Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
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The popularity of mobile applications is soaring higher than ever, putting to rest speculations of whether this market has entered a mature stage. While the average per-session app activity duration (i.e., the time spent on apps) grew only by 6% on a YoY basis last year – users are increasingly turning their attention to newer applications, incorporating more innovative technologies that can disrupt day-to-day lives and make things just that bit easier. The old adage – ‘there is an app for that‘ – has never been truer.
This ever-growing interest in new mobile apps has, in turn, resulted in a surge of consumer spendings at the app stores over the last few quarters. By the end of this year, this figure will stand at ~$115 billion, nearly 28% more than the total spendings in 2017. The robust demand figures are also causing professional mobile app developers to come up with newer and better software products in general, and smartphone applications in particular. The app industry is constantly evolving, and we will here look at some interesting mobile app development trends that are likely to dominate in 2019:
M-commerce apps are set to surge
At the end of 2015, the global mobile payments market was worth $450 billion. Cut to 2019, and that figure will jump to $1086 billion (well over double) – underlining the exponential rate at this sector is growing. In a recent survey in North America, it was found that 2 out of every 3 advertisers/sellers with dedicated shopping applications generate more than 60% of their business leads over mobile. In these markets, 44% of all sales take place via mobile apps – well over the 33% share of desktop (website) and 23% of mobile web. Across the world, more and more customers are completing purchases on their phones – thanks to the ready availability, and robust security, of shopping applications. The growth of m-commerce transactions is also being driven by the high adoption rates of mobile wallets (projected to touch $6.1 billion in value by 2022). In the next year and beyond, expect more m-commerce/shopping apps to be launched in the stores, along with other new mobile wallet applications.
Note: The number of apps with Apple Pay integrations or Google Pay integrations is also set to rise.
Further growth in cloud applications
The overall Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) market is growing at a mighty impressive CAGR of ~18.2% (2017-2021). The market for cloud applications alone is expected to grow to $68 billion by the final quarter of 2019 – a 123% increase over the corresponding figure in 2014. With memory/storage space and other device-specific limitations becoming increasingly prominent – users are, not surprisingly, showing their preference to store critical, confidential big data on the cloud (once again, security is a key factor over here). Within the next couple of years or so, cloud-based apps are expected to contribute a whopping 90%+ of the total volume of mobile traffic worldwide. Compared to this year, mobile cloud traffic will spike by around 10% in 2019. New software from mobile app companies are almost certain to have seamless cloud storage and support features – with strong authentication/safety assurances and easy accessibility options. The future of mobile apps is in the cloud!
Note: On average, more than 1400 cloud services are used by an enterprise. Clearly, the scope for business cloud applications to grow is huge.
Rise & rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning
Mobile apps with built-in AI support will become even more mainstream in 2019 and beyond. ‘Intelligent’ digital assistants like Google Assistant, Siri and Amazon Alexa are showing the way – and the impact of ‘robots’ in day-to-day activities will increase considerably in the foreseeable future. Already, 4 out of every 10 business houses make use artificial intelligence, and the more refined machine learning techniques, to deliver optimized customer service (think of the shopping apps with AI-based chat support, to guide buyers along, and even help them complete transactions). A big factor in the rising influence of AI and ML in mobile app development has been the growing popularity of chatbots. At a conservative estimate, chatbot applications can generate yearly savings of up to $7.5 billion for businesses. The value of the worldwide AI industry will go past $1.2 trillion in 2019 – and we will be looking at a bigger-than-ever pool of ‘intelligent applications’. Right from voice search, predictive text for easier typing and GPS route suggestions, to email classifications, quick & correct translations, and email/photo classifications – AI can increase the usability of mobile apps in a myriad of ways.
Note: The demand for personalized app experiences is higher than ever among end-users, and AI can play a big role in delivering that.
On-demand apps will continue to rule
Apps like Uber and Lyft have completely revolutionized the concept of ‘hailing a taxi’. Food delivery, laundry services, product delivery, cleaning & pest control are some other fields where on-demand mobile applications are making their presence felt. Expect this trend to gather further momentum over the next half a decade or so – with on-demand services becoming available for many other use cases. Scalability, customizability and, of course, convenience are the three pillars on the basis of which the popularity of these applications are growing. Before 2018 rolls to an end, the on-demand mobile app economy will become a $59 billion sector. With constantly increasing user-bases and surging revenues, this sector will go up further in future.
