Google’s Instant Apps vs. Aspect’s Disposable Apps


Back in late 2014, I introduced you to Aspect’s concept of Disposable Apps for customer service. In a nutshell, these apps are meant to be used in the context of messaging (or voice) conversations between businesses and consumers, to enrich them where needed. In essence, they have the following characteristics:

  • They provide a way to display rich media where basic messaging can only convey text or images, and phone conversations are just about voice
  • They are secure, as the network payload can be encrypted via SSL/HTTPS, and any data exposed inside the app can additionally be hidden behind an authentication step
  • They work across all smartphone platforms through the use of HTML5
  • They are context-aware in that they don’t make the user navigate a menu, but instead deep-link directly into the content that is relevant for the current conversation, such as presenting PHI (like lab results) or collecting PII (like credit card data)
  • They require no download process to be used – they are instantly usable

Probably the most important feature of disposable apps is the fact that they can be secured: this opens up the possibility to embrace SMS for customer care and comply with HIPAA and PCI-DSS security standards when it comes to exposing PHI or PII.

However, the main motivation behind propagating messaging with mobile Web apps as a companion sprang from the observation of “app fatigue” – people growing increasingly tired of having to download apps for every single need and purpose. Or, as analyst Jonathan Libov put it in his excellent post about texting from 2015:

Sure, an app that put the bus on a map would be more rich in information, but when I got to texting Bus Time I thought, “Thank god I don’t need to download another f—— app for this.”

App Fatigue

At Google’s I/O conference in May, they announced a concept that is quite similar in nature to our disposable app concept: Instant Apps. As they write on their blog:

With the web, you can click on a link and land on a web page — it takes one click and just a few seconds. It should be easier for users to access a wider range of apps, and for developers to reach more people.

TechCrunch notes that one in four mobile users only use an app once. They, too, see the benefit of instant apps in the immediate access to the information they hold:

Instead of requiring users to seek out apps, download them and install them, Instant Apps will allow users to launch apps almost immediately, just by clicking a URL.

In essence, while the technical realization is different between Google’s Instant Apps and Aspect’s Disposable Apps, our concepts are about the same: avoid the cumbersome app store download process, and provide richer interaction possibilities on-the-spot, or “just in time”.

It is encouraging to see that we’re on the right track with our thinking, and to see that Google is also recognizing the need to make the process of using rich resources easier for the users. In the customer care space that we’re in, it’s all about customer effort – reduce it, and reap the rewards in the form of customer loyalty. And don’t forget: customer service is the new marketing…