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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Mobile Apps: too many updates

A decade ago, it was a trend that every business house wanted to have a website. Today everyone wants to have a mobile app. Companies are spending lots of money to build and promote their apps and customers are offered incentives to adapt to mobile apps usage. (Indigo is offering free meal if you book through app, flipkart runs App Exclusive sales and so on)

But I have one major concern on the apps- the never ending series of frequent updates. Every few weeks app developers have something new added or some bugs fixed, so I need to upgrade the apps. This gets really annoying when I want to use the app for some quick work but it says ‘you’ve to upgrade now or else you can’t use the app

I do understand that enhancement is a continuous process and apps are no exception. In order to protect against latest security threats, in order to introduce new features, to fix bugs in previous releases etc apps are constantly upgraded. There’re dedicated teams who get paid for this purpose. While upgrades are necessary, my complaint is on their frequency and the way in which they are forced upon me.

If you’re still reading, let us see some examples:

I have a bike and it has two stands- a side stand and a main stand. If say side-stand is damaged, I don’t have to leave everything and rush to service centre immediately. I can continue to use the bike, use main stand to park and go to service centre to fix the side stand when I feel convenient.

Except few, most of the apps in my phone are not used that frequently. I open them only once in a while and every-time I open them, they want me to upgrade, then & there. Sometime last year, I wanted to try Uber, [Uber experience here]but the App was forcing me to do a 11MB upgrade even before telling me if there’re any cabs around. I didn’t have the time & patience to finish this download, upgrade and then book. I ignored the app and hailed an auto.

Now take example of a car booking app. It has multiple modules, such as
  • ·         Login, User profile maintenance
  • ·         Check cab availability
  • ·         Book a cab & pay
  • ·         Modify, cancel bookings
Now, let us assume that Book a cab & pay section has some bugs or security vulnerability that needs fixed. When that is fixed, I need to upgrade the entire app. Assume my need is only to check if a cab is available. But the moment I open the app, it forces me to upgrade. I don’t know what extra I will get after upgrade and why should I waste some time and bandwidth to do this upgrade. In my opinion, App should allow me to check availability and prompt me to upgrade only when I try booking.

I wanted to check on zoomcar app if cars are available- even that was forcing me for an upgrade. If I have to spend 10 minutes to upgrade the app to finish 1 min work, I find it more convenient to ignore the upgrade and finish my work either using the website or phone (or competition). This is like saying “Service your car regularly so that you will get good fuel economy”. It costs 5-10k to service a car. The difference in fuel economy, before and after servicing, if any will NEVER be more than the money spent on servicing. Yes, servicing at regular interval is required, but saying “service your car to increase fuel economy” is a bad advise.

Some apps like WhatsApp give a notice before enforcing an upgrade. Users need not upgrade instantly- they can upgrade little later at their convenience. Few other apps like Gmail never prompt me to upgrade. I think they upgrade in the background silently without bothering the user.

Google chrome app tells me there’s a better version available, but I am free to use current version.

May be you won't agree with me, but it is like Windows XP mentality. Yes, there could be improved versions of Windows, but since XP works perfectly fine for me, I don't want to keep upgrading every few years to another OS.

I didn’t buy a smartphone to have fun upgrading apps every morning. Apps should work when I want them to, without enforcing a heavy upgrade. Even if I upgrade now, there is no guarantee that it will continue to work without upgrades for another month. Next week there could be another update. I do have some work other than keep updating the apps. Android does allow a setting where you can enable auto upgrade, which is convenient, but eats up your data usage, slows down the phone.

So here’s my advise to app developers and app owners:
  • 1.       Reduce the number of upgrades. You may be passionate about your app but your users don’t fancy having to upgrade every other week. They just want to finish their work and move on.
  • 2.       Give advance warnings when an upgrade is coming up. Allow users to use the older versions for sometime, even after new version is released. Retain backward compatibility as much as possible.
  • 3.       Ask yourself: What if user is in a hurry and not keen to upgrade then and there? What options can you give him/her? His/her only option is to either upgrade n use or Don’t use at all? Provide some alternatives.
What are your thoughts? Do you enjoy frequent upgrades? How often do you keep updating the apps?

Similar: Mobile Banking Apps- Suggested feature 

7 comments :

Anonymous said...

Hi. Excellent point you got there. It seems these days apps get updates almost as often as my anti virus's database.

Apps that lock you out from using them until they are updated are the worst - if I'm travelling and don't have a 3G signal, it might take hours for it to download the update, which has some new feature that I'm not too thrilled about. The best way to handle such situation is to set apps to automatically update only when connected to WiFi.

Destination Infinity said...

With so many apps around, the concept of downloading apps is redundant. They should develop special URLs for apps and we should be able to use them from the cloud. Wonder why mobile platforms are not moving in that direction. I certainly don't want hundreds of apps (I don't use) on my mobile.

Destination Infinity

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Anon: Thanks and fully agree

@DI: cloud may not be viable we may not be connected all the time. Most apps are offline+online. It also means more data usage. But that could be the future.

Shreya at Jumbodium said...

Fully agree with the facts. Thank u for the share.

Dhananjay said...

Do you have any view on Android 4.4 version restriction of installing apps or moving of apps to SD card. Where 4.2 was comfortable we could have easily transfer the app to SD card it is not possible in the case of 4.4 we need to depend on only internal memory of the mobile manufacture usually it is not sufficient to have required number of apps.

prasad np said...

Shrinidhi: You bring a very important discussion to forefront. I too dislike frequent updates, specially of the apps I rarely use and they came with the phone pre-installed. Plus it is a drag on my data plan to

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Prasad: THanks for the support

@Dhananjay: I didn't notice the SD card aspect. Thanks.

@Shreya: Thanks