Note: In 2018 Q1, Uber’s revenues jumped by 70% (amidst speculations over the company’s profits). Mobile on-demand apps are already strong…and growing stronger.
Greater focus on ‘smarter’ apps
The number of total app downloads has undergone a ~5X increase from 2012 to 2017 (57.2 billion vs 255 billion). Keeping pace with that has been the growth of the global market for internet of things (IoT) – from less than $3 trillion in 2014 to almost $8.99 trillion by the turn of the decade. Worldwide investments and spending on ‘connected gadgets’ is set to breach the $1 trillion mark by 2021 (the 2017-2021 CAGR will be more than 14%). From healthcare, energy and retail services, to education, smart agriculture and smart cities – IoT applications are being put to use in many new and innovative scenarios. LoRa technology and blockchain technology are also growing at a rapid clip – and combined with IoT, they can lead to the creation of truly powerful and useful new applications. Lack of complete awareness and specialized skills remain a challenge though – and going forward, the onus will be on professional mobile app developers to be familiar with the latest developments in IoT and smart things. The need to ‘stay connected’ is greater than ever for the average user, and IoT apps can be extremely useful.
Note: There will be >20400 million installed IoT units in 2020. The current figure is around 11000 million units. Consumer apps are the biggest users of the technology, although IoT-powered business applications are also on the rise.
More apps for wearables
In 2019, the total sales of wearable devices is expected to be well over 250 million units (in 2014, a year before Apple Watch burst onto the scene, the total shipment figure was less than 30 million). On a YoY basis, there will be a 36% growth in the value of the market for wearables across the globe. The remarkable growth in wearable technology is, in turn, revving up the demand for custom apps for wearables. A recent report pegged the 2016-2020 CAGR for the global wearable apps market at 57% – a far cry from the scenario even a couple of years back, when there was a serious dearth of good-quality apps for smartwatches. The launch of free and multi-featured fitness bands/sports bands is a key factor fueling this growth. Apart from smartwatches, the market for more innovative wearables – on-body sensors, smart jewelry, mobile communication tools, etc – is also growing fast. Leading app development agencies have already turned their attentions on making apps for wearable tech – and this trend will continue in 2019 and beyond.
Note: The wearable tech market is projected to breach the $100 billion mark in 2023, and the $150 billion mark in 2026.
Advantages of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) will become more apparent
Ever since its arrival in 2015, accelerated mobile pages (AMP) has continued to grow. Thanks to the considerably faster loading of mobile pages, problems like ‘lazy loading’ – and related customer negative impressions – have become a thing of the past. In fact, a study found that AMP pages are ~84% faster than regular mobile web pages. The enhanced clickability, improved UX, and strong reliability and availability assurances of AMPs also push up the overall visitor/traffic figures – while minimising the average bounce rates. The fact that AMPs can be displayed in a customised manner on the different browsers – delivering a seamless end-user experience – is yet another big factor. Over the next few years, the popularity of accelerated mobile pages will continue to soar – and for businesses, managing/updating web pages on the go will become easier than ever before.
Note: By 2017, nearly 4.5 billion AMPs had been published. Nearly 30 million domains were in active usage, for creating AMPs.
App security to remain under focus
Last year, the total volume of mobile malware increased by more than 20%. There has been a series of high-profile software/cloud security breaches – leading to the theft/misuse of private and personal data. The number of malicious applications is constantly rising – and according to a report, by 2019, the frequency of ‘smartphone infections’ will nudge the 1% mark (i.e., 1 out of every 100 smartphones will be affected in some way or the other by buggy/malicious software). In such a situation, it is only natural that concerns over the security and data-safety features of mobile applications are increasing. App-makers and software testers have to realize that, if a user has any doubts over the security standards of an app, (s)he will not download it (and there are hordes of alternatives available). All types of potential risks that a new application can face – right from insecure data storage, absence of state-of-the-art binary protections, and authentication/authorization problems, to injections from the client-side, unforeseen data leakages, DDoS attacks and problematic server-side controls – have to be identified and thoroughly checked. Smartphone-owners, on their part, should know better than to download every new app that hits the store(s).
Note: Increased mobility is directly proportional to chances of security breaches, according to nearly 63% app-users.
