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What Will We Do Without Apps?

Tom Sullivan

June 13, 2017
Tom Sullivan

It’s hard to imagine a life without apps – but it may be coming sooner than we think.

The iPhone set the “make my life easier and better” pattern of technology. For me, it eliminated the need to carry around a number of tools (calculator, voice recorder, alarm clock, calendar, flashlight, GPS, iPod).  I never imagined my life getting easier than that.

Now, tech leaders are making our easy world even easier by reducing the number of apps we need. With the development of chatbots and smart agents, which combine AI and natural language processing with social messenger platforms, apps are taking a hit. Let’s take every home’s best friend, Alexa, for instance. Instead of having 100 different apps, all you need is her.

The fault lines in the app world are already visible. In May 2016, the top 15 app publishers saw downloads drop an average of 20-percent in the U.S., according to research from Nomura. Additionally, the average app loses 77-percent of its users within three days of being downloaded – making it hard for new apps to emerge and take off.

The most successful apps have revealed a common thread for what future innovators are supposed to do: make our lives easier and better. But think about it, is your life easier and better with five screens of apps clogging your mobile?

I can imagine buying my train tickets without having separate apps for Amtrak, NJ Transit and SEPTA. These are captive applications that I must download, learn the UI, and manage individually. I look forward to a voice command capability to buy my entire transportation package with one command such as: “get me from Philly to New York in the most cost efficient way by 3 pm today.”

I can also imagine the killer app that will save me money and help me reach my financial goals: my on-the-go, personal spending manager (PSM). I don’t know if a PSM exists, but someone is probably inventing that right now.  A PSM will know my personal goals, real-time net worth, budget and spending priorities and answer questions like: “Should I buy this suit jacket today?” The PSM may respond: “It’s in the discretionary budget but you will exceed your clothing budget; would you like to borrow $75 from your vacation budget?” As a kicker, it might add “if you defer this purchase until next year’s budget, you can probably turn that $159 into $720 in 14 years in your IRA index fund.”

Having smart agents in my pocket may just make my life easier and better while freeing up time and money to do a little extra good in the world.