You’ve come a long way, baby … The future of the Mobile App

“It is very interesting and instructive to look back over the various changes that have occurred, and to trace the evolution of the present from the past. By projecting these lines of advance into the future, you can forecast the future to a certain extent, and recognize some of the fields of usefulness that are opening up for you.”

So said Alexander Bell, telephone inventor and visionary, some 100 years ago – and ne’er was such a recognition desired for as much as it is now, as we march ever onward into a future that seems as genuinely incredible as it does overwhelming. I doubt Bell would have foreseen just how the humble telephone would evolve to it’s ‘world in your pocket’ status – but perhaps that’s the point here. The ability to predict what our technological future holds, to know whether the technology you’re innovating today will be tomorrow’s dead duck or a veritable golden egg, seems as elusive as ever, but has certainly never been more pertinent.

Mobile’s epic journey

Since Bell’s telephone invention, in a way, science fiction saw to it that the mobile device would become the desirable item it was (think Star-Trek, Space 1999 and 2001: A Space Odyssey) – and now is.

The first handheld mobile phone came courtesy of Motorola in 1973, tipping the scales at a whopping 2 kg. But it wasn’t until 1983 that the DynaTAC 8000x became the first commercially available handheld mobile phone.

We got the first smartphone – the Ericsson R380 – in 2000, and in 2008 the first mobile apps appeared. One year later, the first iPhone was released and the Apple App Store born. The App Store launched with 500 apps (PhoneSaber, anyone?!), and today, just over a decade later, it’s fair to say that the mobile app has the capability for delivering real, lasting change – for users, for business, and even for humankind itself – and for better, or for worse (Twitter; Uber; Pokemon Go – you decide where on the better-worse scale they sit). Yep … we’ve come a long way!

It’s over … Or ..?

If you’ve been following mobile app development as it evolves, you’ll remember the 2016 Recode article that said, “The mobile app boom kicked off in July 2008, when Apple introduced the App Store. Now it is over.” Sad words indeed.

Let’s linger here a while, because it’s important to grasp just how prolific and popular the mobile app movement has become. Last year, the number of app downloads worldwide was a staggering 178.1 billion. There were 2.8 million available apps at Google Play Store, and 2.2 million apps available in the Apple’s App Store. By 2020, mobile apps are forecast to generate around 189 billion U.S. dollars in revenues via app stores and in-app advertising. (we hope you’ve got your App Optimisation covered!). So is it really over? No, it’s not! We may love em, we may hate em, but the mobile app is going nowhere …

Emerging tech and the mobile app

We want apps if they make life easier, better, more … manageable. But what does that look like exactly? Enterprise, employees, and consumers have made clear the need for mobile-first solutions that will give them that quick ‘n’ easy access to whatever it is they need, across multiple devices – and the really good news is that emerging technologies can answer that need.. IoT, Voice, Wearables and AR are all converging to ensure that the mobile app has a great future ahead of it – albeit very different.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

With the Internet of Things (IoT) market projected to reach 7.1 trillion dollars and  the number of connected devices within it to top 26 billion by 2020 – including medical, domestic, security, transport and health devices, to name but a few – the IoT and the mobile app are elevating each other to bring (untold benefits) to those that dip their proverbial toes in the (space). IoT devices are most commonly controlled using mobiles, it goes without saying that the IoT and the app work extremely well together. Many existing smart devices are already utilizing the humble app to function the way we need them too – think Nest, Hero and Blossom, and you’re heading in the right direction.  As the IoT and IIoT markets look set to go stratospheric over the next couple of years, the App has a part to play in this journey.

IoT Mobile Apps

Augmented Reality

With the boundaries between the physical and virtual worlds beginning to collide, it’s only a matter of time before our smartphone starts to look and act very differently.  As users, we want ever more ‘wow’ experiences, and brands are lining up to deliver. The AR app is big – and it’s going to get bigger, the market is rapidly growing and now expected to be worth over 15 billion dollars come 2022.

In short, mobile AR is all about utilizing your mobile’s camera and the superimposition of visual information on the details that have been captured by it. Apps that come to mind are Just a Line, Google Lens and Pokemon Go – and they do well. But there are hardware and software implications we need to overcome to make the AR app experience the very best it can be – from 2D camera capabilities that need to marry up with the 3D imagery of AR, to the single-user limitations our smartphones currently offer. That said, experts in the AR arena are confident that the tech will overcome its growing pains. Waracle has already seen our teams collaborating on projects with early AR adopters, and we see no sign of this cooling off.

AR mobile apps

Voice

Voice technology – oft a topic you’ll hear being enthusiastically discussed around WHQ, not least because it’s impact on the mobile app is huge.  What’s more, it’s closely connected to the IoT, these three technologies speaking to each other to provide a seamless engaging user experience that’s pretty hard to beat. Given the continuing rise of Voice and it’s growing relevance to infiltration into  our lives, we can expect big inroads to be made over the coming years, and the mobile app will likely be at the very heart of these innovations.

Before long, users will have the ability  to engage with thousands of IoT-connected devices through their voice-enabled smartphones. We already can – the Voice-enabled Echo device, Apple’s HomePod and Microsoft’s Invoke, are just a few examples. However, we think that voice-enabled apps will make a massive impression on a far wider audience than these devices, giving mainstream adoption of Voice the very kick that it might need. In other words, it’s far easier and less of an ask to download a voice-activated app on your mobile device than, say, delving deep into your pockets to fork out for an Echo, to learn how to use it and to interact with it. The long and short? We’re excited for the future of Voice, and even more so given that the mobile app will be going along for the ride.

Voice mobile Apps

Wearables

Many believe that the wearable will replace the smartphone in the not too distant future – and from where we’re sitting, there’s nothing startling about that belief … call it natural tech selection if you like. Believe it or not, enterprise, military and healthcare professionals have been utilizing wearable technology for decades, but outwith these often very private arenas, the general consumer market is fairly new to the wearables party.

Fitness-focused and smart-watches have enjoyed the majority of our wearables-adulation to date, but as the technology matures, bolstered by the advancing opportunities afforded by the IoT, it’s fair to say that Wearables are about to enter that infamous second wave. So where does this leave the app?

When we’re talking about a wearables app, we’re talking about an app that’s quite different from the mobile app – limited functionality, size and UX – and very different skills required to build them. But as the wearables market expands and enterprise is forced to look at wearables as part of their wider mobile strategy, we can expect this to change, albeit with some challenges along the way. That said, with an estimated 830 million devices expected to be in circulation come 2020, it’s likely we’ll need to rise to these challenges – and opportunities – very swiftly.

Wearables Apps

Mobile and the survival of the quickest

Emerging technologies on their own are mind-bending enough  – the IoT, Voice, AR, and Wearables have really only just begun their foray into our lives – but the impact they’re already making is being felt. The potential each of these has to bring to the future of the mobile app is remarkable – but enterprise must be quick. The opportunities for early innovators, future-focused enterprise and big dreamers are clear – and for users, life-changing. The future is bright. The future is mobile!

What to do next

2019 isn’t too far in the future, but it’s a good time to be thinking about bringing that mobile app idea of yours to life. If you’re serious about innovation, and want your enterprise to reap the benefits of mobile, get in touch – and we’ll help you do it.

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