When Apple launched the App Store in July 2008, the mobile app rush came along with it. Everyone and their mum rushed to build an app for the shiny new iOS platform.

People were building apps for products, services, games, or just plain gimmicks. (remember the lightsaber app that made “BWOM, PSSH, CHUE” sounds as you waved your phone around?)

time to kill the app

The iPhone Wars had begun.

This was understandable, and even necessary. As with any new platform or medium, it takes time for developers and creators to figure out its purpose, to decide what works and what doesn’t.

After 9 years(!) of a world filled with smartphones, tablets, and an endless supply of novelty mobile devices, where does the app as we know it stand? Is it just as relevant and important as it was back then?

Nobody wants to download your app

With the mobile app market being completely saturated, app retention rates are at an all time low.

average app retention android

Source: Quettra

See that graph? Those numbers are abysmal.

The average app loses:

  • 77% of its users in the first three days
  • 90% within 30 days
  • 95% within 90 days.
  • 1 in 4 people open an app only once

People download and try out new apps regularly, and nobody wants to have 100’s of apps on their phone, so only the ones that leave an incredible first impression stand any chance at staying on those devices.

And if you’re thinking that these are just the millions of below-average apps flooding the market these days, take a look at how the top apps in the world are performing.

android app retention

The most popular apps in the world, such as Facebook, Whatsapp, and Instagram, only have a retention rate of about 55% after 90 days.

Again, these are the biggest apps in the world.

Why do so many mobile apps fail miserably?

Likely, because of one of these reasons:

  • The app doesn’t excel at one task
  • Too many features leads to confusion
  • Poor onboarding processes
  • The content is weak
  • Annoying push notifications
  • Frequent bugs and crashes
  • Slow loading speeds
  • Too many requests to rate the app
  • Gated logins
  • Intrusive advertisements
  • Requires too many permissions and sacrifices privacy
  • Poor user interface
  • Infrequent updates and ignoring user issues

If your app has just one of these issues, it can die fast.

Everything is becoming contextual

facebook uber integration

You’ve probably heard a lot about chat bots and artificial intelligence lately.

While the reports of these technologies replacing humans have been greatly exaggerated, it does mean the continual use of traditional apps will be drastically reduced.

Apps are now being integrated into other apps.

For example, Facebook Messenger is one of the largest messaging platforms in the world with over 800 million active users. Up until now it has been used for just that, messaging.

But now, Facebook is focused on building Messenger into a full fledged e-commerce platform. They plan on integrating other apps into Messenger to make your buying experience seamless and based on the context of your conversation.

Picture this: You’re chatting with your friend about meeting up for a drink. You pick a spot and a time, and now have to figure out the best way to get there.

Messenger, with the help of the new Uber integration, instantly recognizes your need for transportation, and helpfully suggests you order an Uber.

facebook messenger uber integration

You click the link, review the directions and simply click “Request”.


Never once did you need to leave Messenger, open the Uber app, enter the address, order the Uber, then return to Messenger.

You were able to do it in just two clicks, all within Messenger itself.

This is contextual at its finest. And with the rise of new tech, it will only become more prominent.

New technologies are driving the death of apps

death of apps

Voice-based personal assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Home, and Apple’s Siri are poised to transform our homes and drive the advancement of smart home tech.

With these devices, we wouldn’t even need to physically handle any devices to order many of our favorite products and services. We just need our voice.

“Alexa, order me an Uber to St. Lawrence farmers market.”

“Ok Google, get me my usual from Dominos.”

“Hey Siri, what is the weather for today?”

Sure, this sounds a bit clunky today, but once these assistants become better at learning about us and our speech patterns, the experience will be seamless.

The apps are there, you just can’t see them

All of these new technologies and mediums still have apps working hard to give you what you want, they just do it in the background.

There’s no reason for every single business and brand to have their own interface-based app. Users simply don’t want it.

If you have a product or service you’re selling, focus your attention on integrating it into relevant platforms. Give your audience as many opportunities to purchase it as possible, but it in a way that makes sense for them.

Simplifying the buying experience means killing the app as we know it.

And with all of the “look we have an app too!” apps flooding the market, nobody is going to miss them.