As apps have gained popularity and become such an integral part of our lives, the trend of bundling has come into play. One app for news, weather, and videos. One app for social networking plus instant messaging. One app for shopping as well as coupons and checking customer reviews.
This trend hasn’t been limited to mobile apps, either. You can see it in telephone and Internet services, as most phone, satellite, cable, and Internet services offer a package deal on multiple services. Unbundling also happened when eBay split away from its brainchild, PayPal, and as healthcare broke away from employers with the new Affordable Care Act. Now jobs aren’t inherently married to health insurance. As you’ll see, the trend seems to be reversing. What does that mean for your branded apps and your future development projects?
Sometimes, a truly great app grows beyond a single-use platform and becomes something much more.
Unbundling is the concept of breaking apart the separate features or functionality of an app and offering those as entirely separate apps. One of the first instances of unbundling in relation to mobile apps that consumers became aware of was Facebook creating a separate app for its instant messaging service, now called Messenger. You also saw Foursquare split off the Swarm service, which helps users find where their friends are hanging out. In the business world, Google broke apart its suite of apps known as Drive, and now offers its three separate services individually as Sheets, Slides, and Docs.
What Can App Developers Learn from the Unbundling Trend?
Why are these companies unbundling their apps, and what are the takeaways for other app developers? Most of these companies set out to create an app with a singular purpose. What happened next, which often happens with superb ideas, is that users began regularly turning to that app for multiple functions. For instance, Facebook wasn’t just a social media site anymore, it was also where people often went to IM or chat with someone.
Does this mean that consumers are ready for apps that offer a singular functionality and prefer to use multiple apps to do different things? Perhaps not. Many users were furious with Messenger’s break off, and some still refuse to download and use it. As many fully functional apps as there are floundering in the various app stores, it’s not likely that a less functional app is going to remain competitive. The unbundling success stories, you will notice, are limited to the mega giants.
What these companies did was split apps rather than make a single app so packed with features that it became difficult to navigate, hard to understand, or quirky. There are only so many functions you can pack into an app before it starts experiencing navigation bloat (too much there to find what you want), software bugs, or just become technically unsustainable.
Choosing Features and Functionality for Your Apps
Building too much into a single app can make it quirky or lead to too difficult an interface to be practical.
What can developers and marketing professionals looking to build brand recognition and increase their customer base with apps take away from all this? Build a great app. No, this isn’t said to trivialize matters. If you build something that’s highly useful, incredibly functional, and multi-dimensional, you could one day build other apps on these concepts or split a particularly useful and popular app into two.