Super Apps – Is a single-platform the future of mobile apps?

Is Super Apps the future of smartphone technology?

Tata is planning to enter the field of Super App as N Chandrasekharan, chairman of Tata Group announces it in February. The application would bring together several retail platforms of Tata together and also open themselves to other players in the market to join in.

What is a Super App?

A Super App is a single platform application that will serve different purposes. It is essentially inclusive of several services. Thus, a Super App could be termed as a supermarket in the digital world. It provides an integrated system where multiple services are brought together under a single application.

The primary requisite for a Super App to be successful is to have a large population of a place use smartphones. In the current scenario, this step is already fulfilled with the number of smartphone users about to reach 3 million, with major contributions from India, China and the US. This is also one of the reasons why the Super App business is booming in India.

Pros of a Super App

  • Convenience – Providing a one-stop destination for consumers in the digital world is extremely convenient for smartphone users. A Super App is a hassle free platform that provides all the facilities together.
  • Easy Maintenance – If every service comes under one application, it becomes easier to maintain the app as well. This is because users can point out the problems within an app and the developers can see through them in a single platform.
  • Memory – This is perhaps the most beneficial point of using a Super App. Smartphones these days come with a variety of applications that are pre-installed and it already takes up a lot of space in our phone. Quite oftendownloading different apps would lead the phone’s memory to be full, which in turn affects the performance of the apps themselves.

But not everything is sunshine and smiles.

Cons of Super Apps

  • Security – The very thought of having one’s entire data on a single platform is overwhelming. It can be misused quite easily and in numerous ways. Thus, if the service provider does not have good intentions, things can backfire. Also, in a situation where the app gets hacked, it can mean severe data threats to a country.
  • Manipulation – While users are still reeling from the difficulties caused by digital algorithms and the increasing case of polarisation, the immense amount of information can be misused by corporate companies or governments to manipulate people.
  • Undemocratic – Super Apps inevitably threaten a free market wherein different companies can actually compete with each other. There is also a threat to freedom of speech, considering how WeChat has strict policies.

Perhaps the most useful aspect of a Super App for a consumer is the very purpose of its invention – to bring together all kinds of information to a single platform. As a user, I could say that I will be happy initially. Who wouldn’t want to get rid of the hassle of countless apps that crash several times, have several glitches and shut down when using because of less storage?

But at the same time, the security threats of a Super App is frightening, especially at a stage when most apps are facing backlash due to privacy concerns.

What is most scary about a Super App, according to me, would be the monopoly of power into one hand. The digital world is a replica of the real world. The thought of having the entire world shrunk into one tiny app that can influence thousands of people is terrifying. It can be used to manipulate people and it can also become a hegemonic tool.

Perhaps the ideal way to go about is to steer clear of Super Apps, or integrate different apps together without any monopoly of power. Since technology is growing, maybe it can find a better way to stay organised and better memory space for our smartphones.

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