Mobile App Development

Top 5 Mobile App Trends 2020

10th December 2019

Is it me, or does life seem to be speeding up? Last time I looked, it was Summer, the sun was shining, and life was sweet. Today, we can see 2020 on the horizon, and the million and one ‘trends’ articles that accompany this time of year. Normally, I’d put a big ‘AVOID’ next to the trends piece on my blog planner, but honestly, there’s so much happening when it comes to tech – and in particular, mobile – trends, that frankly, it would be foolish not to take advantage of the most wonderful time of year. The time of year when we get to put down on paper (aka: screen) the origins of heated debate, detailed discussion and preposterous pontifications around our technological futures. We recently explored the top fintech trends for 2020 and how to leverage the power of conversational banking, today we’re exploring the top 5 mobile app trends 2020.

At WHQ, there’s been plenty to talk about – each week there’s a new app that’s going to make life easier, faster, simpler, funnier … better … and we’re all turning to these very apps that are helping us do everything from checking our well-being to ordering pizza to finding somewhere to kip for the weekend away. Competition in the app space is hot – success is but a great idea (and a great UX and CX!) away, but how will you deliver it? Here’s our take on what we’re expecting to see more of in 2020 …

The Progressive Web App

Creating innovative, engaging digital solutions is what we aspire to do at WHQ, so when it comes to the Progressive Web App and its increasing popularity, you bet it’s on our 2020 radar. We’ve put the Progressive Web App in our top trends because there’s barely a week gone by this year without someone somewhere waxing lyrical about the demise of the native app and the rise of its usurper. Around for a while, the Progressive Web App, or PWA, will, according to Gartner, be supplanting 50% of all consumer-facing native apps in the not too distant future – and for this reason alone, it’s worth bringing yourself up to speed on one of our favourite water-cooler topics as we high-tail it into 2020.

A Progressive Web App is basically a webpage that both feels and functions like a regular native app, but because they’re browser-based, there’s a ton of advantages that mean they’re gaining popularity at an increasingly fast pace:

PWAs cost less to develop than mobile apps, which means they’re great for businesses who might not have the budget for a mobile app but realise the importance of delivering a streamlined, engaging UX across their touchpoints.

They look and feel like native apps. Nothing says simple and easy like a native mobile app, which is why we love ‘em – they simplify the mobile experience, make information easy to find and tasks easy to complete. Having a webpage, or pages, that follow this same ethos then is a huge bonus for the end-user.

Unlike native apps, PWAs work offline. To the uninitiated ear, so what? But the ability to work offline, or where there are poor connections, means they’re ‘always on’, which means you’re always connected, which means you’re always up to date. They’re responsive, which means that they’ll work across devices, screen sizes and orientations – which in turn means a great UX.

I want my content to load quickly, and the PWA delivers. Why? They’re small and, importantly, very fast. Just check out Twitter or Instagram’s PWAs – I counted under 2 seconds for both – that faster (still) than many of the big brand sites, and positively lightyears away from many site speeds even 5 years ago. That’s great news for SEO because we all know that Google loves a fast-loader.

And speaking of SEO, did we mention PWAs can be indexed (as well as included in some app stores – but more of that in our dedicated PWA blog in the new year)? That means you can optimise your app as you do your website – and enjoy all the benefits that brings.

PWAs store data in the cache on your device, which means you get the up-to-date real-time app-type functionality you’d get with your native app, but with a few benefits to boot – accessibility; SEO; autonomous functionality; cost … and then some. The activity and interest we’re seeing around the PWA isn’t without reason, so as we head into a new year, we’re expecting to see more and more businesses opt for the PWA over the native app, simply because they have the potential address the needs of their customers more efficiently than the native option. Over time, users will slowly become used to finding PWAs in search results, and eventually, the app stores will be a place we visit for a certain kind type of app only … entertainment, messaging etc. Watch this space – we’ll be writing more about PWAs in the new year!

