Apps don’t work. They’re a waste of money for most businesses, and an appsolute waste of time.

Strong words. Let me clarify what I mean.

If you develop an iPhone App for your business it will only work on an iPhone. According to Gartner* around 18% of all smart phones sold in 2011 were iPhones.

Put simply, if you develop an iPhone App you will be ignoring 82% of your potential customers. Why would you do that? Similarly, if you developed a Blackberry App it will only work on Blackberry devices (that was around 12% of smart phone sales).

Yup, that means you’d be ignoring 88% of your potential customers. In fact, to reach all of your customers via the App route you’d need to launch five or six Apps – one for each smart phone operating system. An expensive option.

If, however, you develop a mobile version of your website it will work on all smart phones, all operating systems and all internet browsers. So, one mobile website or five or six Apps?

That’s compelling enough, but it’s not the most compelling of all the arguments. Think about how you use your phone to search for information… Where is your first port of call? Is it the App store/market, or is it Google…? Of course it is… Your customers go to Google too. If you’re in the App store you’re not searchable on Google.

If you have a mobile version of your site, not only are you Google searchable, but the chances of a property hunter finding you in a search and then staying on your site when they find it using a mobile phone increases significantly (see my last blog).

There is no point developing something that won’t be found. That’s the big difference between App and Web. People find you on the web – they have to be told to look for you in the App store.

The one perceived advantage that Apps have over web is the ‘loyalty’ factor. Once installed, your App will be used again and again by property hunters. This is, however, only a perception and far from a truth. Apple famously don’t release ‘uninstall’ data.

They’ll tell you how many Apps have been downloaded, but never how many have subsequently been uninstalled. People aren’t as loyal to Apps as the marketing hype would suggest. In fact, unless you’re Amazon, eBay or Facebook etc where you have an account and keep returning again and again, Apps are uninstalled typically within a month.

They use up space on the phone and, for property search, they limit your search options unless you’re a portal like Rightmove (who incidentally have an excellent App but also have an excellent Mobile website).

Some App developers will tell you that the customer traffic on Apps is about equal to the traffic on mobile web, and from the various statistics available that would seem to be about right. However, this is one of those cases of selectively using stats to make a false case.

If you take Facebook and Twitter out of the App traffic (these Apps are pre-installed on most smart phones and we nearly all have a Facebook account!) then the traffic weighting is considerably in favour of the mobile web.

I’m not saying don’t develop Apps. If you have a substantial marketing budget then there may be a case for it.

But first and foremost, make sure you have a mobile website. It’s where your customers will look for your services and that, after all, is the entire point of having a mobile presence in the first place.

*Source: Gartner, Aug 2011

Ian Laverty is sales and marketing director at Intelligent Mobile Ltd


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    hi, I agree, I have developed a simple system where potential buyers text for example 'house 500' to 60999. straight to their phone comes the details on the property along with a link if needed for the webpage with this property. The great thing with this is that the estate agent gets an email with this 'buyer's' mobile number, that's an invaluable lead they would never get if the buyer just searched the internet. also, people often don't 'call' agents and often don't look a property up on the internet when they get home. This captures the lead in the moment! and its free for the agent. Anyhow, this relates to apps in that some agent have said 'that's old technology, people will use qr codes or apps'. your article backs up my technology, only a small percentage of people actually use apps, yet 92% of the population can send an sms!

    • 14 April 2012 10:15 AM
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    “Native apps are a remnant of the Jurassic period of computer history, a local maximum that is holding us back"
    Frog's Creative Director, Scott Jenson also featured in Nett Magazine.
    Possibly a little stronger than I'd have gone - apps have some uses but they're rarely the right answer.

    • 27 March 2012 10:25 AM
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    Hi Carl,

    This was in Net but the figure does exclude Games, Navigation and Social Media apps - which I think is appropriate as they are not the type of apps we're discussing here.

    • 26 March 2012 10:09 AM
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    "Apps are uninstalled typically within a month" - What was your source for this statement?

    • 23 March 2012 10:22 AM