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There is a trend in which several smartphone apps are splitting into 2 distinctive apps. Facebook with messanger and Foursquare with Swarm. Why are they segmenting the offer and why now users need to swift from one app to another in order to use the platforms?

It is all about apps

The world is evolving around apps. There is an app for almost everything. In average each smartphone user has 30 apps installed. And they use between 3 to 6 of them everyday. Rom your favorite news to weather forecast, social media, email or preferred chat app, our lives are shaped on thr usage of apps. And we can see the exponential usage of apps by looking into the number of downloads from the different app stores. According to, Apple’s App store got in 2013 40 billion downloads. This means that every second, the IOS app store gets 1’200 downloads. End of June 2014 they are already at 60 billion. So in one year they will more than double.
Techcrunch reports that Google Play store has 45% more downloads than Apple’s app store. Nevertheless Apple has a comfortable higher level of income from the apps download than Google. In deed, we know Apple users are more premium and business than Google Android.


Apps segmentation, a strategic reality

Why should app developers segment their offer? Why should they propose several apps rather than one? There are several reasons for that and most of them are about strategy and ROI. By segmenting their offer, apps developers are able to distinguish which functionalities performs the best and they are able to bring much more focus on them. So rather than having an average app with different features, developers focus more into Customer experience by bringing segmentation. When we know that 52% of total digital time spent per user in the USA is spent in apps, we can see the importance.
So rather than providing one global app that would make everything, like a Swiss Army Knife, users will have a few apps, each one specialized in one main functionality. This also allows developers to stop creating apps that nobody would download and use, and focus on the ones which ROI is higher.

Facebook, 3 apps and nothing less


One first interesting example is Facebook. At the beginning, there was only one app called Facebook. It was a simple copy of the mobile version of the website. The app would allow you to manage most of the functionalities in one place. Of course because of simplicity matters, the app would not propose too many features per each function.
The more people would get experts in Facebook, the more the need increased. So Facebook started doing customer segmentation in order to optimize the tools. They realized they could split the initial app in 3 different main apps. The first one that would more or less be the evolution of the initial app. It is for people who mostly check their newsfeed, likes and comments. Then there was a strategic move to Messenger. It was supposed to be the what’s up killer by providing and extended experience via our Facebook profile. Facebook also wished to make sure that the “messenger user” would get the best experience.
Final but not least: Pages. This is a completely different approach towards a different type of users. Pages will help you manage your Facebook fan pages and definitely it is not for everyone. Instead of complexifying the “normal user” app with professional page features like promotion or moderation, Facebook decided to split. This is a great move as you can keep things separated.

Foursquare, split in 2 is better for the strategy


The second interesting example is Foursquare. It is a completely different approach and everything was planed since day one. After having one single app during the first years, now Foursquare has 2 apps, one redesigned Foursquare app without the check-in function and a new app called Swarm for the checkins.
As you might imagine, the goal of Foursquare was not to have a great Check-in button. Not at all. Their aim is to have an extraordinary worldwide database of places curated by people. So Foursquare secret plan was to compete against Yelp! But in order to gather the database, they needed to find a great way to allow people to fill in the information. And that’s when the check-in button enters the story. By allowing and motivating people to check-in everywhere, Foursquare has gathered a huge database of places. So now they do not need you anymore to check-in. First they have already a lot of data and second, technology evolution allows now Foursquare to see where you are and when without asking you. It is the magic of Geo-localization.
So now that they do not need the check-in button anymore, they can focus on the places guide. That’s why they redesigned their app. In the main app you can see places around you, in which you have beed and that others have been. So they are definitely competing with Yelp.
They created a second app called Swarm. It has all the check-in functionalities and allows to keep feeding the database with updates. We are not sure how long it will last.

The New York Times, an ecosystem of apps


An amazing example of apps segmentation would be the New York times. In order to provide the best experience to the end user, the New York times developed a series of apps related to different themes and topics. We would note:
– The National and International breaking news: this is the digital app of the newspaper.
– The Scoop: a clever guide to New York by the editorial team of the New York times.
– The New York Times Crosswords: as the name says, this app features the crosswords from the daily newspaper.
– The New York Times Real Estate: a specialized and dedicated app about the real estate market with very interactive features.
– NYT Now!: features the picks of the day, so you get the essentiality of daily news picked up by the New York Times.
– NYT Opinions: this app shows the most important opinions of the New York Times most influential columnists. It also curates opinions from columnists around the world.
So as you can see, app segmentation is the new deal. A recent study done by Comscore showed that app downloads tend to decrease among established smartphone users. In deed, once you have your apps, you tend to use always the same one. Once you have your preferred weather app, why should you download 10 others? So the fight is won by one champion out of thousands.
For the publishers it also allow them to generate more advertising revenue as they multiply opportunities for advertisers. So at the end we do not really know if the advantage of app segmentation is on the user side or on the publisher. Only the future will tell.


Info sourced at Apple app store, Google Play, Comscore, Techcrunch, Mashable and Foursquare blog. All content is copyrighted with no reproduction rights available.