01-23-2018, Mobile Development
by Antoni Zolciak

20+ Crucial Mobile App Development Trends That Matter in 2018

Antoni Zolciak
VP OF MARKETING
More by this author

2018 will be huge for businesses thinking mobile-first – but in order to do so, you need to keep up. With this huge list of 20+ mobile app development trends, you’ll know what to look out for, what should you implement in your app, and what the hottest topics of this year will be.

It’s a mobile-first world. Get ready to dive in.

The Internet of Things Grows Constantly

Internet of Things

Just recently, Forbes published an article on how huge the Internet of Things (IoT) will be in 2018.

With artificial intelligence (AI) emerging, 2018 is supposed to be the year of understanding it. Bret Greenstein, VP of IBM’s Watson IoT Consumer Business, is certain that AI will help bridge the gap between more and more tools that we use every day.

With deep learning, natural language processing, image recognition, and neural-network drive decision making, IoT technologies will help “automakers, hotels, and other companies create more integrated experiences, and to better understand and interact with people.”

Still, we have to be able to control the IoT environment. That’s where apps come in. More often than not, we use our smartphones, smartwatches, and tablets to administer and integrate the tools at our disposal.

The IoT market itself, according to various studies, will see these changes:

  • It will be worth from $170.57 billion in 2017 to $561.04 billion in 2020, with growth at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 26.9 percent (Research and Markets, via PR Newswire).
  • It will be worth $1.7 trillion in 2020 (IDC, via Medium).
    B2B IoT segments will generate more than $300 billion annually by 2020 (Bain, via Forbes)
  • The IoT market will reach will be around $267 billion by 2020 (Boston Consulting Group, via Forbes).

The numbers vary, but the trend remains the same: IoT has grown, and will continue to grow.

Hence, the market needs companies that develop custom IoT applications. There’s a demand for high-level programming for sensors and devices, web apps, and both B2B and B2C mobile end-user apps.

Cloud-Based Apps

Cloud-Based Apps

Cloud computing is yet another buzzword of the past several years, and rightly so. According to Forbes, the total global public cloud market will grow to $178 billion in 2018 (up from $146 billion in 2017). Futhermore, it will continue to grow at a 22 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR).

In the Predictions 2018: Cloud Computing Accelerates Enterprise Transformation Everywhere report, Forrester predicts that more than 50 percent of global enterprises will rely on at least one public cloud platform to drive digital transformation.

Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google are supposed to capture 76 percent of all cloud platform revenue in 2018, and 80 percent by 2020.

Ten Key Development Will Drive Continued Growth In Cloud Usage And Spending, source: Forrester Research

Ten Key Development Will Drive Continued Growth In Cloud Usage And Spending, source: Forrester Research

In real life, it’s mostly about not impacting your devices’ internal memory. That’s why Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, and other such apps are becoming hugely popular. Also, it’s worth noting that – for many – cloud equals saving money and safety, as well as a lot more computing power compared to traditional solutions.

Cloud computing and cloud-based apps are also closely connected to the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) methodology, which is yet another trend for 2018.

Nowadays, BYOD Is Easier Than Ever

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

With cloud computing on the rise, the security aspect in the BYOD trend is not as much of a hassle as it used to be. Previously, there was a huge security concern for protecting sensitive corporate data on employees’ devices. Now, the safety is (in part) the responsibility of the cloud technology provider, or a different trusted third party.

MobileIron, a company providing solutions for mobile device management (MDM) and enterprise mobility management (EMM), prepared an interesting case study titled “When it comes to mobility, every employee should be able to work in the way they want and are used to.”

Isn’t it true?

Cass Information Systems introduced an interesting article and a clear point on BYOD trends for 2018.

“One thing’s certain: BYOD looks set to continue with its exponential growth in popularity in 2018.”

Cass quotes a research conducted by Markets and Markets, predicting that the adoption rate of BYOD policies among U.S. businesses will reach 50 percent by the end of 2017.

The company also mentions a similar study by Cisco. Yet again, the article mentions cloud-based support, and the ability to manage costs better thanks to such solutions.