Beacon Technology Apps

Beacon technology first emerged onto our digital radars in 2013 when Apple – who else – unveiled its iBeacon protocol to the Appleverse. Since then, it might be fair to say that beacon technology has been somewhat slow to bestow upon us the benefits it promised … or maybe it’s that we’ve all been a bit slow to embrace it? Either way, we’re hearing rumblings on our digital horizon – next year the number of global beacon deployments is predicted to reach 400 million – maybe, just maybe, 2020 is going to be big for the beacon …

In a nutshell, beacons use ‘proximity technology’ to identify human presence closeby and deliver a personalised experience – say a special offer, or an ad – to that individual via its short-range, low-energy Bluetooth transmitters. So imagine if you will, perusing the offerings in your go-to tech store, eyeing up the latest (insert greatest tech desire here ), and being instantly served via your smartphone a 20% off deal for that very item. Bingo! Or how about auto top-up? My kind of app, Martini’s beacon-driven Smart Cube sends the bartender a Bluetooth message when a visitor’s cup has runneth dry, helping bars manage crowds and giving a great CX.

The Martini Smart Cube

The Martini Smart Cube

Initially seen as a huge boon for the retail sector, we’ve seen beacon technology make its way into entertainment, events, hotels and travel, and it’s unlikely to stop there. This simple ability to deliver highly relevant, highly valuable messages to a huge audience without the need for them to do anything is becoming an increasingly attractive way for companies to engage on a more personal level with their customers, creating an effortless brand experience that’s engaging, and if they get it right, enjoyable. Here are a few brands that are already nailing it with beacons:

  • Target. US retail giant Target has been using beacon technology to deliver a “GPS for your shopping cart”. Customers in-store can use their app to make shopping lists, get visibility on where the items are located in-store, as well as see how near or far they are from the products they’re looking for.
  • Starwood Hotels & Resorts. The hotel chain has deployed beacon technology to support employees during guest check-in by providing them with guest names when they’re nearing the hotel location, accelerating the check-in process … it also notifies housekeeping staff when guests are still in their room and enables guests to enter their rooms using the Starwood Preferred Guest app by delivering a digital key on their smartphone to unlock the door when they near their room. Great for avoiding that after-bar pocket-fumbling!
  • Urban Outfitters. 73% of shoppers have said that they’re more likely to make an in-store purchase after receiving beacon-driven content or offers. So when a customer enters one of Urban Outfitters stores and checks in on social media, they get to unlock a personalised offer. If they make it as far as the changing rooms, they’re then delivered user-generated content about their products and encouraged to take selfies with the opportunity to get featured on the retailer’s website. It’s the perfect marriage of social and beacons, increasing conversion rates and boosting brand loyalty by delivering that enhanced customer experience we all hanker after.

Cross-selling, in-store navigation, loyalty programs and mobile payments, expect beacon’s popularity to enjoy a moment over the next 24 months as word catches on and more and more brands look to take advantage of the huge opportunities the technology is heralding in, particularly given Google’s recent announcement on making their beacon platform platform-agnostic and far easier for developers to work with. Expect this technology to reach way beyond retail and hospitality in the very near future.

Android Instant Apps

A ‘try before you buy’ option for app lovers everywhere, Instant apps are small software programs that enable users to test native apps before downloading them to their android device – meaning no installation, and no impact on your precious storages space. Instant apps have been around since 2016, but like all things tech, they’ve taken a while to enter our collective consciousness, though Google has reported that instant app traffic is comparable to that of regular webpages. Result. And though you still won’t find a lot of apps supporting the Instant system, word is that 2020 will see them make a bigger splash.

I enabled Instant Apps on my Android a few months ago – If I come across an app that includes the Instant version, I’ll see a ‘try now’ CTA, which if I click, the app launches. I get to try it, and if I like it I can install it. If I don’t, we can pretend the whole sorry affair never happened. This method of trying out an app has a few benefits for me and for app creators:

  • Instant apps are great at increasing discoverability because the app’s content is accessible out-with the app and not tucked away inside it. The upshot? Users are more likely to find your business – users that might not have found your app otherwise.
  • Users get a taster of an app’s capabilities before deciding whether to download it and take up more storage space. If you use a lot of apps, like me, then this is priceless.
  • Instant apps open faster than websites – people like fast. One day, expect apps to open before you’ve even reached for your phone (keep an eye open for our 2030 trends ;)We get to try the apps that cost money before we spend the money. I don’t know about you, but this is a big plus point for me – I’ve lost count of the number of apps I’ve paid for only to find they don’t measure up. Either that or I pay for an app, use it once, then end up removing it – often months later – when I need more space.
  • They make for a more seamless, frictionless UX, bridging the gap between a web search and directing users to the Google Play store – kind of like a webpage/app combo.

