What Is a Superapp?

September 28, 2022

Contributor: Lori Perri

Enterprises take note: Superapps can consolidate and replace multiple apps for customer or employee use and support a composable business ecosystem.

A superapp is like a Swiss army knife — with a range of component tools (miniapps) that the user can use and remove as needed. Superapps are trending because users, especially the younger generation born in the age of smartphones, demand mobile-first experiences that are powerful and easy to use. 

“We also see superapps gaining interest from forward-thinking organizations,” says Jason Wong, Distinguished VP Analyst at Gartner. “Those orgs embrace composable application and architecture strategies to power new digital business opportunities in their industries or adjacent markets.”

Gartner expects that by 2027, more than 50% of the global population will be daily active users of multiple superapps. The superapp concept will also expand to include enterprise mobile and desktop experiences, such as workflow, collaboration and messaging platforms.

What superapps offer

A superapp, super app or super-app is an application that provides end users (customers, partners or employees) with a set of core features plus access to independently created miniapps. The superapp is built as a platform to deliver a miniapps ecosystem that users can choose from to activate for consistent and personalized app experiences.

There is no separate app store or marketplace for miniapps. They are discovered and activated by the superapp users, and once used, they can also be easily removed from the user interface.

Superapps run on a platform that provides numerous, commonly used app services, such as messaging and payment. Superapp users can create personalized user experiences (UXs) by selecting and installing their chosen miniapps (focused on performing a single task). Superapps will eventually expand to support chatbots, Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and immersive experiences like the metaverse.


How superapps work

Users access a range of discrete services through an ecosystem for which internal development teams and external partners build and deploy modular microapps to the superapp. This provider ecosystem also amplifies the superapp’s value by providing convenient access to a broader range of services within the app.

A number of technology vendors already provide tools and platforms that help software engineering leaders build superapps.

Examples include:

  • Platform as a service (PaaS) vendors providing a cloud platform solution

  • Front-end frameworks enabling deployment of miniapps in web and mobile apps

  • Multiexperience (MX) development platforms

  • Low-code application platforms (LCAPs)

  • Development services providers

Users can customize their superapp experience by selecting the miniapp they want to use when they need it in the superapp. The key is data sharing and includes simple user authentication, such as single sign-on (SSO) and tracking user preferences or app usage.

What superapps are used for

Superapps are often created for customers to consolidate services, features and functions of multiple mobile apps into a single app — such as financial services. 

Software engineering leaders also build superapps to provide a more engaging experience for their employees. These superapps can help achieve economies of scale and leverage the network effect of a larger user base and multiple miniapp teams. Most importantly, they can improve the UX by enabling users to activate their own toolboxes of miniapps and services.


The potential obstacles 

  • Creating the business ecosystem can become a bigger challenge than technology implementation. 

  • Different users prefer to interact differently with apps; therefore, getting the design of a superapp right for the audience, along with having consistency of the miniapps published to the superapp, may impact adoption and retention.

In short:

  • A superapp is the front end of a platform into which internal developers and third-party providers can publish miniapps (or miniprograms) for users to activate as needed.

  • The core app, though, has functionality of its own. 

  • Superapps can replace multiple apps for customer or employee use and support a composable business ecosystem for enterprises.

This article has been updated since its original publication in August 2022 to reflect new events, conditions and research.

Jason Wong is a Distinguished VP, Analyst on the Software Design and Development team helping CIOs, IT, Application and Software Engineering Leaders. His research focuses on enterprise strategies for "total experience", low-code platforms, citizen development, mobile apps, progressive web apps and multiexperience development.

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