How many apps does it take to plan dinner with friends? Most likely, it would take at least five:

  1.    One to message your friends at least two or three times
  2.    One to find a date that works for everyone
  3.    One to find an awesome restaurant
  4.    One to book a table
  5.    One to get directions to the restaurant

Does having an app for everything really make life easier? The fact is, we have too many apps right now, and most of them are point solutions. App stores and our mobile devices are overcrowded with apps, and our lives don’t seem to be getting any easier.

So what’s the solution for the “an app for everything” problem? Most likely, this issue will not be solved by creating more apps. What is needed is a consolidation of app functionality to create a new breed of multi-tasking solutions. Ideally, that would involve the creation of tools that can thread together workflows and genuinely simplify these tasks, creating “Super Apps” that layer into existing messaging applications. How might that work? Well, let’s take another look at our dinner planning scenario.

Imagine if, instead of going to five different apps, you went to your primary messaging app and sent a request to your Super App that said:

“I want to have dinner with Monica, Chandler, Ross, Rachel, and Joey on Thursday.”

Your Super App, powered by Natural Language Processing (NLP) and acting as a perfect personal assistant, would message all your friends on your behalf (since it has all their contact information already) and pick a time that works for everyone. It could then, since it knows all of your favorite restaurants (via check-ins and location data), make a reservation for your party. And, since it knows (via your calendar) where you’ll be immediately before your dinner date, it can also book you an Uber.

Within an hour or two, your Super App will send you a confirmation message, letting you know that dinner (“someplace nice”) and transportation are all taken care of. And all you had to do was ask.

NLP creates a simple way to navigate all those apps within a single workflow. That’s the beauty of Super App — it’s not really an app at all in the classic sense. Instead, it’s the glue that weaves together these disparate tasks via a primary messaging application.

The messaging app is the natural platform for the Super App, since nearly every task that faces us — whether it’s planning a social dinner or organizing a business project — involves communication with other people. Our messaging apps are our most used apps, our “home base” on our mobile and desktop devices. So rather than creating a new app that would force you to leave a messaging app like Mac Mail, Gmail or Outlook, the ideal Super App would come to you and integrate seamlessly into your messaging app of choice, even if that’s Twitter or your native texting app.

The Super App, since it relies on NLP, would understand your simple commands, and execute them in a predictable and trustworthy way. Ideally, it would receive messages the same way other recipients do, and have access only to the information and applications to which you’ve granted permission, gathering precisely the data it needs. As an example, for a project at work, it might pull information from your project management tool, your calendar, and your time tracking tool, in addition to your contact manager to set up regular project check-ins or assign tasks on your behalf.

In terms of its UI, it should be light and flexible, so it doesn’t bog your system down and so that it has room to grow as it learns. That is, after all, one of the benefits of NLP and artificial intelligence in general: it learns continually, and as it learns your language and habits, its capabilities can potentially improve and expand. That means Super Apps will only improve with age.

The future of mobile apps then is not more apps, but rather a more integrated and scaled down approach to completing tasks. Adding another point solution to the app stores is only going to make mobile use more cumbersome and confusing, in addition to eating storage and bandwidth. Developers need to think more about robust solutions that are both intuitive and elegant. Let’s change the thinking from “there’s an app for that,” to “there’s one app for all of that!”