And you know who specializes in cloud implementations? Yeah, you guessed it!

Mobile Payments

Google Pay

During CES 2018 in Las Vegas, Google introduced simplified mobile payments with its Pay service.

Pay is an app – an app including Android Pay and Google Wallet under a single umbrella. On the official Google blog, we can read that: “With Google Pay, it’ll be easier for you to use the payment information saved to your Google Account, so you can speed through checkout with peace of mind. Over the coming weeks, you’ll see Google Pay online, in-store, and across Google products, as well as when you’re paying friends.”

There are more examples, though. Several years ago, the Polish mobile market saw the introduction of the BLIK payment system – which is a very convenient way for customers to do their online money transfers. It’s fast, easy, and user-friendly.

Also, there’s Near Field Communication (NFC), which is a perfect way for paying for our groceries at a local store. With the NFC chip embedded within a smartphone, the terminal in a shop will subtract the amount of the purchase from the card tied to the smartphone, in the same exact way as it would with conventional card use. Payment Vision has more information on both NFC and many other mobile payment trends that will continue to emerge in 2018.

Global mobile payments have exceeded $700 billion in 2017, a rise of nearly $500 billion over the past four years.

When we take a look at Consumers and Mobile Financial Services 2016 (conducted by The Federal Reserve), we’ll quickly find how fascinating and full of data it is. And how precisely it shows constant growth throughout all ages, ethnicities, and sexes.

Using your mobile phone, have you done each of these in the past 12 months?

Using your mobile phone, have you done each of these in the past 12 months? / Consumer and Mobile Financial Services 2016, source: The Federal Reserve

What was the main reason why you started using mobile banking when you did? / Consumer and Mobile Financial Services 2016, source: The Federal Reserve

What was the main reason why you started using mobile banking when you did? / Consumer and Mobile Financial Services 2016, source: The Federal Reserve

Use of mobile banking in the past 12 months by age / Consumer and Mobile Financial Services 2016, source: The Federal Reserve

Use of mobile banking in the past 12 months by age / Consumer and Mobile Financial Services 2016, source: The Federal Reserve

According to IT Pro Portal, it’s been estimated that 90 percent of smartphone users will have made at least one mobile payment by the close of 2020.

Also, mobile payments and banking apps are often supported by…

AI and Machine Learning. Not Only Is Your Smartphone Smart – Apps Are, Too

AI and machine learning

Let’s remain in the finances sector for a moment and mention how AI can easily handle routine transactions.

With rapid improvements over the last several years, AI can be used to develop chatbots – virtual assistants – that can be used within mobile banking apps.

For example, if you transfer the same amount of money to the same account each month, your app’s AI can suggest creating a transfer order for you to accept (or deny).

AI can also follow verbal instructions, allowing you to transfer the money with little or no use for your on-screen keyboard.

Among the AI-supported applications that are not related to the financial industry, we can surely mention any software based on more personal experiences for the users.

Not that long ago Starbucks released an app called My Starbucks Barista. You just tell the app what kind of coffee you want, and it places the order for you.

Gartner expects that by 2018, world’s largest 200 companies will rely on apps taking advantage of AI and machine learning. Constellation Research estimates that the AI market will reach $100 billion in 2025.

MultiDots prepared a list of eight apps using AI for personalization, engagement, and loyalty.

Lola is an app that helps you plan trips by sending text messages.

Prisma is a now-famous photo-editing app with AI-powered art styles.

Want more examples? Again, head over to MultiDots.

And how about pure machine learning? Well, there’s Netflix, which uses algorithms adapting to user behavior to provide them with personalized content. There’s also Tinder, which uses machine learning to increase a user’s chances of finding a match. Google Maps is making the process of choosing a parking spot easier.

For those of you who are more interested in machine learning mobile apps, head over to this thread on Quora.

Cross-Platform Native App Development

At In’saneLab, we believe in the power of Xamarin. We work with Microsoft on developing the platform, publish a lot of open source libraries, and throw monthly meetups on Xamarin in two cities. We also have a strong mobile team full of geniuses, as well as one developer with the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional title.

