“There’s an app for that”, was the phrase that launched a generation of smartphone users. But over the last few years apps have become increasingly integrated, each with multiple tools and purposes and it turned out that actually there was one app for that, that, and that. But this year we have started to see apps separating out back into a more simplified system. 2014 is the year of the Unbundle.
Facebook bought Whatsapp, and then crushed it with the release of Messenger, the Facebook messaging-specific app. The new Facebook Messenger app has moved all Facebook messages to a separate app, claiming it’s ‘texting for free’ (it’s not) and that it will streamline the Facebook experience (it doesn’t).
Google has split its hugely popular iOS Drive app into productivity specific standalone apps, meaning that there is now a Docs app, a Sheets app, etc. This move has been met with a mixed reception: whilst it makes sense for each tool to have its own app, it felt right that they were all housed together under the Drive umbrella, as they are on the desktop version.
Foursquare has attempted to remain relevant by following the unbundling trend, splitting their service in two. The new app, Swarm, is a social mapping app (so, Foursquare), and now Foursquare as an app is looking to compete with the likes ofYelp. This reshuffle begs the question, why didn't Foursquare stay as Foursquare, and use the newly created Swarm as the new service. Half as much work, surely?
Does This Mean More Shiny Apps To Play With?
In short, yes. Facebook and Google now both require users to download their new, unbundled, apps to use alongside the already downloaded Facebook and Drive. But, for Apple users this won't be such as chore: iOS 8 - which is on the horizon - will allow unbundled-bundle downloads, enabling users to download a group of apps together.
The collective downloading and the unbundling point to a more overarching trend: user experience. User experience (UX) is not a new trend (we love UX here at Avenue) to anyone in the digital world, it’s pretty much what drives everything under the surface, from good design to SEO, UX is at the heart of it all. But, separating apps out into more specific services brings user experience to the forefront, making it far more noticeable.
But, the whole point of UX is that it’s the cog, it’s the puppet master, you can’t see it but you know it’s there. Users don’t want to break the fourth wall. Part of what makes Apple, Facebook and Google so great is the fact that they all know how you think, they know what you want to do before you do and then give you the tools you need to do it. By separating out all the apps into separate services brings UX out into the light.
Shining the light on UX and bringing it out of its current digital niche could be awesome. The potential for growth is huge, and with UX breaking into mainstream culture we could start to see loads of different areas transformed. Infrastructure could improve; road layouts, the health service, education systems – if we could get the non-digital world thinking like the digital world through the medium of user experience, the world could become a better place overall.
Maybe We’re Getting Ahead Of Ourselves
Maybe I’ve taken a bit of a leap from app unbundling to humanity changing for the greater good, but stranger things have happened: who expected Foursquare to launch a system app that did exactly what Foursquare intended to do initially?
Will we see other apps following Facebook and Google? Is this the start of the UX revolution? We will have to wait and see. All I know for now is, unbundle is a ridiculous word.