Does the device need an app? I do not believe

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of apps. I’m really. What would we do with our phones if we didn’t have apps? Call people? Fooey! What’s the fun in it? I just don’t think every home appliance we have in our lives deserves a companion app. If it can’t add anything, it’s just digital mess.

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

Somewhere someone said, “Well, we should have an app.”

Someone else started crawling and said, “Yes, of course we should.”

All of these activities happen without thinking about how to add the app to the appliance. That’s what drives me. If there is anything you want to do, think about it. If having an app doesn’t make sense, then don’t. After all, a bad app experience equates to a bad brand experience. In our social media centered world, that’s not a good thing.

What’s the point Really?

I review a lot of home appliances and many of them have a companion app. These apps usually either cause more trouble than they’re worth or they don’t add any real value. Case in point: kitchen appliances. What does an app really do? Most of the time, they can do the following:

Create a custom setting: You know, because the many setting combinations on the washing machine or dryer are simply not enough. If the washing machine can’t do what you want, an app won’t help either. Suppose you want to steam your clothes. If the washing machine doesn’t support this feature, an app won’t be able to magically do it.
Start your device remotely: I have a couple of basic problems with this one. First, the laundry needs to be in the washer or dryer, so someone needs to either load clothes or switch them between units. It’s the same scenario for a dishwasher. Someone has to put dishes in the machine. If someone has to be at the machine anyway, isn’t it easier to press a button on the machine instead of looking for an app on the phone and then telling them to say something to the washer / dryer? Second, how lazy are we? I’ve heard all of the use cases but you’re sitting on the couch watching a show and you just remembered that you had laundry in the machine. You don’t want to have to walk up or down stairs to start a charge when you can do it from your phone. Is that really reason enough for an app? I do not think so. The only time I can even see this scenario from afar is when you have a washing machine that doubles as a dryer, but it probably doesn’t.
Order replacement requirements automatically: For example, let’s say you have a smart fridge that is connected to Google Nest or Alexa compatible devices that can automatically order water filters for you. That’s great, but does the device need its own app if you have to confirm the purchase on a website anyway? On the flip side, if the app can tell you that the refrigerator temperature is rising and all of your food is spoiling, that’s useful information. Most can Fridge apps Do that? Not so much, and they often need to be connected to your home Wi-Fi network for the apps to work. If the power goes out and you don’t have WiFi or a working refrigerator, how do you know your food is going to spoil?

In all of these scenarios, I just want a robot like Rosie von The Jetsonswho can wash and put away the laundry and dishes. No be-bop-boop or touching the app from me. Don’t even get me started with super apps. Why?!

But apps are cool

Sometimes it makes sense to have an app. Consider Robotic vacuum cleaner – If they didn’t come with apps, you wouldn’t be able to create schedules for them or identify no-go zones just by touching the device as they don’t have a touchscreen.

The same idea applies to smart lights – Lights have no interface. They are designed to be screwed into a socket and work with a switch. In 1879 it was quite a “smart” technology … really groundbreaking and life changing. Now lights can do so much more: change colors, sync with music, turn on and off when the outside environment changes, turn on remotely, etc.

It makes sense that you would need an app to do all of these things with the Robovacs or lights, but does it need a separate app? If you’ve got the Google Nest Hub, an Alexa-enabled device, and even Siri products, you probably don’t need another app. There are protocols that engineers can tie in to in order for their products to work with these smart home hubs. This overall experience still has a long way to go, but it is a beginning. In order for it to be magical, it should a. being seamless plug-and-play interaction. This is a discussion for another day.

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

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