The City of New York offers 11 mobile applications (in both OS) to provide various public services. Boston, six. San Francisco, despite being the great reference city of Silicon Valley, has two mobile applications of its own. Chicago and London, none.
Could it be that all these urban agglomerations serve their residents and visitors worse by mobile than the city of skyscrapers? Not at all. What happens is that they do not do it with proprietary applications that have to be downloaded and installed in the phone, but through accessible services with the web browser of any device, be it a smartphone, a tablet, a computer, a video game console or a connected TV . Mobile web designers are improving their techniques to make web sites served through smartphones can be just as functional as seen on a computer screen, eliminating the need for specific applications.
The cited public administrations, like many others, have been discovering that creating mobile applications specific to an operating system is much more expensive than adapting their digital services so that they can interact with them as with any other web page, using a single application, the browser, which all devices have built-in by default. Ben Terrett, the former head of the UK government’s digital service, said last summer that “applications are expensive to produce and even more to maintain, because you have to update them every time there is a change”. For that reason the digital manual of that government prohibits the official organisms to destine resources to mobile applications without justifying them, and especially if before they have not guaranteed the web access to the services. And the improvement has been noticed in the public budgets: the British Treasury calculates the government has saved 5,000 million dollars in a period of four years giving priority to the use of responsive web pages.
In any case, the tendency to move from mobile applications to the universal web makes sense for several reasons.
- It is true that the amount of titles available in the large download catalogs does not stop growing, but also that the vast majority end up being invisible.
- On the other hand, users are concentrating their attention: it is estimated that more than three quarters of the applications that are downloaded do not reopen beyond the third day. The AppDate report referred to the year 2015 collected that, of the 30 applications that the user has installed on average on your smartphone, only uses 14. And according to Sensor Tower, iPhone users in the US downloaded last year an average of 26 applications, less than the 33 of 2016.
- The time spent is concentrated in social networks, but Gartner estimates that within two years these will have been overcome by chat applications, which will allow many operations that currently require a separate application.
- The advance of voice assistants, included in operating systems, is another factor that will affect the use of applications.
And without going so far, web applications have an advantage that can be enjoyed right now: they do not take up space in the phone’s memory, a resource that always ends up being scarce. To be exact, they only occupy the few bytes of the shortcut icons in the device’s menu.