Role of AR/VR in mobile app development
Gone are the days when virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies were deemed to be for high-end gaming applications only. While apps like Real Strike and Pokemon Go are definitely showing the potential of AR-based gaming, use of applications powered by augmented reality is expanding in both the enterprise space and the consumer space. Asia-Pacific has emerged as a fastest growing geographical area of the global mobile AR market – with the latter slated to reach $80 billion by the end of 2022. Dedicated AR applications will go up by almost three times in the 2018-2022 time span (4680 million in 2022; 1570 million in 2018). By the next year itself, the total count of AR/VR based apps will go beyond 5 billion. Developers have understood the need to deliver more immersive, innovative, 360° experiences to final users – and as such, they are trying to incorporate AR modules in their apps, to drive up engagement levels.
Note: The key here lies in using AR/VR in a way that actually enhances the functionality and value of mobile applications. Using the technology just for the heck of it will not be advisable.
10. Android Instant Apps are growing rapidly
The launch of Android Instant Apps in 2016 changed a lot of things. For starters, it started giving customers the opportunity to check out the flagship content of any app, without having to download and install the full application. In addition, Instant Apps have also been statistically proven to have reduced frictions in app-usage and app-dropoffs after single use. By the first half of this year, the user-base of Instant Apps had expanded beyond 500 million devices. A common pain point of many Android-users across the world is the lack of storage space on their devices – and Instant Apps solve this problem nicely, since no full installations are required. In March 2018, Google unveiled Play Instant for third-party Android game developers. There are question marks over whether the growing popularity of Instant Apps might have a negative impact on app download figures – but for now, it can be said with confidence that Android Instant Apps are here to stay.
Note: With the help of Instant Apps, Dotloop managed to bring about a 62% increase in user-engagement levels. Jet has also managed to boost conversion figures by nearly 28%.
11. Beacon technology to play a bigger role
With a projected CAGR of 130%+ for the next half a decade, beacons are probably the sub-sector of mobile technology to really look out for in 2019. The face-off between Apple iBeacon (the leader, with more than 50% market share) and the Google Eddystone platform will be fascinating – with both having multiple innovative connectivity features and high-end capabilities. Within the next couple of years, the world will have over 500 million bluetooth low-energy (BLE) beacon units – and the overall beacons market will race past the $25 billion mark in 2024. Mobile apps powered by beacon technology and strong geolocation support find acceptance in a number of sectors, with the retail industry being right at the forefront (serving as coupon aggregators). By 2020, beacon technology will start to create 1.6 billion retail coupons on a yearly basis. Once again, specialized knowledge and skills will be required to implement beacon tech in mobile applications.
Note: Progressive web apps (PWAs) will also continue to grow in 2019 and beyond, albeit at lower rates. PWAs are relatively less complex, and hence, are easier to develop.
12. Growing importance of low-code development
Platforms like Zoho Creator, Appian, Outsystems and Microsoft PowerApps are changing the process of mobile app development for a vast cross-section of developers. These are the low-code app development platforms (LCDPs) - and their adoption is already high, and set to grow further over the coming years. This June, Mendix Assist became the world’s very first LCDP powered by artificial intelligence (AI). There are, however, two points of concerns over here: firstly, many of these platforms are not necessarily ‘low code’ per se, but have quite a lot of ‘hidden codes’, which clients cannot see. Secondly, there are speculations over whether LCDPs can ‘replace’ human developers in the long-run (not likely, since skilled coders will always be required to monitor and manage these platforms). The global LCDP market has already moved past $15 million – and by the end of 2022, the value of this sector will be just a shade under $27.5 million.
Note: Nearly 1 out of every 4 LCDP-user starts out with negligible programming knowledge. 71% users, on average, can start making apps with these platforms within a time-frame of 3 months (or less).
Cross-platform app development is yet another thing that will continue to grow bigger in 2019, The market for specialized cross-platform tools is growing at a CAGR of 37% – and platforms like React Native are being increasingly used (iOS and Android). The focus of mobile app developers will squarely be on coming up with top-class UX solutions. Applications that deliver true value AND are easy to use are the ones that will succeed.
These are exciting times in the mobile app market, with the latest technologies (like AI, AR, Blockchain and IoT) ushering in a stage of transition. One thing is for certain though: this market is not going to slow down anytime in the foreseeable future!