Less is more in services and apps
Market

The Superapp Delusion: Why Less is More in the App World

Tuomas Pippola
February 29, 2024
2 min

Intro

In an era where telecom operators seem to be racing to pack every conceivable feature and service into their applications, operator superapps have emerged as the trend. But is this the right direction, a trend consumers are embracing? Let's debunk some myths by comparing these 'jack-of-all-trades' apps with the world's most successful digital offerings.

Cases

iPod: The iPod triumphed not because it did everything, but because it did one thing exceptionally well: playing music. Its intuitive wheel interface was perfectly suited for its purpose. The selected memory - the 5GB hard drive - was revolutionary, and spot on for playing 1,000 songs. Finally, they executed marketing fully focused the music - including ads of not getting jailed for piracy.
(Original) iPhone: The iPhone revolutionised the smartphone industry by prioritising user experience over feature quantity. At time, Nokia smartphones boasted better connectivity, cameras, screens, an app downloading solution and more. iPhone set a new standard with its simplicity and ease of use, even without 3G or an app store at launch. We still remember how kids instantly and intuitively operated it - with ease.
Amazon: Amazon started as a specialised online bookstore, mastering this niche before expanding. This focus allowed it to perfect its customer service and logistics. It extended to many other products - and services including AWS - as a result of mastering the original niche.
Google: Google's ascension was powered by its laser focus on efficient and accurate search results, steering clear of the cluttered portal approach of its contemporaries. One could claim it helped people not only to search but to find anything from the heap of world’s information.
Twitter: Twitter's concept of broadcasting brief messages to followers demonstrates the strength of a single, well-executed idea.
Facebook: Facebook began as a simple social network, gradually adding features. Note that at start there was no messaging, no poking or notifications, no walls or status updates, only one photo was allowed. Just a facebook at Harvard. It was ultra clear at time of tens of “social networks” already available including Friendster, Orkut and others. Its decision later to separate services like Messenger highlights the power of a focused approach - and it has not integrated other services like Instagram or Whatsapp into one “superapp".
ChatGPT: ChatGPT started thriving with ultra simple way to chat with conversational AI with a chatbot. It offered a dedicated, focused experience to chat with conversational AI based on  large language model - and steer or prompt engineer the discussion to targeted direction. It has then evolved to offer API and add more features - to capitalise the great focused market entry. As an oucome, the dedicated client gets integrated across Microsoft products - and there is a tornado of copilots entering the market, using the chatbot.

BBM, WhatsApp, Snapchat, WeChat: Each of these platforms gained popularity by perfecting a specific form of communication, not by trying to be everything to everyone. Each having a very unique, specific way of executing the core of their idea of messaging. Similarly, WeChat mastered very deeply real time chat and messaging experience, grew population, deepened users engagement - and only then started to add features on top of the success on chat.

Quite clear message delivered?
List could be extended from myriad of apps (illustrated to you by Dall-E) and services including Skype, Spotify, Airbnb, or Über - where the crystal clear focus has made the services famous. Only later, have they evolved to wider use cases - or integration of other use cases to complement the core proposition.

All of these examples - and many other examples - did not cover only the actual app, or actual service. They extend to marketing execution, Apple as a prime example of a crystal clear marketing execution aligned to the soul of the offering. And delivering to the single purpose of the app or the service.

Conclusion

In contrast to these success stories, operator superapps risk becoming digital Swiss Army knives: versatile but master of none. Relevant connectivity features hard to find, apps that do not stand out, apps that are hard to market. Apps fail to attract, engage, and retain end users.

Telecom operators should take inspiration from these examples and concentrate on what they do best: providing seamless connectivity. By offering straightforward, user-friendly connectivity service, they can ensure a superior customer experience without the clutter and complexity of a superapp.

Thus the New Mantra: 'Simply Connect'

And as you may have guessed, we have depicted simple illustration of services with Dall-e trying to focus on simplicity and essence of the message by pencil sketching them. A very handy service to speed up creative processes - while obviously still having its limitations and best to use for a very specific use case.
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