Over 1 billion smartphones and 179 billion mobile applications downloaded per year, mobile development is certainly one of the innovative and actively growing sector. The mobile application market is arguably dominated by Google apps (Gmail, Maps, Search), Social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube) and Gaming apps (Angry birds, Temple Run). Giants like Walmart, Bank of America and Amazon are using mobile applications for branding, improving customer engagement, direct marketing etc. Small and midsize businesses are also following the mobile trend. Ultimately an effective mobile strategy involves more than just a mobile-friendly website. Mobile application development is driven by advancements in technology which requires businesses to have a vision for next few years. Below are some of the trends which will determine the future of mobile application development.
1. Wearable devices
According to IDC, 101.9 million wearable devices were shipped in 2016, up by a strong 29 percent from the 79 million units shipped in 2015. Smart wearables like the Apple Watch and Microsoft’s Hololens shows an upcoming change in computing and the transition from basic to smart wearables. This opens up new opportunities for vendors, app developers, and accessory makers. The smartphone will become the hub of a personal-area network consisting of wearable gadgets such as on-body healthcare sensors, smart jewellery, smart watches, display devices (like Google Glass) and a variety of sensors embedded in clothes and shoes. These gadgets will communicate with mobile applications to deliver information in new ways. And will enable a wide range of products and services in areas such as sport, fitness, fashion, hobbies and healthcare. Thus, wearable devices connected with smartphones will influence the next generation of mobile application development strategies.
2. Internet of Things and Mobile-connected Smart Objects
Gartner says there will be 26 billion connected devices by 2020 which includes several hundred smart objects such as LED light bulbs, toys, domestic appliances, sports equipment, medical devices and controllable power sockets etc. These domestic smart objects will be a part of the Internet of Things and will communicate through an App on a smartphone or tablet. Smartphones and tablets will act as remote controls, displaying and analyzing information, interfacing with social networks to monitor “things” that can tweet or post, paying for subscription services, ordering replacement consumables and updating object firmware. Established companies such as Microsoft, with its Intelligent Systems Service, and enterprise software vendors likes SAP, with its Internet of Things Solutions, are also adding Internet of Things capabilities to their offerings.
Currently RiotOS and Thingsquare Mist are software technologies and RFID, WiFi, EnOcean etc are communication technologies used for IoT. Google has two projects Nest and Brillo specifically targeting IoT. Nest develops home automation products- smoke alarm, camera, and thermostat, whereas Brillo is an IoT operating system which supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy, and other Android things. Apple recently launched some products of ‘Homekit’ that will enable you to have wireless and electronic control of your household appliances. The products include light dimmers, air monitors, a thermostat, and an entire smart home hub which can be controlled through apps and Siri, allowing homes to be automated by voice command. On the similar lines, Amazon launched ‘Amazon Echo’ which is a voice command device for answering questions, playing music and controlling smart devices. A comprehensive list of technologies driving IoT can be found at the Postscapes labs.
Various analysts believe positive trend in mobile purchases will continue over the next 4 years as more and more consumers adapt to m-commerce. Increasing popularity of Apple Pay and Google Wallet will facilitate purchases using the mobile phones instead of debit or credit cards. This will require developers to build a mobile application that can process transactions without the need of physical debit/credit cards or cash. Coupled with wearables that can process payments m-commerce will take a different shape. Beyond data collection and predictive analytics, wearables will also play a key role in the future of mobile payments and customer loyalty.
4. Motion and Location Sensing
Most mobile phones have location sensor capabilities which use multiple positioning methods to provide different granularities of location data. Knowing an individual’s location to within a few meters is useful for providing highly relevant contextual information and services. Motion sensing apps are used in security, anti-theft, power-saving and games. Location sensing is useful in Geotagging, Games, Vehicle navigation, and fitness apps. Apps exploiting precise indoor location currently use technologies such as Wi-Fi, imaging, ultrasonic beacons, and geomagnetic. In the longer run technologies such as smart lighting will also become important. Precise indoor location sensing, combined with mobile applications, will enable a new generation of extremely personalized services and information.
5. Innovative Mobile User Experience Design
Effective display of data and content on your mobile user interface is important for a sound user experience. Successful mobile application companies, such as Houzz, Instagram, Pinterest, and Wunderlist, have developed new patterns depicting intuitive designs and interactive interfaces. Designers are also creating apps that can accommodate mobile challenges, such as partial user attention and interruption. Apps should exploit technologies with novel features such as interactive content layers, circular design pattern, cards and manipulation of content. These features create an “augmented reality” by allowing the users to interact with the content in further detail. Leading consumer apps are setting high standards for user interface design, and all organizations must master new skills and work with new partners to meet growing user expectations.
6. Application Performance Management (APM)
There are two factors which lead to performance bottlenecks in app testing i.e. diversity of mobile devices and the non-deterministic nature of mobile networks. But mobile metrics and monitoring tools collectively known as Application Performance Management (APM) has improved the testing and quality assurance. APM provides visibility into app behavior, delivers statistics about which devices and OSs are adopted, and monitors user behavior to determine which app features are being successfully exploited. With the application landscape and enterprise infrastructures shifting to the cloud, APM tools face increased challenges to provide real performance benefits across systems with virtual perimeters. Modern enterprises require robust tools that can monitor resources used by applications, correlate that data with meaningful user insights, and align performance with business processes.
7. Enterprise mobile management
Enterprise mobile management (EMM) is a set of people, processes, and technology using mobile computing for streamlining businesses. The main dimensions of EMM are security, application management, and financial management. It also includes mobile device management, mobile application management, application wrapping and containerization, and some elements of enterprise file synchronization and sharing. Such tools will mature, grow in scope and eventually address a wide range of mobile management needs across all popular Operating Systems on smartphones, tablets, and PCs. Thus, EMM represents the future evolution and convergence of several mobile management, security, and support technologies.
We cannot deny that mobile applications have become an integral element of the digital ecosystem. The skills required in building consumer apps are in greater demand than ever now compelling businesses to take mobility seriously. Businesses should keep an eye on these trends to align their mobile application development strategies.