The Impact of Apps

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When iPhone launched the concept of “apps,” it revolutionized how we think about digital experiences on mobile phones. Until then, the prevailing wisdom was to keep it simple and give people the basics. This was primarily due to the fact that before the iPhone, Web browsers on a mobile phone could only manage basic elements. Apple, through iPhones and especially iPads, has created the expectation that dynamic, rich interactive experiences can exist in a mobile environment, but not necessarily through a Web browser.

Google followed the trend in 2010 with robust offerings of Android apps, but possibly more important was something from the very end of 2010 that few people really took note of – Chrome apps. Now instead of just mobile apps, we have browser-based apps, which sets an expectation that the “app” will have a rich experience and not just provide information. Unfortunately, many current Chrome apps are just normal websites with a pretty way to bookmark them in your browsers. Others, however, like Gilt, The New York Times and NPR have used this as an opportunity to redefine the website. NPR’s Chrome app is a completely new experience because it mimics the look, feel and functionality of their groundbreaking iPad app. There are even Chrome apps that have a cost to “install” them. This is not unusual for an iPhone or Android app, but Chrome apps are browser-based like websites.

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