[App Fridays] Can an ‘Instant App Store’ be a long-term success? AppBrowzer’s attempt at competing with GoogleHarshith Mallya
The launch of iPhones and Android phones created a new economy — the app economy — where app developers create applications and services for smartphone users to leverage. In 2015, the app economy surpassed Hollywood in terms of revenue, and it is expected to be worth $101 billion by 2020.
But with over a million apps on both app stores, new and legacy app developers are facing new challenges. Most smartphone users have limited space on their phone, and hence abandon new apps quite quickly. This has given rise to ‘ancillary economies’ for Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) and Instant Apps. Taking notice of this scheme of things, Bengaluru and Singapore-based AppBrowzer aims to combine the best of web and mobile apps with its Instant App Store. Here is this week’s App Friday review.
Story so far
Roid Technologies, the parent company behind AppBrowzer, was founded in October 2015 by Sunny Gurnani and Venkatesh Rao. The startup currently consists of a 12-member team spread across different roles. Sunny, the CEO, is an MBA from Central Queensland University, Australia. He had earlier worked in a Sydney-based software enterprise, and also ran two startups. He recently moved to India and, after realising the pain points that app developers and smartphone users face in juggling different apps, decided to start AppBrowzer.
As an experienced network engineer with tech DNA, bringing with him expertise in Android, Ruby on Rails, Ember.js, Node.js, and Java, Venkatesh is AppBrowzer’s CTO. He worked with an IT infrastructure solutions and services company in Bengaluru before co-founding AppBrowzer.
After about a year of research and development, the AppBrowzer team has figured out a way to make use of the best of both worlds by merging web and native app technologies. Sunny also notes that they are in the process of filing patents for their technology. Talking to YourStory, he says,
We have built a developer platform that can be used to develop rich mobile apps, apps that make use of existing web technologies and render as native apps, in turn providing native experience. AppBrowzer is an Instant Mobile App store, where users can search and use various instant apps.
The aim is to help end users utilise more apps, without having to install and uninstall them. On the developer front, AppBrowzer aims to help developers make instant apps quickly through their SDK, which they aim to launch in a few months.
Revenue model and future plans
AppBrowzer recently closed a $500,000 seed round of funding led by Deepak Gurnani, a Singapore citizen who is a member of the Singapore Angel Network and a full-time investor. On being asked, Sunny confirmed that Deepak is a distant relative of his, but said that since he lived most of his life in Australia, they aren’t very close, having actually met for the first time in a professional context.
AppBrowzer currently has over 1,000 installs, and Sunny states that they aim to open up the platform to developers (SDK) once they cross 30,000 and have enough users on the platform. Talking about how they will earn revenue, he says,
Our revenue will come from both B2C app and B2B developer platforms. Once we launch our business platform and developer SDKs (in a few months), any instant apps built, developed, and hosted will make us money. This is our main revenue stream. We will also provide the full backend for the instant apps built on our platform.
AppBrowzer also aims to function as an affiliate partner and earn revenue from transactions that occur through the platform. The long-term goal, though, is to function as an Instant App Store, akin to Apple and Google’s app stores.
Google also has its own instant apps features, and recently teased at its working through the search bar. Experts believe that Google is slowly turning search into its own version of an instant app store. Talking about the difference between their offering and that of the international tech giant, Sunny says,
Google requires an app to be present on the Google Play Store, and then breaks it up into individual chunks and serves it to users as an instant app. AppBrowzer doesn’t require your app to be present on the Play Store, and we are already live.
On signing up on AppBrowzer for the first time, users will be able to see four main sections — Dashboard, Categories, Explore, and My Apps. Sunny tells YourStory,
Currently, apps listed in our App Store are a mixed bag that can be browsed instantly. They include instant apps built using our platform and a few progressive web apps like Flipkart and Amazon.
While the other sections are self-explanatory, the My Apps tab is a collection of apps that one 'Favourites' and wants easy access to. The AppBrowzer team claims that even 'Favourited' apps are saved on their server, and hence don’t use up a user’s phone space.
However, almost every app on AppBrowzer is listed as an instant app, and there isn’t a clear demarcation between instant apps and PWAs at this stage. Also, currently, users need to sign into each app they access individually. Having a quick sign in feature through Google or Facebook login on AppBrowzer, if feasible, would make signing up easier.
While instant apps could help you save up on space, each app needs to be accessed individually, so unlike native apps, multitasking across different apps isn’t quite possible here at this stage. Also, coming to push notifications, which are one of the most important benefits of native apps, Sunny notes that while AppBrowzer has a push notifications feature enabled, they haven’t rolled it out yet to avoid confusion among users, who might be overwhelmed if all the apps start sending notifications. A possible workaround for this could be sending push notifications for only 'Favourited' apps under the My Apps tab.
On the whole, AppBrowzer is a great attempt at creating a parallel Play Store for instant apps. Google doesn’t officially have an Instant App Store, but is pushing instant apps in its search button. AppBrowzer now faces the task of attaining product-market fit and ushering app junkies and developers onto their platform to create their own instant app ecosystem.