That’s how much we’ve betted on cross-platform native app development. Our clients, both B2B/B2C startups and enterprises, trust us to deliver software that performs as well as apps written in a conservative way.

Recently, Xamarin gained more traction due to Swift usage decline. The TIOBE Index report implies that mobile developers are more often shifting to multiplatform tools based on C# and JavaScript.

Wearable Apps Market Will Grow

Wearable apps

With a CAGR of 49.7 percent between 2017-2023, the wearable apps market is supposed to grow significantly.

In December 2017, Research and Markets published a global industry analysis, trends, market size and forecasts all in one. The study covers every leading geographic area including the Americas, Europe, Asia-Pacific and RoW.

We know for sure that wearables aren’t dead. On the other hand, IDC in the latest Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker suggests that sales of apps for wearables are not that great at all. And the reason is more than interesting.

Turns out, the majority of wearables customers only care about fitness-tracking capabilities of their devices.

“Manufacturers of dedicated fitness tracking wearables are therefore adding features and bringing their kit up to a level at which they rival smartwatches,” as we can read on The Register. “Even Apple’s WatchOS and Android Wear have become more fitness-centric as a result.”

But even with Fitbit, Garmin, or Jabra – typical “fit-tech companies” – apps are a necessity. You still need to develop software for both the device and smartphone.

What’s also worth noting is that IDC thinks that better days will still come as the market diversifies, and wearables are being equipped with cellular radios.

Android Instant Apps – You Don’t Need to Install Them

Android Instant Apps

Android Instant Apps allow Android users to run apps instantly. The users don’t have to install any software.

Instant Apps are open to all developers and support the latest Android devices from Android 5.0 (API level 21) through Android 8.0 (API level 26).

In the spring of 2016, we heard about Instant Apps for the first time. You just find an app in the Play Store and click “Open App.” You can also jump to a specific activity within an app that you didn’t install.

In 2017, Google added a “Try it Now” button to the Play Store for some Android Instant Apps. With a shortage of storage space on mobile devices, Instant Apps might become more and more popular this year.

Lazy Loading Sounds Fun

According to various experts, the lazy loading technology (known also as dynamic function loading) might rule in 2018.

In short, it allows a developer to specify which exact components of the software should be loaded into physical storage when a program is launched. The whole methodology is based on on-demand object loading rather than loading all objects unnecessarily.

The main advantages for the users include a minimized application start-up time and less memory consumption.

The main disadvantage of lazy loading is that the code becomes more complicated – and users might experience a slight decrease in performance.

While lazy loading is mainly applicable to web and JavaScript-based apps, it’s an idea that’s been around for ages. The concept itself is also *erm* widely used in real life. Need an example? When you build a house, you don’t employ everyone at once. First, you hire architects. Then – the construction people. Later, when the building is up, you think about contacting painters and interior designers. You “lazy load” all the assets.

Building for Billions: Battery-Efficient and Lite Apps

Facebook Lite / source: TechCrunch

Facebook Lite / source: TechCrunch

Starting from Android 6, and especially Android 8.1, apps have less and less time to finish the tasks in the background.

After a user blocks the screen, a so-called DOZE mode is enabled. It reduces battery consumption by deferring background CPU and network activity when the device is unused for long periods of time.

App Standby mode, on the other hand, defers background activity for apps with which the user has not interacted recently.

This is all a part of the building for billions trend. Not only will such an app be more visible in Google Play store, it will also – probably – reach more users.

As Google points out, the emerging markets have challenging characteristics which developers have to take into consideration:

  • Slow, intermittent, or expensive connectivity.
  • Devices with screens, memory, and processors that may be less capable than devices in other markets.
  • Limited opportunities to recharge batteries during the day.

Hence the trend for lite versions of popular apps – such as Facebook Lite.

The original Facebook app is more than 70 MB before installation and almost 200 MB after installation. With updates and usage, its size increases over time.

Facebook Lite is under 1 MB at first, and less than 3 MB after installation. You can use it even on a 2G network with no hassle at all. Moreover, it uses less RAM and computing power, as well as less battery.

