Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Apple Ban on Templated Apps Is the Perfect Indicator the World Is Ready for Cloud-based Apps

Recently, some organizations and individuals with apps on the Apple App Store began receiving the following message:

“We noticed that your app appears to be created from a template. Your app provides the same feature set as many of the other apps you’ve submitted to the App Store; it simply varies in content or language.”

The message went on to say that these templated apps “create clutter, diminish the overall experience for the end user, and reduce the ability for developers to market their apps”. Then they called for the developer to combine their templated apps into a single “container” app by January 1.

It’s clear that the tech giant has acknowledged the elephant in the room: the app store is bloated. Very bloated. And, even more than that, it’s affecting the user experience. You might have seen some of our previous blog entries that cover the cumbersome nature of dowloading from the app store, and we know that half the time the biggest time-waster is just finding the app you’re looking for. So good on Apple for acknowledging this and trying to fix it…

But (there’s always a but), in their rush to rid the app store of the unnecessary, outdated apps, they’re inadvertently phasing out a section of businesses in the process. For smaller and mid-sized businesses (and even enterprise organizations that are creating one-off app experiences for events), the time, money, and resources aren’t always available to create a stellar native mobile app, let alone keep it updated with Apple’s standards over time. So many times, these companies turn to templates to crank out apps cheaply and quickly (especially companies making apps for one-off use cases like events or conferences).

Catching Congress’ Attention
With Apple having no way to differentiate between these legitimate apps from small businesses and spam apps, the small business apps are at risk of being inadvertently phased out of the app store. It’s such an issue that it’s even caught Congress’ attention, with U.S. Congressman Ted Lieu formally asking Apple to reconsider their recent change in guidelines, saying that “Apple may be casting too wide of a net and invalidating apps from longstanding and legitimate developers who post no threat to the App Store’s integrity”. So, where does this leave businesses that are being phased out of the App Store simply due to lack of technical resources? Homeless, in a sense, with no way to distribute their app (which, in some cases, is the entirety of their business), and most definitely at a disadvantage in a world where customer loyalty hinges on mobile engagement.  

It’s Not About The Competition–It’s About Discoverability
These businesses need a place to house and distribute their apps, but they very well know that they’re no match for the big dogs of the app store (Google and Facebook own a combined 8 of the top 10 apps). They’re not there to compete against these big dogs of mobile–in most cases they’re not even there to become the next viral app sensation. They’re there for the distribution; The app store is a means to an end. So, what if we could take the competition factor out of the app store, and focus on the distribution factor? After all, users are rarely concerned with which app is “Number 1”; They simply have a need, find the app, and engage.

Which is why the answer for these businesses lies in cloud-based mobile apps. These app-like mobile experiences have all the rich functionality of native mobile apps, but they can be activated outside of an app store since they’re hosted behind a URL. Think of all the distribution options: A clickable link on a website, a scannable QR code on a brochure, a text-in link on signage in-store or at an event. Without the concern of a download, these businesses will automatically see higher engagement and adoption rates, helping boost their ever-important bottom line and helping them reap the full benefits of providing a mobile experience. And they won’t even need Apple’s help.