The Apple App Store continues to break records in terms of revenues. According to an official report, developers made a cool $20 billion+ from the App Store last year. If the 30% cut that Apple keeps from the earnings is added, the cumulative revenue from the App Store in 2016 comes to nearly $29 billion. Apple’s mobile platform is also by far the more (in comparison with Google’s Android) ‘profitable’ – with revenues from iOS apps being, on average, 4X higher than that from Android apps. Of course, for sustaining strong revenue and profit figures, developers have to constantly update themselves, and adapt to the latest tools and technologies. Over here, we will have an overview of the most important iOS app development trends in 2017:
3D gaming and augmented reality
For all the hype and anticipation about virtual reality and augmented reality in recent times, 2016 was mostly a year of research on these technologies. This year should see iPhone developers increasingly utilizing augmented reality add-ons to make their game apps more interactive and immersive for end-users. With GPS tools growing stronger and more reliable than ever, VR and AR have every chance of becoming the go-to tools from next-gen 3D game development.
More thrust to IoT applications
Announced in 2014, Apple’s HomeKit platform has been a source of interest for general enthusiasts and professionals alike. The platform is already integrated by many developers in different types of home automation apps, and this usage is all set to grow further in 2017. In general, Internet of Things (IoT) should take off in a big way over the next 6-12 months, with ‘connected cars’ and ‘smart homes’ being right at the fore. There are a lot of growth opportunities in this domain, and leading mobile app developers are likely to get into it.
Swift 3.0 to remain the chosen language
Ever since Swift went open source (in December 2015), its adoption figures among developers have spiked significantly. The arrival of Swift 3.0 in June last year also confirmed that the language has indeed overtaken Objective-C (as per the latest TIOBE index) in terms of popularity. Recent surveys have revealed that the third iteration of the Swift programming language is indeed the most developer-friendly version. As such, it is likely to consolidate its position as the ‘language of first preference’ among iOS developers.
The importance of a great UX
It was important before, and it will remain absolutely critical in future. To be successful, an Apple application has to deliver seamless user end-experience (UX) – with the help of smart, navigation-friendly designs and layouts, great graphics and high-quality animation (if required). For ad-supported applications, the advertisements must not interfere with the users’ activities. Developers should also stay away from making false claims about apps in the store descriptions. Right from ‘discovering’ a new app on the store, to downloading and using it – the entire thing must be one smooth journey.
Revival of Beacon technology
Since its launch, not much of significance has been done with the Cupertino company’s proprietary iBeacon technology. Things should, however, change this year – with steadily increasing interest levels among iPhone developers, and strong demand levels from smart home owners. In particular, the low-energy Bluetooth (BLE) technology will enable people to simply use designated mobile apps to remotely manage household electrical appliances (with built-in GPS). What’s more, the Beacon technology will also facilitate the formation of more localized and effective advertisements by retailers – which would be distributed/pushed out to targeted buyers through the latter’s handsets. In both the household and the commercial spaces, Beacon apps are set to find their own niche.
Greater emphasis on security
At last year’s WWDC event, App Transport Security (ATS) was made mandatory for every newly published iOS application. This was in addition to the two-factor authentication rule – which has, let’s face it, become fairly mainstream now. The concerns about mobile app security and probable data thefts/losses are, however, growing…and to counter that, stronger, more varied data encryption standards are expected to be used by developers worldwide. The data transfer tools and methods should also grow more robust. Users often store important and sensitive personal data in mobile apps (or on the cloud) – and developers have to ensure that they can do so without a worry.
Home automation platforms to grow
Technology is supposed to make lives easier – but it can also become rather complicated. Simply consider the scenario where you have to individually control a large number of smart home tools and equipments, and you will get the picture. This, in turn, brings to light the importance of platforms like Amazon Echo and openHAB. In 2017 and beyond, the usage of these smart home platforms will continue to surge, together with the launch of a large number of ‘connection apps’ – that will offer 24×7 connectivity with appliances, kitchen equipments and even pet animals. The recent Volvo-Microsoft deal also promises to bring on-the-go Skype support to drivers. Smart connectivity hubs are likely to become more common than ever before.
Cutting-edge App Store Optimization
The competition among iOS apps is increasing all the time. On last count, the App Store had in excess of 2.2 million applications – and it is not the easiest task for developers to make their products stand out in the crowd. They have to understand and implement updated App Store Optimization, or ASO, strategies – from creating detailed, easy-to-understand app descriptions, to selecting a good app name, choosing the best app icon, uploading the required app screenshots, and including the important keywords in the description. What’s more, the ASO has to be done on an ongoing basis. The year is 2017, the competition is big – and developers cannot rely on ‘once and done’ marketing strategies.