And that’s just one examples.

Blockchain Is So Much More Than Just Bitcoin

Recently, we published a whole article on blockchain technology and how it is changing the IT industry.

The best way to describe blockchain is to look at it as a digitized and decentralized public ledger used for all online transactions. As a continuously growing list of records, the “block” aspect is actually blocks of records linked and secured through cryptography.

But what are the actual benefits of blockchain for your business? Here’s a short list:

  • Establishing a more secure business network to share and record information with multiple business entities.
  • Knowing the identities of those with whom you connect online for regulatory purposes.
  • Changing how you exchange information with customers or businesses through smart contracts.
  • Creating faster transaction resolution to save time and money.

If you’re more interested in the topic, don’t forget to check out What is Blockchain? Defining and Explaining This Revolutionary Technology.

Augmented Reality in Mobile Apps

Just recently, Digital Trends published an article on why the reality is boring and how the best augmented reality (AR) apps for Android and iOS might make the reality better.

While we may not fully agree with the “boring reality” thing (we actually do like our real lives), we do think that AR on mobile is quite fun. That’s why we’re working on a couple of AR projects ourselves.

Read also: Augmented Reality in 2018. ‘Black Mirror’ Is Not That Far from Reality

But let’s just check out some AR apps examples that were hugely successful in recent months.

The first one would be Pokemon Go – millions of installs, high user activity, and a pleasurable experience for people of all ages.

But AR is not only for fun. It can also be used for more practical tasks. An example of that would be Google Translate. With an AR feature, Translate allows you to launch a camera mode within the software and snap a photo of a text you don’t understand. Then, it uses the tech to try and translate the printed lines.

Yet other options are Amikasa or the IKEA Catalog, allowing you to furnish your home in AR. That way, you can – in a more or less precise way – see how your chosen chairs and cupboards will look like after you actually buy them.

My personal favorite is Quiver – an app that brings your children’s drawing to life – digital life, but still. The sole objective of Quiver is to get kids to draw more. Once they do, you can show them how their colored cow, shark, cat, dog, and all the other things can be put into a different perspective thanks to technology.

2018 might actually be the year when AR goes mainstream. This year’s CES in Las Vegas highlighted AR as something to watch.

This is confirmed in various industries, from construction to IoT. As noted by ABC, elevator manufacturer Thyssenkrupp claims that AR has enabled it to achieve “a four-times-faster workflow for the custom design of in-home chair lifts.”

Thyssenkrupp achieved a four-times-faster design workflow.

Magic Leap, Microsoft, Meta, ODG, Mira, and DAQRI all have AR headsets. Apple, Google, Facebook, and Snap – they are focused on developing a smartphone-based AR.

Ford Motor Company is using HoloLens to make rapid decisions about complex geometrical problems.

What’s actually interesting is that the forecasts for growth in AR have typically been much higher than for virtual reality (VR).

Virtual Reality Apps in 2018

Since I’ve already covered AR, it may be the time to actually explain the differences between VR, AR, and mixed reality (MR).

You just gotta looove these acronyms.

According to Wikipedia, VR is a “computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors.

The next time you see a guy holding joysticks in both hands, and with something strange covering his face, it’s highly probable that he’s in VR.

AR is something different than VR. AR is a technology that layers computer-generated enhancements atop an actual world (reality). The goal is to make the real world blend with digital components. AR experiences will probably be less exciting than the ones in VR.

The third term, mixed reality, is the least well-known. Mixed reality aims to combine the best qualities of AR and VR while also maintaining a user-friendly and marketable term.

But let’s get back to why VR actually matters in 2018.

In a report published by Zion Market Research, the global VR market is expected to reach an overall valuation of more than $26 billion by the end of 2022.

The latest buzzword associated with VR is v-commerce. And with v-commerce, there’s a chance of disrupting the entire e-commerce field. Consumers will be able to test out clothes, gear, and a lot of different products before purchasing.

As noted by e27, it’s already happening. In November of 2016, Alibaba introduced VR shopping to its customers across China.   

