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Those “mobile apps are doomed” headlines? They are wrong!


So lately there are a lot of headlines appearing that say "Businesses Moving To Chatbots, AI; Away From Mobile Apps", "The Rise of Chatbots - Why they’ll replace All Your Apps!" or "How Bots Will Completely Kill Websites and Mobile Apps". First of all: Look at where those headlines appear. Some of these websites - though not all - have a vested interest in making you believe that.

Speaking of where those posts appear: Isn't it funny that the last post appears on a website? Why not use a bot to tout the message? Maybe not so appropriate after all?

Well, so what to make of these post? Are they just trying to convince customers to buy services? Or is there actually something to it?

I believe that there is indeed some truth to voice assistants and chatbots replacing apps. But the overall message is simply wrong. It's more a co-existance of both for a very long future. And they are also not mutually exclusive. Assistant integration into apps or chatbots on websites? Why not? We see this all the time.

Yes, sometimes voice assistants or chatbots are the best way to fulfill a user's need. Sometimes they are not there yet, but you know that they will be soon.

I for one use Google Home more and more to listen to music (mostly streaming to my Chromecast Audio). But I think the Play Music app is much better right now. Do I expect it to stay that way? No. I expect the Play Music app to play an ever lesser role for my music listening experience.

Do I expect the Play Music app to be replaced completely anytime soon? No, I don't. Sometimes I use it on my laptop. Sometimes on my phone, sometimes I stream from there via Chromecast Audio. It depends on where I am and what I am doing right now. Do I expect it to be replaced entirely eventually. Sure: By something else. But that's true for nearly everything. Nothing stays forever. Luckily so!

Now these doomsaying headlines have been around for ages. Though mostly applied to other technologies. Sometimes they are true (as for Kodak for example), but very often they are not. Especially in the media world.

When Radio was announced, it was deemed to be the end for newspapers. Not so. Radio was said to be doomed by TV. Not so. Movie theaters were obviously doomed by downloads. Not so. TV then again was said to be doomed by apps and youtube. Not so. Or just: not so yet?

Even after all those years, the radio is still around. TV is still around. Same goes for PCs and laptops. Heck: Even newspapers and paper books are still around - though I personally think they actually might be doomed, as much as I like them.

All of these still serve a need and are best suited in some cases. But neither of these technologies plays as much of an role as it has been playing in its heydays. And that probably is going to happen to mobile apps - and eventually also to the phones and tablets that run them.

Neither expected them to stay around forever. But for lots of use cases they are definitely still the best choice and will stay that way until something better comes around. For many use cases neither chatbots nor voice apps are a good choice.

BTW: For lots of use cases neither mobiles nor tablets are a good choice - which is why we still use laptops (including me typing this post). So laptops will stay around for some time - but admittedly have lost out for some users. That might happen to apps.

And, of course, for some use cases voice assistants or chatbots are indeed better. For some it depends on the specific need of the user and the specific circumstance the user is in. In all of these cases apps will be used less. Will be downloaded less. But for most use cases, that apps have been used for and for many that might not have been conceived of yet, apps are still strong and the best way to achieve your goal. Apps are going to strive. And voice assistants and chatbots are going to strive as well.

But, of course, there are apps that most likely will be used less. And as with all those other media being somewhat replaced by something that fulfills the needs of people better, that's a good thing. Not for the companies doing those apps, not for the devs, designers and product people having to look for something else (though that shouldn't be a problem right now). But for us users.

It's the same thing as usual: Do not fear the future. Be open to it. Embrace it and adapt to it.

Oh, before I forget it: The sames goes for websites. They won't be replaced either. Neither by apps nor by voice assistants or chatbots.

So in short. Those headlines? I would call B.S. But let's keep that for sh***y politicians.

Note: I am an Google Developer Expert for Android as well as for the Google Assistant. So I have a vested interest in both technologies. But I have much more experience with Android and earn my living mostly with Android. As such I am not unbiased myself 🙂

Wolfram Rittmeyer lives in Germany and has been developing with Java for many years.

He has been interested in Android for quite a while and has been blogging about all kind of topics around Android.

You can find him on Google+ and Twitter.