Trend Alert: Super apps

Trend Alert introduces you to the latest brands, products and services that are trending with 16-24s.

The days of having an app for everything are numbered. Asia’s leading tech companies are competing to own the ultimate “super app,” and it’s becoming clear that their Western counterparts also have their eyes on the prize. The winner could determine which tech giant, and therefore which global superpower, takes control of our digital lives.

Earlier this year, Facebook revealed their plans to merge their messaging systems across WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger. Facebook is also amping up their Groups strategy to compete with Reddit, while Instagram aims to take on YouTube with IGTV, and to enable users to make purchases without leaving the app via their Shopping functionality. Meanwhile, Google is making more tasks available within the Google Maps app, from hailing a taxi to finding a place for dinner. What was once a simply functional product now has an increased focus on discovery, and has become a valuable place for businesses to attract new customers.

While these trends show that the US tech industry leaders recognise the value of keeping users on their apps, they are far behind Asia in this pursuit. If you’ve ever struggled to understand what Chinese apps like WeChat and Meituan actually do, that’s because the answer is basically “everything.” For example, WeChat started out as a messaging app, but as it grew, its owner Tencent integrated services from digital payments and file sharing, to ride hailing and online shopping. You could say this app is WhatsApp, Dropbox, Uber and Amazon, all in one.

The benefit for the tech companies is clear: this strategy enables them to collect more data, grow their user base, and reduce the risk of new startups challenging their business. However, for the user, there are good and bad sides to this trend. It’s always useful to have a way to save on phone storage, leaving us more room to store things like photos and videos. It also reduces the need to sign up to so many apps, therefore giving our personal details to fewer companies. But this also means that we’re allowing the tech leaders to amass huge amounts of data on every aspect of our lives, making the threat of a security leak more concerning than ever.

As 2019 continues, we’ll be following with interest as Google and Facebook look to confirm their place as the top dogs in tech, and as their Asian equivalents attempt to turn their local success global. Chinese social media app Tik Tok’s speedy rise to Gen Z obsession is a sign that it could happen sooner than you might expect.

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