Upcoming Trends in Mobile App Development

Alexey Makarov, CEO, Qulix Systems
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Alexey Makarov, CEO, Qulix Systems

Alexey Makarov, CEO, Qulix Systems

The main computing focus is gradually shifting away from traditional desktop PCs to mobile devices, and the two major reasons for this are as follows:

• Mobile apps market is growing. This growth is made especially conspicuous against the background of the slowed down sales of desktops and PCs. Indeed, decent made-in-China Smartphone can be bought for a very cheap price, so that even people in third-world countries can afford them.

• A mobile device is both a phone and a smart phone. Most of the time it remains close to the user, which means that it comes in handy in cases where using ‘big machines’ is impossible or inconvenient.

“The more popular smartphones are becoming, the more services are provided and consumed online”

By and large, we can speak of four main trends in the mobile app world:

Games

We’ve had them on our phones for a long time now and their nature hasn’t changed much. As a rule, mobile games don’t offer a complex gameplay experience. Or, even if they do, such are few. Instead, they help users to while away their free time.

How are smartphone apps different from desktop apps? The essential difference has to do with how users interact with the app on a mobile touchscreen device compared to a keyboard and mouse-driven desktop or laptop. Unlike using a PC, when the user can settle at a desk and spend some quality time working/reading/ playing uninterrupted, many people tend to use smartphones ‘on the go’, i.e. the interaction consists of a series of quick actions. This ‘taking-out-looking-pressing-finding-hiding’ happens while the user is walking, standing in a queue and in other similar situations, where there is little time for actually using the app.

There are approaches where programmers create a specific game framework – which is almost identical for all games that belong to the same franchise – and then simply change scenery. A good example is a popular room escape franchise, where one game is different from another only by a combination of brain teasers and quizzes.

Social apps

The idea of social applications flows organically from the very concept of a smartphone as a means of communication. Yet social apps are not limited to making calls and sending texts. Man is a social being with independence, creativity and consciousness, meaning that even such ‘non-social’ applications as browsers end up with social functions like ‘share a link’. Communication capabilities are boundless. Almost any social interaction act can be transferred to a smartphone, i.e. right to the user’s pocket.

Sensor-based apps

These apps can offer users something that desktops essentially do not have: data from built-in GPS receivers, gyroscopes, accelerometers, etc. This group can be roughly divided into two categories: navigation and map applications and fitness applications.

Business-specific apps

From accounting and babysitting to x-raying and zorbing – “there’s an app for that”. Businesses have high hopes for this new medium. CIOs are looking to mobile to reduce costs and increase employee productivity, create new revenue opportunities, showcase products and services, or reach new customers. Although app development costs and timelines may vary depending on the nature of the app, its functions, infrastructure, and backend, there are ample positive reasons to embrace the ‘mobile revolution’.

According to comScore, at the start of 2015, nearly 75 percent of mobile subscribers in the U.S. owned smartphones. By December 2015, this figure will be above 80 per cent. For comparison, in December 2013, it was 65.2 percent.

The more popular smartphones are becoming, the more services are provided and consumed online. This tremendous shift from offline to online and, consequently, mobile is especially obvious in the banking industry. Mobile banking is taking over traditional banking because it brings a range of benefits both to banks and to their customers. For one thing, customer satisfaction and loyalty in the online environment is different from that in the offline environment. For another – digital banking is saving financial institutions money (e.g. average mobile transactions cost 10 times less than ATM transactions). A recent survey by TSYS reports that 50 percent of respondents have installed a mobile app from their bank, of those respondents, 70 percent use the app a few times a month or more. Similar results were found in a research conducted by the Bank of America.

Another example of mobile’s impact on business is a growing number of retail mobile transactions. It is estimated that in 2015 U.S. mobile commerce sales will total $104.05 billion, up 38.7 percent from $75.03 billion in 2014.

Conclusion

The global mobile industry being what it is, we have a curious situation with mobile app development and market competition. Mobile platforms provide rich interaction with users. New interaction options are being added day by day. Three or four years ago we couldn’t even think of trying to extract smartphone functionality out of smartphones to use it on some other devices. Today we have smart watches and smart glasses, and it becomes clear that developers should consider wearable tech as the next computing platform for new user services based on new interaction patterns.

However, owing to certain characteristics of wearable gadgets, the complexity of mobile apps cannot grow infinitely. These characteristics include a relatively low performance (an average smartphone is far behind the desktop), battery life restricting processor potential, a small screen and even user behaviour and interaction patterns. That is, there is a ceiling on reasonable functional complexity of mass mobile applications.

Interest in mobile apps, as well as the number of business opportunities, is on the rise, yet the number of industry players is growing more slowly. New players often just copy the existing solutions. The very nature of mobile applications makes it possible to enter the market at relatively low costs – it takes a couple of months and a couple of medium-skilled developers to create an average app. In other words, the number of vacant market niches is still huge, and the cost of attempting to fill in those niches is not too high.

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