Relevance of Offline-First Mobile Apps

Many of us aware of the fact that we are living in a world of apps. With a tiny device(Mobile) in your hand, you will be able to perform many tasks single-handedly. Be it paying the bill, talking to your manager, attending an important conference call with a new prospect customer, booking a weekend trip with a girlfriend, listening to favourite music and whatnot. All of these things with possible with a simple tiny entity called ‘app’.

Growth of smartphone usage, availability of apps for certain task, penetration and availability of quality internet happened at the same time. Especially without strong internet penetration, growth of smartphone usage should have been limping and availability of apps would also have been very very less. With this strong bondage between apps and the internet, the general expectation is precipitated that apps will work only when there is the internet. So most of the apps adopted that behaviour where the majority of the apps are online-only apps.

In the blog, we discuss in detail the relevance of offline first mobile apps.

Evolution of Mobile Apps

First mobile app

The first mobile app which can communicate

Playstore — App Marketplace

App Explosion and App Everywhere

Internet and apps — Inseparable Bonding

Below diagram depicts the overall internet penetration across the globe. North America and Europe are having maximum coverage.

The major part of Asia and Africa are yet to catch up on internet availability. But these are the regions where a lot of people are living and there is a potential business opportunity if apps work without internet. Even in North America and Europe, there are places where the internet connection is intermittent and the quality of service is not top class. For example, in aeroplanes connectivity is almost not there. But many of the users find free time while travelling. If apps are enabled to work and give quality experience during this time also the users will best companion in the apps.

The current state of apps with no internet

The relevance of offline-first apps

For example, you have project budgeting app that helps your customers to plan project budgeting for their projects. If one of a customer is travelling on an aeroplane and realized that he forgot to add an important cost component for one of the projects. He opens up an app to realize that he can not add anything unless the internet connection is there. This is where you loose on a solid opportunity to give a better customer experience. If your app does not have offline support, then customer has to take note of this cost somewhere so that he will not forget this again and update it in the app when the internet is there. Your app is pushing him to do double the work in the best case. In the worst case, he may even forget this cost component until it creates damage to the project. Customer will be comfortable as long as you allow him to add the data and syncing of data can be done later. The above one is one such example and you can find similar use cases for many of apps that you are involved.

When the apps are working even when internet not readily available and data sync happens based on the availability of the internet then demand for internet will grow in the region where internet services are not there. In this model, apps will drive the growth of the internet. Better Internet will facilitate the consumption of more apps. This way a progressive growth trajectory can be created. This will become a simple and powerful case of complementing growth. African continent and part of the Asian continent provides a beautiful opportunity for this model. ,

On the other side of the spectrum, apps are being deployed not only in mobiles but on a wide variety of devices for a definite or specific need. These devices may or may not have internet but apps should work. Devices will become more powerful as they hold apps which perform defined tasks and apps are smart enough to consume the data from the external world as when the internet connection is available. Some of the devices can be AI-driven devices when we follow this model.


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Originally published at on July 22, 2019.

WalkingTree is an IT software and service provider recognized for its passion for technology.