When I first installed the Twitter for Android app, I checked auto update. That apparently is not a default setting for apps on Android. I don't even know if the iPhone has an auto update feature because I don't use an iPhone. But in any case, sometime in the past ten days Twitter updated its Android app. I hadn't been paying attention and did not know that. One morning I opened Twitter on my phone, like I normally do, and the app was different and better. It was like using a web app. New features, faster, cleaner. It was a great experience and I tweeted about it.
One of the things I love about web apps is they get better all the time without any need to update the software on the user's end. You can approximate that experience by enabling auto update on your mobile apps (at least I know you can do that on Android).
Since I had that experience with Twitter for Android, I've gone back and enabled auto update on all my Android apps. And the experience is fantastic.
I understand why this is not a default feature. If you are on an expensive mobile data plan or if you are roaming, auto updating over mobile data could be expensive. Some people might want to do all of their updating over wifi.
But I do think Android should make it an option for a user to set the default at the OS level and not at the individual app level. Because if you have a mobile data plan that allows affordable over the air auto updating, it's a materially better user experience.
Over time, with the improvments that are coming with HTML5 and improvements that will come in the mobile operating systems, mobile apps will feel more and more like web apps. Until we get there, auto updating is a great way to get that feel with downloadable software.