Does this device really need an app? I do not think so



Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of apps. I am really. What would we do with our phones if we didn’t have apps? Call people? Fooey! What is fun about it? I just don’t believe that every household appliance we have in our life deserves a companion app. If he can’t add something, then it’s just digital clutter.

What I’m not a fan of is pointless crap, and so many apps are afterthought.

Someone said somewhere, “Well, we should have an app. “

Someone else started to scramble and said, “Yeah sure we should. “

All of these activities take place without worrying about how the app will add to the appliance. This is what keeps me going. If you’re going to do something, think about it. If having an app doesn’t make sense, then don’t. After all, a bad app experience equals a bad branding experience. In our social media centric world, that’s not a good thing.

What purpose? Oh good?

I review a lot of home appliances and a lot of them come with an app. These apps usually cause more problems than they are worth or add no real value. Example: kitchen appliances. What does having an app really add? Most of the time, they can do the following:

  • Create a custom setting: You know this, because the multiple combinations of settings on the washer or dryer just aren’t enough. If the washing machine can’t do what you want, an app won’t help. For example, let’s say you want to steam your clothes. If the washer doesn’t support this feature, an app can’t magically make this happen.
  • Start your device remotely: I have some basic issues with this one. First, there must be laundry in the washer or dryer, so someone has to either load the clothes or switch them between units. It’s the same scenario for a dishwasher. Someone needs to put dishes in the machine. If a person needs to be at the device anyway, doesn’t it seem easier to press a button on the machine instead of looking for an app on your phone and then telling them to say in the washer / dryer to do something? Second, how lazy are we? I’ve heard all the use cases, but you’re on the couch watching a show and just remembered you have laundry in the machine. You don’t want to have to go up or down stairs to start a charge when you can do it from your phone. Is this really reason enough to have an app? I do not think so. The only time I can even see this scenario working remotely is if you have a washing machine that’s also a dryer, but it probably doesn’t.
  • Automatically order replacement supplies: Say you have a smart fridge that’s connected to Google Nest or Alexa-enabled devices, and it can automatically order water filters for you. That’s fine, but does the device need its own app when you need to confirm the purchase on a website anyway? On the other hand, if the app can tell you that the fridge temperature is rising and all of your food is about to go bad, then that’s useful information. Can most refrigerator apps do this? Not so much, and they often need to be connected to your home Wi-Fi network for apps to work. If the power goes out and you don’t have a working Wi-Fi or refrigerator, how will you know the food is about to spoil?

In all of these scenarios, the only ‘smart’ thing I want is a robot like Rosie from. The Jetsons, who can do laundry and dishes and put them away. No be-bop-boop or application touch on my part. Don’t even get me started on great apps. Why?!

But the apps are cool

Sometimes it makes sense to have an app. Consider robot vacuums: if they don’t come with apps, you can’t create programs for them or identify no-go areas just by touching the device because they don’t have a touchscreen.

The same idea goes for smart lights: lights don’t have an interface. They were designed to screw into a socket and work with a switch. In 1879, it was pretty “smart” technology… truly revolutionary and life-changing. Now, lights can do much more: change colors, synchronize with music, turn on and off according to changes in the outside environment, turn on remotely, etc.

It makes sense that you would need an app to do any of these things with robovacs or lights, but does it need a separate app? If you have Google Nest Hub, an Alexa-enabled device, and even Siri products, you probably don’t need another app. There are protocols engineers can partner with to operate their products with these smart home hubs. This global experience still has a way to go, but it’s a start. For it to be magical, it has to be a seamless plug-and-play interaction. It’s a discussion for another day.

The point is, apps shouldn’t make us lazier than we already are. They should add to the experience or put the whole interaction on steroids – otherwise it’s just another thing clogging up our phones.

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