Businesses do not operate in vacuum. While this is true for all types of professional activities, the adage assumes particular significance when it comes to a field as dynamic as mobile app development. During our last Friday brainstorming session, we were reflecting back on how, less than 10 years back, all that we made were Java apps. Fast forward a decade, and we have started out with our first set of WatchKit applications. Keeping a constant, close tab on the latest changes and trends in the market has been key in whatever success we have had as a mobile app company. In the first AppBoard Tuesday of 2015 Q2, we will do a roundup of the facts and figures that every app developer needs to consider now:
- Dependence on cross-platform tools is increasing – As app developers are getting busier with more projects, they are increasingly turning to external, cross-platform tools for help. Since last November, the usage of these crash-reporting or app analytics monitoring tools has jumped by 7% (30% in March 2015 vs 23% in November 2014). In a recently conducted survey, it was found that nearly 85% of developers (both from app companies as well as indie developers) used these tools. The onus is on you to find out, and start using, the tools that would be helpful.
- Cloud technology is gaining in popularity – And at a rapid pace too. Scores of new mobile devices are being launched every quarter (with nearly all of them having smart cloud data syncing features), and the impending release of Apple Watch is likely to spark off more movements in the wearable technology sector. Cloud-based app development platforms are likely to grow in popularity in 2015 and beyond, and mobile app developers need to ensure that their applications have seamless cloud integration and syncing features. A standalone, offline app won’t serve much of a purpose.
- Secure mobile payment will be actively sought after – Google Wallet might have received only a lukewarm response, but the recent release of Apple Pay – together with the announcement of Samsung Pay in early-March – will help mobile payments move into new grounds. According to a section of the worldwide app development community, the usage of apps that support m-payments might even overtake that of credit/debit cards, by the end of the year (particularly in the West). Security remains a concern though, and it will be interesting to note how the different vendors/app developers handle this issue.
- Flat, skeuomorphic designs are back – This has been a direct ripple effect of the flat design of iOS 8 and the ‘Material Design’ of Android 5.0 Lollipop. Professional UI/UX designers have started to add the elements of height and depth to the elements of their apps (especially in gaming apps), to provide a more realistic feel to users. Layered displays and layouts, with transparency in the UI elements, are being deemed as ideal for most new applications.
- Developers are no longer obsessed with immediate payoffs – Even a couple of years back, most app developers believed that “If I can make ‘em, people will download ‘em, and I will earn handsome financial returns real quick.” Thankfully, that mentality has significantly changed – and at present, over 55% of mobile app developers consider getting a foothold in the app-making business as their primary concern. Once they are inside the so-called ‘Internet Of Things’ (IoT), they are prepared to wait it out – before profits/returns actually materialize. Over the next few months, the IoT domain would expand beyond the two mobile platform biggies – Android and iOS. The takeaway for new, aspiring app developers from this: You need to be patient…making mobile apps does not translate to overnight riches!
- Shorter app development cycles – The entire timeframe between the conceptualization of an app idea and the completion of the app project is getting shorter, and this trend will continue in future too. With mobile app companies taking up more and more projects, the race for meeting deadlines (while ensuring that client-specifications are being met, and there are no compromises in the quality of apps) is getting hotter. It is all about being ‘Quick To Market’ and delivering optimal value to customers. If you come up short on either count, you fail.
- People are seeking more contextual information from apps – And that’s precisely why app development experts have predicted that, more and more applications from now on will have location-sharing features. Depending on the exact location of any person, a mobile application will be able to provide customized service to him/her (for example, a road navigation app). Developers, however, should not include location-sharing in mobile apps for kids. That can be risky.
- Enterprise apps beat Consumer apps at the money game – Between enterprise apps and general consumer apps, more money lies in the former category. Researches have shown that less than 20% of consumer app developers manage to break even, while this figure shoots up to 45% for developers of enterprise apps. The reason for this is simple: the general public is not particularly interested in forking out real cash for downloading (hence, the prevalence of so many free mobile apps). Business houses, on the other hand, are much more willing to make investments on new mobile software – which are likely to prove useful in the long-run.
- Native apps will face a strong challenge – By the end of 2014, hybrid apps had started to grow significantly, and they will eat up at least some of the popularity of native mobile applications. Business enterprises, in fact, are mostly in favor of hybrid apps – since they help in reaching out to multiple mobile platforms with greater ease. Mobile web apps have precious little chances of making a resurgence though.
- Mobile games will have more social interaction features – We are not only talking about multiplayer mobile games replacing the single-player ones. In 2015, app developers have to focus on creating gaming apps that offer easy social interaction and integration. To put it in another way, modern-day mobile games need to double up as social networking applications as well. Apps in this genre would, of course, require regular upgrades too – to keep the user-base engaged.
- iOS developers need to be able to ‘speak Swift’ – Objective-C isn’t going anywhere, but even so, the ability to code in Swift has become a must-have quality in iOS app developers. Within a quarter of the release of Swift, more than 20% developers had started using it (according to a study conducted by VisionMobile). More interestingly, many of the Swift developers across the world are working on iOS projects for the first time. If you are reading this, and are yet to try your hand with the Swift programming language…you are already way behind the eight-ball!
- Freemium apps and in-app ads will become more common – Instead of creating paid apps, the ‘freemium’ model (free apps with in-app purchase options) is gradually becoming the preferred method of mobile app monetization among developers. App companies have also started incorporating different types of ad networks, for including in-app advertisements – without messing up the user-experience factor. Juniper Research has predicted that the total value of app advertisements will be almost $7.2 billion (all mobile devices included).
- Greater emphasis on connectivity – Connectivity via mobile apps is getting more cutting-edge than ever before, thanks to the arrival of technologies like Bluetooth LE and Apple iBeacon (GPS is, for all purses, an ‘old’ technology now). The wide range of smartwatches and fitness bands available offer their own brand of app connectivity options as well. Coders of new-age iPhone/WatchKit/Android apps have to be masters at drawing up algorithms that will help apps monitor the behavior (and not just the location) of users, round the clock.
- Growing importance of user-experience – Any mobile app development company worth a mention places due importance on the user-experience factor of its applications. However, in 2015 and beyond, this task will become more and more challenging – with new devices hitting the markets with regularity. This, in turn, will bring the spotlight back on mobile app analytics tools. Developers will have to monitor the performance of their apps on different devices, seek feedback from users, and customize their products accordingly.
The gargantuan sales figures of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have shown that the market is indeed ready for ‘larger’ handsets (the popularity of devices with 5” or higher screens will zoom up by 210% this year). App designers and graphic artists will need to keep this in mind. Hidden menus in apps is yet another app designing technique that has found favor among users. App store optimization and general mobile app marketing methods are becoming smarter too. It’s an exciting time to be a mobile app developer – but if you do not keep abreast with what’s happening around you, your business will suffer. The more information…recent, relevant information…you have, the better it is for you and your app company.
That brings us to the close of yet another edition of AppBoard Tuesday (ABT). Our ‘Rapport Card’ app (https://www.behance.net/gallery/22802271/Rapport-Card) will be released soon, and we have taken up a few new iOS/WatchKit app projects too. Here’s looking forward to a successful second quarter of 2015!
Stay tuned for next week’s AppBoard Tuesday, where we will put another relevant app-related topic under the scanner. Until the next time, take care…keep learning…and love thy apps!
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