Revival of the iPad
The glory days of the iPad in 2013-14 are long gone now. However, the increase in app development activities involving iBeacon will probably push up iPad sales this year. In the first quarter of this year, more than 13 million units of the iPad are expected to be sold – a jump of 44% over the 2016 Q4 figures. Developers, hence, should always make sure that their new applications have properly customized versions for the Apple tablet. In its absence, a fairly large chunk of potential users can be lost.
Analytics and feedback
Apps are created for the random Joe who owns an iPhone – and if he does not like a new application, he will uninstall it, it’s as simple as that. In every category, there are several apps that have similar core functions – ensuring that there is no dearth of substitutes. To keep user-engagement levels high, developers have to closely monitor app analytics (has to be integrated into the application). All feedback, ratings and reviews have to be studied carefully too, to learn about the improvements/bug fixes that have to be made. Mobile app companies are all in a race to provide top-class customer services – to ensure the success of their products.
More games. Better games
Nintendo brought the wildly popular Super Mario Run to iOS last December, and the repercussions were huge. Super Mario had a big role to play in pushing up the December sales figures from the store to beyond a staggering $3 billion – and according to experts from the field of iPhone app development, Nintendo has just showed to other third-party game developers that they too can strike it big on the iOS platform. Between now and 2020, iOS games (particularly 3D) are likely to increase at an exponential rate – and the quality/innovativeness of most of these games will be right out of the top drawer. For all its customization options, Android is still nowhere close to iOS in terms of stability – and its high-time for iPhone developers to take advantage of this fact.
Autonomous devices and iPhones
Although last year’s iPhone 7/7 Plus are off to a steady start (adoption rate of 2.7% within the first fortnight for iPhone 7), they are – till now – marginally less successful than the iPhone 6/6Plus from a couple of years ago. Contrary to predictions though, there are no chances of the iPhone’s market share dropping off – particularly since that they are increasingly being connected and used with Mac systems, Apple TV, smartwatches, and a lot more ‘paired gadgets’. At the same time though, autonomous or standalone Apple gadgets are also increasing. A classic example of that will be the Apple Watch 2 – which is far less reliant on the iPhone than its predecessor. App makers, not surprisingly, are getting actively involved in making custom apps for Apple Watch.
Rise of enterprise apps
Much like how websites became a must-have for businesses in the late-90s, enterprise apps have emerged as essential tools for present-day entrepreneurs across the world. Users can reach out to potentially huge volumes of prospective customers with the help of well-made, user-friendly iOS enterprise apps. The importance of mobile shopping apps and digital wallets has also been increasing over the last couple of quarters. From establishing a strong presence in the mobile space (for greater brand familiarity), to getting business leads and managing expenses – dedicated enterprise apps will perform a lot of functions this year.
Note: By the end of this year, at least 50% of all companies in the United states will have more than 10 enterprise apps – presumably for making day-to-day operations more efficient, and establishing an agile work environment.
14. Staying updated with the latest dev tools
The tools and frameworks for iOS app development are always changing…always becoming more advanced. The onus is on the developers to constantly update themselves about the latest tools, and use them in the best possible manner. For starters, a complete familiarity with the Xcode 8 IDE (latest version available: Xcode 8.2.1) is essential – along with the iOS 10.3 platform. For beta test distribution of an app, TestFlight is easily the most suitable network, REST APIs can be tested with Postman, Cocoa Pods is ideal for dependency management, and Fastlane ensures continuous delivery of applications. There are plenty of other high-end iOS tools and frameworks available, and developers need to be prepared to learn constantly. If they don’t know what is available to them, how can they possibly use them?
15. App monetization opportunities
It has been known for some time that Apple-users are, on average, more likely to spend money on apps – than their Android counterparts (this also explains the presence of a larger proportion of free apps in the Play Store). In the final quarter of 2016, revenues from the App Store were close to $5.5 billion – more than $2 billion more than the returns from the Play Store during the same period. In the next couple of years, expect iOS developers to implement smarter app monetization strategies in the software they publish. Clearly, there are scopes to earn big (although 6 out of 10 developers still fall under the ‘app poverty line’).
IoT, GPS integration, iBeacons, advanced security standards and AR/VR are expected to be the key drivers behind the development of successful iPhone applications in 2017. Developers from app companies (as well as the ones who work freelance) need to work according to the trends discussed above – to enhance their chances of surviving and thriving in this domain. It’s a challenging field, but things can be worked out!