30 Jul /Mini Apps Are the Future

Posted by Casey Schumacher

Native apps are staples for most smart phone users these days and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. They serve as utilities, communication, and entertainment in our daily lives. Performance, fidelity, and ingenuity in the native app arena have increased tremendously as smart phones become more and more capable. Generally speaking, they’re great, but there is still room for improvement.

The catch with native apps is that they are high-friction. Before you can even begin to use one, you usually have to download and install it, create an account, learn how to use it, etc. Also, depending on the app, they can be quite large and we’re not all using the latest and greatest smart phone with a gazillion gigs of storage. Most of us have had to delete apps just to be able to download new ones. Last, sharing data between different native apps can be difficult. This is starting to be addressed, certain apps that play nice with one another will allow sharing between them but even then it takes several steps just to copy and paste text, send a photo, share a post, etc.

All of these problems are typically avoided on the web, PWAs attempt to solve them and can do so pretty well. But, again, they’re far from perfect and can definitely be improved.

Enter MiniApps. They’re a fairly new type of mobile app. They integrate with native apps but also rely on web tech like Javascript and CSS. They’re small in size, perform well, and you don’t have to install them. They can also be distributed across many different platforms: the web, within native apps, SMS, QR codes, etc. MiniApps will never replace native apps, or the web, or PWAs, but rather bridge the gap between native and web.

Google unveiled their “Instant Apps” in 2017 and they’re becoming widely adopted. Apple followed suit this year with their “App Clips” and Snapchat just unveiled their in-app “Minis” this year as well. This is a trend all business owners should be paying attention to at the very least, if not considering building their own MiniApp.

So, what would you even use a MiniApp for? Scooter sharing is a great example. Let’s say you’re visiting an area that has Lime Scooters, even though in your home town Bird Scooters are more prevalent. These days you’d have to download the Lime App, sign up, add your payment info, etc. And after that you’d return home and probably forget you even had the Lime App on your phone. It’s a cumbersome process just to ride a scooter and the app is a waste of space once you’re done.

With a MiniApp, like Apple’s App Clips for example, you could just scan the QR on the scooter and the App Clip would load almost instantaneously. You could pay for the scooter ride with Apple Pay and be on your way. No more waiting for the full app to download, no more sign up, no more wasted space on your phone.

Rewards programs are another good use case. Do you really need a coffee shop’s whole app on your phone just to keep track of your next free cup of coffee? No way, it’s a glorified punch card. Scanning a QR at the register and firing up a MiniApp is a much better solution.

QR codes aren’t the only way to access MiniApps though. They can be launched via search engines, smart assistants (like Siri), SMS, web browsers, calendar items, and more.

MiniApps aren’t going anywhere, this is a trend you’ll want to get out ahead of. As more and more companies unveil their versions of MiniApps, users will only become more accustomed to using them. It’s only a matter of time before they’re the standard and users expect your business to have them.

Check out some of our other resources in the meantime, you can learn a bit more about Apple’s App Clips here and Snap’s Minis for Snapchat here. If you’re interested in designing and building a MiniApp for your business, we can help. Drop us a line here.