What are super apps?

Pablo René-Worms
September 9, 2021
 · 
4 minutes
 · 
Vivid Invest

Remember the catchphrase, “There’s an app for that.” from those old Apple commercials? The idea was among the millions of apps available, at least one could help you with whatever you needed.

Online streaming apps let us watch hundreds of shows on the internet. Mobility apps help you go basically anywhere you want to, whenever you want to. You can now even file your taxes with an app, or learn a new language if you feel like it.

However, I’m sure you noticed every single app so far has had a single purpose. But recently, certain apps have started challenging this old model. They’re called super apps, and they’re already very popular in some parts of the world.

The term “super app" was introduced in 2010 by BlackBerry founder Mike Lazaridis and refers to an application that hosts other applications, offering a multitude of services. This model is particularly widespread in China, where companies are seeking to develop the largest possible ecosystem, and is becoming more and more popular in Western countries. The main strength of such an application is that users rely entirely on it for each of their needs.

A very popular model in China

The unquestionable leader in the super app world is China, where super apps such as WeChat or AliPay were created.

These Chinese super apps offer almost everything customers need. For example, the WeChat application, available only in China, was originally a classic social network, allowing only to chat. Today, it serves as a platform for instant messaging, calls, making doctor's appointments, payments, meal delivery, etc and has over 1.2 billion users.

The first pivot from app to super app for WeChat was the launch of WeChat Pay in 2013. WeChat Pay is a "wallet" in WeChat, which allows its users to pay in the app but also in stores thanks to a QR code. This has almost completely replaced cash in China, which was the most common means of payment at the time.

The giant Alibaba also has its own payment platform, Alipay, from which 200,000 mini apps have been created. Around 900 million people use Alipay worldwide, and 230 million use one of its apps every day.

What about western countries?

However, one of the limitations to the development of super apps in the Western world, and especially in the EU, is data privacy. One of the main aspects of the super apps is that they can collect a huge amount of data regarding their users, from their purchase habits to the places they go to, or even the doctors they are consulting. Therefore, this type of application might struggle to comply  with the GDPR or all the laws that concern data collection and privacy treatment. Indeed, the bigger the app, the more important data collection becomes. This data harvesting can be a real brake for Europeans and the western world in general and explains why super apps are not as present in the Western world as they are in the Asia-Pacific region.

So can you export this all-in-one model to western countries? Today, Uber is trying to, in a way. The company offers not only a driver service, but also meal delivery with Ubereats, and car, bike and scooter rentals. In addition, the application is currently developing Uber Transit, allowing the dematerialized sale of bus and subway tickets.

The company seems to want to follow in the footsteps of the Chinese super apps. Given the general trend towards digitalization, we may imagine that Uber might sooner than later offer many other services, as well as the possibility for developers to create mini programs that could be added to the main application.


Financial super apps


What if some companies made it so that you could manage all your finances from the same app? Imagine that you could have, in one app, a current account, a foreign currency account, an account for investing in stocks or another one for investing in crypto-currencies. Maybe you could even rent a car or book a hotel directly from this same application and get a discount.

If you are reading this article, chances are you have an idea of what I am talking about. Yes, the Vivid application is also a super app, specialized in banking and finance. And all the features I just mentioned are available with Vivid. But this is just the beginning. We're working hard to bring you more and more features, to help you invest, make your life easier, and let your money grow. And stay tuned: we have more surprises in store for you.


Any opinions, news, research, analyses, or other information contained on this website are provided as general market commentary, and do not constitute investment advice, recommendations nor should be perceived as (independent) investment research. The author or authors are employed by Vivid and may be privately invested in one or several securities mentioned in an article. Vivid Invest GmbH offers as a tied agent of CM-Equity AG the brokerage of transactions on the purchase and sale of financial instruments with the exception of those in the area of foreign exchange brokered by Vivid Money GmbH.

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