Last night I attended my first AiMA event at Georgia Tech discussing the evolution of mobile technology over the last five years. The one thing I loved about the panel last night was that it was very interactive for the whole audience. Most people had their heads down in their phones tweeting away the discussion which did nothing but further every point about mobile devices taking over our lives. One of the panelists from RIM made a fairly bold statement considering the audience sitting before him:
"Mostly all mobile apps are bull****."
Now I can see two sides to this equation. The statement came as a result of a question from an audience member asking about whether or not developing Blackberry specific apps was worth the investment in comparison to Android or iOS apps. The RIM guy argued for making mobile friendly sites a priority and compared apps as just a shiny object for now but honestly a waste of time.
Why He's Not Completely Wrong
The RIM guy was somewhat onto something though his statement was just a little too broad. A lot of the mobile usage between Android and iOS is beginning to split down the middle. Designing apps for one platform could alienate half of a mobile audience. What a mobile site could do is reach out to a broader audience at one time.
He was also right about apps being BS....most are if you look at the big picture. Many apps that you see coming out right now are simply mobile websites that are sold in an app store. The only thing an app will be benefiting would be the producing company broadening their own database of potential customers. There's really nothing on those apps that couldn't be accomplished on a mobile website.
One company that does a beautiful job running app-like features on a mobile website is Untappd. They don't have any apps to offer, just one clean mobile interface that works equally well on iOS and Android phones (...but not Windows phones yet). Untappd is a social network that allows users to check into different beers and then be able to share where they're drinking it through Foursquare and Twitter. Very functional app that isn't an app at all. I wouldn't change a thing about it, it works very well as a mobile only site.
Why the RIM Guy Isn't Completely Right
Some mobile apps aren't BS. After he made that statement @gumboshowjoe quickly responded how some apps have photo/video capabilities that can't be replicated within a mobile website. This made the RIM guy clear up his answer and/or backtrack a little. @gumboshowjoe made a good point that I agree with. Apps should provide a customer with some level of value that can't be replicated from a simple mobile website. Things like SocialCam, Instagram, RunKeepr and others wouldn't fit mobile sites....but are awesome apps.
So are all mobile apps BS? I'll leave you with this tweet from last night: