What Does the Future Look Like for App Developers

Here’s my latest post which appeared first on Simple Programmer.

Every year, there are new trends in technology that influence the types of apps that are created and that influence the technologies consumers are introduced to, start using, grow to love, and then are so deeply ingrained into their daily actions that they just get on with.

Since the introduction of the iPhone in 2008 and the App Store in 2009, there have been a number of trends that have made our apps more intuitive, supportive of our daily actions, and powerful in becoming a tool to companies for direct communication with their users.

As app developers, it’s in your best interest to stay informed of these trends in order to integrate them into your latest projects.

As there is so much competition within app development, choosing to go down the agency route and building apps for clients may be a revenue stream you’re considering. Being in the know of the latest trends could give you an edge over your agency competition or make your app stand out among the many others on the app stores. It just depends on how you want to utilize this knowledge to your advantage.

Trends Lead to Features: 2019 App Trends

The trends that we see rising lead to the development of features within your apps that can be offered as an add-on service or a specialism of your company.

Through this post, I discuss the trends in app development that we have seen surfacing or growing during 2019 so far. I hope that it gives you a good base to begin your research into these new trends and help you decide whether you’ll choose to use one or more within your apps.

VR/AR

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies have been around for years. For mobile apps, VR is still only grabbing a small percentage of users in the consumer space, unlike in the enterprise sector where adoption seems to be growing steadily.

The consumer space for VR is being led solely by the games industry with PlayStation VR (PSVR) being a major factor. Enterprise customers are mainly utilizing VR tech for training and learning, as there are important benefits in this choice.

These include the massive decrease in cost to train an individual as well as being location-agnostic in some instances. Such benefits can be a major selling point to companies needing to train hundreds of employees.

Since the release of the Oculus Quest in April 2019, there has been chatter that this latest standalone headset from Facebook would change the game in the consumer space, but it hasn’t yet been proven.

AR has been more widely adopted by consumers because of the lower barrier to entry and the ease of understanding the technology. Probably the most well-known AR game was Pokemon Go. This single game captured a massive target audience because of the well-established and existing fan base from the Pokemon series.

Unlike VR, these smaller AR experiences can be enjoyed by consumers of all ages across different sectors and are being used in educational and entertainment spaces.

Despite there not being much mass-market adoption for VR and AR, having this tool in your belt and being seen as a specialist in this very small sector may actually work in your favour to attract more clients.

Therefore, I wouldn’t discount either VR or AR for your future development efforts. To get started with making VR or AR apps, you could try out the courses Getting Started with VR in Unity and the Creating AR apps in Unity.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Data is king, and new fields like data science and roles within those fields are growing exponentially. Machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) are utilizing this abundance of data to do things like predict your next purchases and holiday plans based on your previous activities, and it has no sign of slowing down.

If you’re considering delving more into AI and ML, you could start by training up on the AWS service Sagemaker using the course Machine Learning on AWS. You could then try and integrate the service into your next app.

The acquisition of data by companies to more effectively market to their customers or predict behaviors is becoming big business to companies large and small. Being able to integrate a basic analytics tool into your app is a good start. However, knowing how to set up custom analytics to give your clients detailed information about their users’ behavior will be a great skill to advertise.

Wearable App Integration

Wearables have been greatly utilised within the medical field to provide the vitals of patients to help early diagnosis and detect or monitor health levels—e.g. heart rate and blood sugar levels.

The fitness and exercise industry has also greatly benefited from the development of wearable tech into the consumer market. The introduction of step trackers such as the Fitbit has made daily exercise easier to track, easier to take part in, and more fun to do.

Within other industries, the development of companion apps has also been increasing. These smartwatch apps can provide a different way to get notified and use the main app, or simply provide additional functionality for users. The ease of interacting with apps without having to have your smartphone or tablet out is very appealing.

Internet of Things (IoT)

Major industries are already adopting the IoT in their products. Many homeowners are purchasing devices that are already being thought of as standard accessories within households. Such devices include, for instance, fridges that keep track of the amount of items inside them and then populating a shopping list for your weekly shopping. It seems that education may be one of the next industries to get involved and invest in IoT.

Being able to link a number of or seemingly disconnected devices or aspects of an organization is the key driver. From an organization’s perspective, it provides the capability to conveniently monitor and access the data of these devices with greater ease and a lot faster than relying on simple sales figures, surveys, and word-of-mouth opinions from users.

Chatbots Will Be Integral

A few years ago, I was introduced to chatbots. They are AI used within apps and services that mainly provide support and answers to customers, based on information gathered from the customers’ data or questions prepared in advance, to help narrow down issues.

Chatbots aid companies by being able to provide a full 24-hour customer service experience that learns from data, so no training or sleep is required. Watson Assistant (made by IBM) is currently thought of as one of the most advanced AI-powered chatbots on the market.

Since customer service is a big factor for consumers, companies are utilizing chatbots to improve their customer service and ensure that it’s not one of the reasons that their apps are uninstalled.

Mobile Wallets and Payment Gateways

The ability to make payments more convenient using your smart devices is becoming a necessity. Giving your users an additional way to pay you (and making the experience seamless and hassle-free!) will set your app apart and ahead of the game. Integrations can be with Apple Pay, Google Pay, or online payment systems like PayPal and Stripe.

The growth of e-commerce apps will drive the need for banks to enable payment methods that are easier to integrate. Therefore, keep an eye out for the analytics of which methods your users prefer so you can quickly capitalise on this.

More Businesses Will Invest in Cloud Integration

The use of cloud storage and services is continuing to grow too this year. The obvious benefit of these tools is the number of hands-off and done-for-you solutions that can autoscale to accommodate the needs of your apps with just a configuration change in the console (and that’s probably the maximum effort needed!).

With the backend services effectively managed and stored, you can be fully focused on the development and design of your app to ensure that you can create the best product for your users.

What you should be aware of, though, is the additional cost that you need to factor into your development budget/monthly fee. You are charged per service and by the different storage class, so it’s good to start small and scale up when the traffic requires it in order to maximize your profits.

Instant Apps Are Coming Around

Instant apps allow users to enjoy apps without actually having to download them to their phone.

If your users have constraints on the storage in their devices, this may be a good feature for you to consider implementing. Without being restricted to storage space, users can enjoy a lot more apps than they could have previously.

This will help you open up your app to a wider audience. Getting discovered on the App Store is one of the biggest hurdles after development that a B2C app developer encounters. Anything you can do to increase your reach and exposure to users can only be positive for you.

Security

With so many people using smart devices of late, hackers are finding new ways to access our personal systems.

Recently, certain apps on legacy versions of Android have been susceptible to security issues of the platform. This leads to a number of users being more cautious about the platforms. So, you may want to think about the platforms that you’re targeting your app on.

Stories of security vulnerabilities could lead to fewer users downloading your app on those devices. So, you should weigh whether the return on investment developing the app on certain platforms, APIs, or SDKs would be worth it.

Beacons Technology

This is not new technology, but it is underutilized. It was introduced in 2013 by Apple and is used mainly in marketing projects.

Beacons are small, wireless transmitters that use low-energy Bluetooth technology to send signals to other smart devices nearby.

Shops like Macy’s use beacons to specifically target buyers within their store. This direct marketing allows them to offer these customers special deals just for them or drawing their attention to things that will appeal the most to them, making them more likely to buy.

In 2019, Global Market Insights predicted that the beacon technology market is set to surpass $25 billion by 2024.

New apps will probably start adopting this technology more, and the integration may become easier.

Retailers are increasing their use of apps to strengthen their marketing efforts. Beacons will allow them to get more sales and increase profits, so if you are building more retailer-focused apps, you may want to keep an ear out for the updates on this piece of technology.

Predictive Analytics to Influence Mobile UI/UX

Analytics gathered from user data is used not only to predict user behavior but also to give them a more visually appealing and usable app.

The use of A/B testing allows you to test different designs, from small things like the color of a button to the introduction of a new feature. A/B testing is being used more now for apps to deliver a flawless UX and UI. Companies like Apptimize are helping companies test their apps and find the right fit for their users.

What are you excited about?

There’s definitely a broad range of trends growing in popularity or that can help your app grow. Although some are very much established, others are still in their infancy. So deciding whether you want to dive in and be a market leader or just be great at implementing a tried and tested feature that appeals to your customers is up to you.

However, always keep in mind your customers. It’s great to be able to develop using the latest shiny feature, but if you’re customers don’t want or need it, or if they will never use it, will the return on investment be worth it?