Mini Apps

Demystifying Mini Apps?

In today’s world, emerging technologies are making life easier for users worldwide. In the African region, we are not very familiar with what Mini Apps/programs and Super Apps mean. This article aims to explain what mini-apps are and why they differ from other traditional mobile apps.
Demystifying Mini Apps?

What are Mini Apps?

In today’s world, emerging technologies are making life easier for users worldwide. In the African region, we are unfamiliar with what Mini Apps/programs and Super Apps mean. This article aims to explain what mini-apps are and why they differ from other traditional mobile apps.

The mini-apps and super-apps concept gained currency with the development of WeChat back in the 2010s. Shortly after, many businesses outside of China started implementing their mini-apps. Most business owners in Asia, where this technology is popular, prefer not to incur the cost of developing and maintaining an independent application. Instead, they look for super applications, such as We Chat, Alipay, Gojek, etc., to host and publish their end-to-end products or services. This is because the mini apps have all the functionality that is needed in a normal app to operate in the host app.

In our local setting, take the example of the MPESA app. Inside the MPESA app, a user can access financial services such as M-Shwari, KCB M-PESA, Global Pay, and Global Airtime among others. Users can also access transport and travel services on the same app, such as booking and paying for a Madaraka Express train ticket or a local flight within Kenya. Another service available is booking and making reservations for a movie, or event or paying for an insurance cover. These are just examples of mini-apps hosted within the MPESA app. Have you ever tried using any of these services on your MPESA app?

Mini Apps can then be defined as smaller applications that exist within a bigger application. The host application is then termed the Super app. To explain further, a super app is an ecosystem with a variety of services that are not related, as illustrated above with the MPESA app. Does that make sense now? Some experts claim that mini-apps have 80% of the functionality of a native application but only 20% of the development effort.

Why should businesses care about Mini Apps?

We Chat, the Chinese app under Tencent, officially launched mini apps on January 9th, 2017. Being the pioneer for mini-apps, We Chat set the pace in mobile app innovation. The technology behind it is to pull web view format in the super app and not depend on the type of operating system the super app user is on. This means that the same Mini app can run on the same super app, whether on Android, IOS, or any other mobile operating system. This then makes mini apps cross-platform.

Due to their low file size, roughly 10 MB, these small apps provide a smooth user experience of the service or products. Business owners can leverage the vast number of users on the Super app to get discovered. On the other hand, customers have a seamless experience with various activities such as shopping, payment, order tracking, and more, all within a single application. 
In the case of M-PESA Africa, the business has over 200,000 registered businesses with over 50 million MPESA app users. If you are a business owner who transacts a lot via MPESA, you can see the potential of your business in terms of a new customer base. This upgrade for your business will require developing a mini-app program within the MPESA ecosystem to unlock free access to millions of users. Not sold yet?

Let us take an example of an e-commerce business. This journey takes business owners through various stages. Social media commerce, selling on e-commerce websites such as Jumia, developing an e-commerce website, and developing an e-commerce app. ShopZetu, an e-commerce business on Mpesa Mini Apps, has all these stages except for having an app on the Play Store or App Store. While developing and maintaining an app is expensive, there is a solution to be still visible and sell your products to new or existing customers. The ShopZetu mini app program on the MPESA app provides a stepping stone for the business to adapt to technological infrastructure and helps them navigate the eCommerce environment.

Why should developers care about Mini Apps?

Mini apps revolve around developing small applications that can load on any smartphone, including low-end ones. Compared to traditional apps, Mini Apps have a simpler framework (pre-written code segments) and useful APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), enabling developers to deploy applications quickly within a cost-effective budget. Here are some reasons why developers should be interested in Mini App Development.

  1. Development tools

Any super app host will provide developers comprehensive tools and documentation to create mini-programs efficiently. Unlike native apps, which are platform-specific development, developers can utilize APIs and libraries provided by the super app to build Mini Programs using HTML and CSS specific to the super app Mini Programs.

  1. Speed and Efficiency

The development process is faster than that of native apps, as developers can leverage existing resources and templates. However, developing native apps often requires intricate integrations with external services, leading to potential timeline delays.

  1. Discoverability, Market Reach, and User Base

All super apps, such as MPESA, have a large user base. While native apps will require much collaboration with marketing teams to be discovered, Mini apps are accessible to a larger audience with minimal backend support in case of user influx on a new app. This makes them a cost-effective alternative making it easier for developers to enter the market, reduce time-to-release, gather customer feedback faster, and streamline maintenance processes

Looking for the best way to learn mini-applications and API development in Africa and beyond? Moringa School has partnered with Safaricom and M-PESA Africa for a unique course that will shape the future of mobile applications in Kenya and across Africa. The in-demand skills offered in this course encompass a co-curated curriculum with expert instructors to help you develop and practice technical skills and other essential skills, such as soft skills required to succeed in today’s competitive tech landscape. To learn more about this course visit our website today!