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Super Apps in America – Yay or Nay?

The tech world is divided, for some its the future, for others, maybe not.

Superapps have been around for a number of years, but have recently become a hot topic in tech primarily because there’s a lot of speculation as to whether superapps will succeed in the U.S.

If we think of a superapp like a walled city. Those who live within that city have everything they need to make life easy. They can go to the local bank, shop at the city’s stores, catch a cab, visit the family amusement park, eat at the restaurants and coffee shops, chat with friends and the like.

However, if the city only has restaurants that offer steak and mashed potatoes, or pizza, and a resident wants a hamburger or Chinese meal, then the city falls short in resident satisfaction. The same goes for every other service the city offers. If the resident is wanting something different from what’s within the city’s walls, then he may need to leave the city or learn to be content with what’s available.

Some may say “Why not just build the desired restaurant in the city?” Before going into more detail on this, let’s clarify what we’re talking about.

A superapp is a foundational application with core features, built as a platform to support mini apps (offering different features) that are useful to the user. Together they form an ecosystem that provides everything a user may need. The mini apps run within the main app and don’t need to be downloaded. The more mini apps there are on the platform, the more services the superapp is able to perform. Mini apps upload faster, cost less and update automatically which is part of the attraction.

And so we go back to our walled city. Why not just build a new restaurant? It’s not that simple. For starters, Apple owns one of the largest mobile app platforms and does not allow third-party developers to have app stores within their iOS platform. They exercise control over what apps can do on their devices, as is their right.

Additionally, regulators in the west are increasingly wary of the growing power of tech companies and their data collection and sharing, and the power that brings.

Another consideration when it comes to superapps is the individuality of Americans. There is no one size fits all. Different users interact differently with the apps they choose. For consumers used to having countless options, would less choices on a more contained app be more appealing?

Superapps are dominant in China and other Asian markets because smartphones in Asia are under-powered and unable to manage 40 to 50 apps according to Ron Shevlin, a Senior Contributor to Forbes, and Chief Research Officer at Cornerstone Advisors. American smartphones don’t have that problem, so superapps with platforms supporting mini apps did not develop here.

In our hypothetical city, the platform is the wall around the city. Nothing is allowed without the governor’s greenlight. The challenge isn’t building the restaurant, but getting the approval.

Will Superapps supersede individual apps in the U.S.? For now, that depends on whether Americans give greater priority to ease of use, or unlimited choice. Superapps with unlimited choice is not yet an option.


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