App mania is hitting India — like the rest of the world, and this is just an extension of the smartphone boom. The other side of course is the boom in e-commerce companies that are getting hefty doses of venture capital. The problem with this is that VC companies love to see “captive customers” and the number of apps downloaded is a good measure.
It is true that apps boost business in many ways. People are more likely to use an app whose icon is on the “handtop” (desktop’s equivalent in the age of the smartphone). An app on the handtop is the cyberspace equivalent of the neighbourhood store. You are more likely to shop at your neighbourhood store as long as it is giving reasonable deals and gives you the stuff you want.
But most people in busy urban lives prefer to shop in large multi-brand, multi-product retail stores such as a Big Bazaar or More because it is a one-stop place for many things, saving time.
Now, in the age of the internet and e-commerce, having too many apps on your handtop is the equivalent of going through a long, cramped main street rather than a shopping mall.
So it was not a surprise when I heard a senior Google employee explain recently at a seminar that app uninstalls are common. After a honeymoon period when e-commerce companies offer attractive discounts on app-only sales, I suspect people may well get weary — or realise that it does not rain discounts forever. I understand to some extent this is already on. Also, it is difficult for me to imagine an app for everything on a handtop.
An article in Forbes magazine two years ago also observed that factors such as lengthy enrolment forms, too much corporate snooping and collection of data, bugs and notifications can irritate customers into uninstalling apps.
Personally, I do know that I would prefer the good old desktop browser for many things. Using the browser is like taking your car out to go wherever you want. The best experiences are those where app and browser navigations are both well integrated. And yes, things such as WhatsApp and old-fashioned phone calls are still more efficient in some cases. But that’s another story.