What the “app unbundling” mobile strategy means for consumer brands

Connor Mason
  • Connor Mason
  • January 28, 2015
What the “app unbundling” mobile strategy means for consumer brands

Many of the technology industry’s largest developers—from this parties like Foursquare and Facebook to OS stewards like Apple and Google—have begun “unbundling” their apps’ core functions into smaller single-purpose apps. The trend allows their offerings to better address a wider range of user needs—but should brand marketers explore similar approaches for their apps?

“Unbundling” helps mobile app developers address a wider range of user needs.

Because it helps meet the individual needs of as many users as possible, the unbundling trend shows no signs of slowing down. It began in the early days of iOS, when Apple unbundled the contacts manager from the dialer into two independent apps—Phone and Contacts. The trend accelerated on iOS, spawning individual apps for Videos, Podcasts, and FaceTime over the years.

Third-party developers quickly followed suit. By offering a fleet of smaller apps that break up core service features into one-off downloads, companies like Facebook can better connect with audiences who prefer Messenger but may be hesitant to download the full Facebook experience. For users who enjoy Foursquare’s restaurant recommendations but have no interest checking into their visits, the company offers two experiences: one being their flagship Foursquare app and, the other, a single-purpose Swarm social network.


Users might hesitate to download large apps that have more features than they can reasonably use.

For consumer brands, some industry verticals lend themselves to consolidation and others to fragmentation. For example, users might bristle at the prospect of downloading three apps to manage their bank account. However, users might welcome independent apps for certain distinct use cases: one for checking their balances, one for sending money to a nearby friend, and so on.

The decision to unbundle versus consolidate has no simple answer, but instead comes down to understanding audience preferences. Thorough user research and analytics will identify user trends throughout a singular app, and identify audience segments or personas who prefer individual features above others. Perhaps 40% of app users only make use of a secondary feature, and have no interest in the app’s primary intention. For those customers, a second “unbundled” experience might simplify their daily workflows and enhance their experience with the brand.

This strategy overlaps slightly with affinity apps, but certainly shares similar intentions. Connecting with users on their terms as often as possible helps develop a stronger audience relationship on mobile, and reinforces the customers’ desire to interact with your brand more frequently from their home screens.


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