App-less AR: beyond the barriers of native apps
Let’s do the math: AR experiences are designed to only last for 1 or 2 minutes, but they require, on average, about 2 minutes and 15 clicks to download. Is it worth it? Perhaps. But can’t you create more value by cutting down the time and clicks for installation? Definitely. There’s good news: app-less AR integrations are already here. Time for a concise overview of these app-less alternatives, along with their pros and cons.
Before diving into the app-less AR possibilities, we need to talk about the ‘classic’ first: native AR apps. To develop these you could either work on iOS via ARKit or on Android via ARcore. Most of the time, however, developers use engines like Unity or Unreal Engine to work in a hybrid way as these engines compile for both platforms while only having one codebase. It speeds up development and contains a lot of extra bells and whistles to enhance the AR experience.
A native app gives you the most options and features but is more time-consuming (read: more expensive). Moreover, downloading an extra app can be a major sticking point for users. Hurdles like going to the app store, worrying about security issues or going through too many clicks can be demotivating. These hurdles or barriers, however, can be overcome by other, clever options.
App-less AR alternatives
1. AR Viewers
Let’s talk about the app-less AR alternatives. The first on our list: native AR Viewers. Both Apple and Google have options where you can use the native power of your device without downloading an entire app. For Apple, it’s called AR Quick Look, whereas Google coined the term Scene Viewer.
Both have a functionality where the user can click on a certain object and instantly open an AR version, which you can place and view in your environment. The biggest plus? You don’t need to download an app first. It comes straight out of the box with each Android or iOS device that supports AR. The only cost for developers lies in optimising their 3D assets. The downsides? The functionality is rather limited and not as enriched as native apps.
Other options that use native technology combined with the easy-accessible web applications are Apple’s App Clips and Google’s Instant Apps. These nifty little applications allow your customers to experience a small part of a native AR app without the hassle of downloading anything.
The mini-apps don’t need to be installed and automatically disappear after a certain time. The other side of the coin is that these mini-apps don’t have all the functionalities of a completely native app, but only give access to smaller tasks (like looking at a menu, but not being able to make a reservation).
Do you want to experience AR through your browser, fully functional and without downloading requirements? Then WebAR is the way to go. Going this route requires a different set of developer skills, but platforms like 8thWall or Zappar tend to ease the process for your regular web developer.
The advantage of using the web is undoubtedly the accessibility. Your audience doesn’t need to download anything. They can use the AR functionality right away and enjoy their augmented experience on their browser. The catch here is the lack of processing power in comparison to fully native apps. WebAR experiences are more basic and limited and they need a bit more creativity to be as effective as native apps.
4. Social filters
To conclude our list, we’d like to give an honourable mention to social filters. You know these funny visual effects from Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. This also is a form of AR that’s widely used and very accessible. Its lifespan is very short, so most of the time they are used for marketing purposes and campaigns. Functionality is rather limited, but it is quite impressive what people come up with these days. These filters can be linked to social media pages and can contain CTAs. In a way, it’s also a form of app-less AR, but as you need a social media app installed, it is kind of an outsider on this list.
So how to pick the most appropriate AR option for your business challenge? It’s a good start to look at how they relate to each other. We mapped this out in two matrices. The first one comparing cost vs. functionality and the second one comparing cost vs. friction. Of course, there are a lot of other factors in play, but it gives you an idea of what to expect when picking your AR integration.
Cost vs. Functionality
The option of offering the highest functionality is also the most expensive one: a native app. Going app-less, the WebAR applications follow closely but have limited functionality to offer. The next three options come with a smaller price tag, but what you win in cost, you lose in functionality. The biggest cost for social filters, AR quick look and Scene Viewer is creating the content itself. App Clips and Instant Apps offer more functionality, but then again: the more requirements, the higher the cost.
Cost vs. Friction
When we look at the next graph, three options pop out immediately: the AR viewers, mini-apps and of course WebAR. None of these options require any installation of an app. They can simply be opened via a URL or by scanning a QR code. The other options, native apps and social filters do require installing an app, which naturally causes more friction.
AR is becoming more and more available for companies to use in their digital strategy. There are options out there for all budgets and every challenge. Looking into the future, we will steadily evolve towards easily accessible apps that are triggered by scanning a QR code of some sort. When smart glasses arrive, mini-apps will boom like never before to easily provide users with valuable information and functionality, without the barriers of native apps. The future of AR will certainly be more frictionless.
Make the right choice
Picking the right AR option always starts with understanding your challenge thoroughly. What do you want to achieve using AR? How important is visual quality? What’s your budget? If you’re struggling to find the right choice, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Got your AR senses tingling by now? Don’t wait to quench your thirst. Discover how the widespread LiDAR scanners can uncover new potential in your company, watch how we used AR for SMEG or simply calculate how AR can benefit your business.