because of its ability to provide a seamless, integrated, contextualized and efficient consumer experience”. In essence – a super app is a mobile interface or an app that hosts various related or unrelated services and offerings within its purview. For example, one can simply use a single app to chat with their friends, book flight tickets, order food, share pictures, shop and do so much more within the same app.
For those of you who live in India and are familiar with a fairly recent advertisement by the famous Amitab Bachan will remember that a super app – Just Dial was already being propagated in India back in 2017. You will remember how Amitab swipes away unnecessary apps from a young man’s phone to avoid the annoying notifications and uninstalls them to replace it with just one app – JustDial Mart with the hashtag #OneAppForAll. In hindsight, we now understand that JustDial was way ahead of the league when it came to the Super App race in India. We will look at a few more examples in the later sections. But before that let us try and understand some specifics about Super Apps.
How is it going to change App Testing?
Unlike traditional native mobile apps, super apps are going to provide a whole new set of offerings and possibilities and along with it come the challenges of mobile app testing. Similar to the challenges of testing Multiexperience Apps, Super apps bring a fresh set of challenges, for instance, since the integration of other mini apps into one is going to be one of the biggest challenges in super apps, testing this particular integration will take prime importance. And other app testing functionalities like the User experience, App Performance, Power and battery charts are crucial elements for the success of the app. How the super app performs when calling the services and checking the delay times and performance of the app is something that will remain constant. Also, device coverage and OS compatibility are key aspects to consider when testing the super app. In addition to the already existing test challenges, we are sure that we will have to create new capabilities to test the functionalities of the super app. While testing a super app may not be as bad as starting from scratch, it surely does pose a bit of a challenge.
Advantages of Super Apps
- Easy and Fast Product Launches
Supers Apps are essentially built on an already existing functionality and user base. Which means that an app that is already present can become a super app by simply expanding the array of services or offerings within itself instead of launching a new app and creating a new user base again. Apps with an already existing strong user base like Facebook, Amazon, Instagram or WhatsApp, etc can expand the services it offers by simply adding various integrations with other third party vendors and enterprises to become a super app, making the product launch easy, fast and less risky.
- Lower Development Costs
When developing an app from scratch, there is a lot of planning involved, the build, the code, the UI elements, testing, etc. All these elements play a huge role in successfully developing an app and launching it in the market. However, with Super Apps the process becomes easier as you are simply integrating other parts of the services into the already existing app. Which means that you will not need to spend time on starting from scratch, but just add on the additional services through collaborative integration and create a win-win situation.
- Lower Risk of App Failure
The risk of App failure works both ways. Since a super app is a conglomeration of various services that function separately, the chances of the entire app shutting down when a particular service or offering doesn’t work is highly unlikely. Chances are that if a service or offerings doesn’t work, that particular service will be isolated and fixed without causing a disruption to other functionality and services within the Super App. While on the other hand, native mobile apps are programmed to work together with all the moving parts working in a structured way. And if any one flow gets disrupted, the entire app crashes and goes for a toss.
Some examples of Super Apps
Super Apps have already become a reality in China with WeChat and AliPay being extensively used for various services. Many tech giants in south asians countries like India, Malaysia, Japan are following suit and entering the Super Apps market to provide users with easier app experiences. However, the west is still playing catch up because of the strict privacy and data security policies that are in-place in these countries. Apple with its recent update has made it all the more difficult for companies to understand their users to publish in-app ads. And now with stricter regulations and privacy policies, in-app ads might become a hassle for various businesses. Nonetheless, let’s look at some of the Super App examples.
WeChat, was launched in 2011 as an instant messaging app during its early days. But fast forward to 10years down the line, it now holds the status of a super app that provides many other services other than just instant messaging. It boasts of nearly a million mini-apps that allow users to perform various tasks like order a taxi, perform daily transactions, shop for clothes, order groceries, apply for a loan, renew your motor insurance, tax filing, and much more.
AliPay, part of the Alibaba group, is another super app that has an even tightly knit ecosystem of services that consumers leverage. Alibaba is popularly known for its e-commerce wing, and now has expanded its services to Financials providing business loans built around the credit rating system using the transactional data that they have access to.
Google Maps, in the west, we have Google Maps which doesn’t hold the Super App status but yet provides an array of services like hailing a cab, or reserving a table at your favorite restaurant, booking a tourist attraction, or redirecting you to various shopping websites and of course helping you organize your daily commute. One of the crucial aspects of the Super Apps is that ability to handle the payments and transactions within the app, which is something that is missing in Google Maps, apart from other things.
In India, there are a few Super Apps that are yet to be launched or nearing the launch. TataNeu, a Tata product is an attempt of bringing a host of services by integrating various businesses and services into this new super app. JioMart has already been working towards adding more services and offerings within its app to achieve the super app status for consumers to make use of. PhonePe is another payments app that has expanded its services by collaborating with other businesses like swiggy, ICICI Securities, Myntra, Hotstar, etc, to gain easy access to services within its app. PayTm, the IPO-bound unicorn has brought in many services from recharging your phone to online shopping, to banking and consumer financial services giving it a Super App status. The rise of these super apps is just the beginning of many more to come.
While some say the future of apps is in super apps, others like to believe that both the super apps and native mobile apps will continue to co-exist as some would still prefer doing things the traditional way. Also for those who have inhibitions of giving complete control to a single app, there’s always a way out. A question to think through and ponder about is the whole idea of concentration of power. The rise of Super Apps are surely going to enhance the lives of its users by providing a host of services under a single umbrella in turn giving a lot of power and control over to businesses. And, without a regulatory board to monitor the loopholes of data privacy it would become a disaster in the making. However, with the right privacy policies and regulatory authorities keeping in check, Super Apps are surely going to change the way we interact with apps on a daily basis.