In a delightfully non-intuitive move, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is shutting down its Google Shopper app even as it sees sharply increasing dollars funneled through mobile purchases and searches. But is it so non-intuitive? Or is it more an acknowledgement of the maturity of mobile, to the point that an app for something as generic as shopping comparison is no longer needed or even advantageous?
One key reason is the popularity of Google's all-purpose mobile search app. Given that app's ability to handle product price comparisons—and 100 other functions—what is the rationale for downloading and using a separate Google mobile app? Beyond being simpler given that the generic app is already installed on so many devices, Google Shopping VP Sameer Samat said that his team is pushing uniformity.
"We want to focus our efforts on Google Shopping and Google Search, to create a better, more consistent shopping experience across all devices," he wrote on a Google blog. "To help us focus on that goal, we'll be shutting down the standalone Google Shopper app on August 30."
Consistency is critical for speed, which delivers convenience, which delivers clicks. One of the most compelling parts of Google's generic mobile app is its voice-recognition, which is not only fast, but it's still far more accurate than Apple's Siri. (I have personally found that on an iPhone5, the Google voice function is not a gimmick as much as a truly faster way to search.)
Google Shopper is not the only specialized Google app being shelved. TechCrunch is reporting that "the Google+ Local app has disappeared from the App Store a few weeks ahead of its planned shutdown."
This does raise an interesting question. In the earliest days of mobile, apps made sense as the more controlling GUI made it easier for people unfamiliar with mobile activity. That still makes sense for an app doing complex things that don't lend themselves to fitting within the default mobile browser. But Google may indeed have a point that the app-versus-mobile browser content debate should be reexamined, in the context of an August 2013 shopper.
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