We love apps. In our shop everybody’s got a smartphone of one variety or another and we all have apps that we favor. Apps take the place of various other devices that we’ve all hauled around in pockets or purses through the years so there’s a special affinity towards some of them for saving our briefcases from overload or, worse, our backs from aching.
Apps are great, but they don’t take the place of everything all the time and can be problematic for the developer if they’re not actually in the business of building and maintaining them.
App builders do this for a living but companies that consider building an app for internal purposes that can more easily be accomplished with a universally available app – text messaging – risk creating a less than satisfactory experience for their users.
Company specific apps can be a good model but the implementation process has several flaws. Let’s presume, for example, that a utility company wanted to develop an app so that it’s customers could report outages, downed power lines and the like. This is something that TextPower already does via SMS inexpensively and can implement within an hour or two for any customer.
In order to use an app for this themselves:
- The utility has to develop an app for multiple platforms (iPhone, Android, Blackberry) in order for it to be universally useful.
- Customers must download the app.
- Customers must remember to use the app (or, in some cases, find it on their phones – many people have scores of apps and simply forget that they’re there – nobody forgets that they can send a text message).
- The utility then has to maintain the app through various OS upgrades and changes – a more onerous task than many anticipate.
- The utility must then be prepared to offer customers technical support in operating the app if there’s a problem.
We can do the same thing via text message and save them all the trouble. Receiving photos via text is a snap for us – it’s the sending of graphics (MMS) that is problematic with the multiple standards carriers demand.
So, while apps can make great sense when distributed to a mass market they make less sense when used for a very specific audience. They make even less sense when they essentially are reinventing the wheel that’s already been turning trillions of times a year – text messaging.