As alluded to above, Instant Apps have been slow to catch on, but the benefits of getting friendly with the technology are reaching the shores of enterprise – both Hollar and the New York Times have claimed increased conversion rates – a 7% increase – through the introduction of instant apps. Expect the news to catch on and everyone reaching for a big ol’ slice of Instant App pie over the next 12 months.

Mobile App


We tried to leave this one off the list, given the magnitude of hype surrounding 5G and the certainty that you’re almost done reading and hearing about it. But it’s exactly given that hype that we can’t ignore the undeniable, imminent arrival of 5G racing towards us – and 2020 is d-day. The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G; Huawei Mate X and LG V50 ThinQ – amongst others – are standing by ready to lighten your smartphone load and get you innovation-ready. And good job too. As far as Gartner’s concerned, 66% of businesses are planning to deploy 5G within the next 12 months, and telecoms giant Qualcomm told us that by 2035, 5G could be supporting around $12.3 trillion worth of goods and services across global industry, generating up to $3.5 trillion in revenue by the same year, and creating up to 22 million jobs. according to a study by Gartner. Cisco estimates that by 2020, 5G will generate three times more traffic than the average 4G connection, and those connections will make up 3% of total mobile connections. The bottom line? 5G is very good news for mobile apps:

  • Speed – superfast uploads, downloads and connections mean we really will get what we want yesterday (almost!) – plus no more app lag, one of the key reasons users abandon apps that don’t measure up. Audio and video will be enhanced, delay-free and deliver a vastly improved UX.
  • Due to lower latency, we’ll see the slow-to-catch on AR and VR-based apps take a much-needed leap in popularity because the period of time it takes these apps to react to our prompts and the world around them will be much, much faster …
  • Delivering a new digital experience that embodies a user’s surrounding environment and conditions coupled with the ability to detect and connect to multiple devices and sensors, ambient computing will be on every business’s radar in 12 months time – and 5G will drive it. A discipline that allows the simultaneous use of multiple sources of data pulled from the users ‘environment’ – both internal and external – to improve the CX, boost competitiveness and enhance product and service delivery, ambient computing is about to land with a thud. Just make sure you’re underneath.

The Super-App

Brace yourself, the super-app is coming. And to be honest, we’re surprised it’s taken so long. For nearly two decades now, we’ve been content with the single-purpose app – doing exactly as it says on the tin, no more, no less. Single apps keep things simple – at least that was when we had a clear definition for ‘simple’. As we cruise into 2020, simple is on everyone’s wish-list, thanks to the global swathe of digital natives redefining its meaning with increased frequency and ensuring that for today at least, simple means ‘more’. More to make things easy, more that takes less time, more that allows me to do what I need to do without the added … moreness. It was only a matter of time before the super-app stepped in to sort things out.

Originating from China, the super-app has grown out of consumers needs (where else) – consumers who want to be able to everything they need to via their phone, but without hopping between apps. The most commonly cited super-apps, WeChat and Alipay in China, pull a vast range of services together via their interface, including basic banking services. A one-stop-shop for practically any service or product their users might need. These users aren’t phased by a fussy, elaborate interface that delivers a cacophony of services via one-pane-of-glass – in fact, they’re used such ‘shop windows’, happy to stick to those that provide the seamless, frictionless, efficient super-app experience that makes life … you guessed, simple. Think messaging/weekly shopping/social/travel booking/food ordering/movie watching – all rolled into one. These super-apps create a highly sticky environment, one where the user simply has no need to use other apps – why have ten apps to perform ten different activities, when one will do it all for you?

Alipay mobile App

Alipay mobile App

These emerging super-apps deliver the potential for emerging innovators to partner across multiple paths, creating service ecosystems that offer far more bang for your digital buck than going alone – for some, anyway. Will the super-app take off beyond Asia? It’s hard to find a good reason why not, though we might be a bit slower to catch on. Enterprise across all sectors that might be worried about the potential of disintermediation by a super app are doubtless already considering where they might sit in a new super=app ecosystem – the consumer, after all, is unwittingly driving us in that direction. We think the next couple of years will see the emergence of the super-app in the West – prepare to be simplified!

What to do next

If you’ve got a killer app idea swimming around in your head, now might be the time to bring it to fruition. Whether it’s a PWA, Instant App or Super App, or one that could take advantage of 5G or beacon technology, there’s never been a better – or more exciting – time to innovate. We’d love to know what that big idea is – tell us, and let’s get the 2020 conversation started!

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