Enterprise Apps

Aon Corporate App

Business intelligence, customer relationship management, big data – these are the buzzwords for 2018 in the world of enterprise applications.

It’s more than possible that this year more companies will realize that the subscription model is one guarantee for growth. While Netflix, Adobe, and Amazon may have been some of the first to implement it, we’ll surely see more software being licensed on a monthly or yearly basis – simply because it provides a steady stream of income.

It can be applied not only to software, entertainment, telecom, healthcare, or financial services, but also to IoT, manufacturing, and automotive. More on that here.

At In’saneLab, we’ve mainly done projects related to communication. For Aon, we’ve created an iPad app for collecting potential candidate data from HR events across the country.

Another big thing for enterprises is communication. While individual teams might choose a different software than a company-wide solution, you still have to have some form of a standard app. It can be Slack, HipChat, Skype for Business, Workplace by Facebook, or any other program of your choosing. Just make sure that if a team wants to use something different, it’s something like Signal or a similarly safe software.

User Journey Simplification within an App

This is all about empathizing with your users – and that means to properly monitor their experiences.

You need to plan and identify all the possible user journeys for building a perfect user experience (UX). Nick Babich from UXPlanet points out several important issues to undertake, such as an implementation of linear user flow (pictured below) and progressive disclosure (when you don’t show all info at once, but focus only on the necessary parts).

Example of linear user flow / source: Uber

Example of linear user flow
/ source: Uber

Another tool for simplifying the user’s journey is treating color as a functional element. It shouldn’t be used only for aesthetics; it can also work to make the UX more transparent.

Yet another big trend for UX in 2018 might be conversational design. We all love chatting; that’s why WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or iMessage are so popular. That’s why we are implementing chat support on our websites.

And that’s also why voice-activated assistance powered by AI and chatbots will be so popular this year. With a properly designed conversational experience, your app might become a huge success.

In-App Gestures and Animations

A gesture-based interface is nothing new. We believe, though, that in 2018 it will be even more widely adopted – especially with the release of the iPhone X. If you’re working on a new app, we’d suggest thinking about implementing gesture styles, features, and proper animations.

Gesture-driven user interfaces (UIs) result in (as outlined in Smashing Magazine):

  • Less clutter.
  • Ease of use.
  • Seamless interaction.

The more an app relies on gesture controls, the fewer buttons appear on-screen, and that results in a content-focused product. Smashing Magazine provides a great (and well-known by now) example of a gesture-based app – Clear.

Copyright: https://www.behance.net/gallery/24541501/Gear-Powered-Pull-to-Refresh-UI-animation, via Smashing Magazine

Copyright: https://www.behance.net/gallery/24541501/Gear-Powered-Pull-to-Refresh-UI-animation, via Smashing Magazine

As for animations within a gesture-driven app, they simply provide visual feedback to the user.

Content Is Still King, as Well as a Content-Centered Experience

On Prototypr.io blog, the content-centered experience is a number one trend for UX in 2018. Let us quote them on why that is.

But the one thing that should be a big part of design in 2018 is content. It’s well-curated and easily accessible content that makes a mobile or Web product appealing to its intended users.

A content-centered experience is something closely connected to gesture-based navigation. It serves a purpose of removing unnecessary design clutter and keeping the user focused on the app content, and it also serves an aesthetic role. The less buttons, the better – usually.

Let’s put it this way: if you end up on a website or within an app, you usually went there with a clear purpose. You want to gather information, learn or experience something. You don’t want anything unnecessary. Therefore, the aim of a content-centered experience is to use your phone’s screen as much as possible.

Full-Screen Experiences (with Galaxy S8 and iPhone X on the Market)

Since the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S8, iPhone X, or even OnePlus 5T, the debate on full-screen app experiences is a no-brainer.

You just have to take it into consideration. There’s simply no other option.

When manufacturers decide to deliver a smartphone with a bezel-less screen, why not use it to create more immersive experiences for your users?

Biometrics

Biometrics in smartphones are not just fingerprint scanners. First introduced in 2013 with the iPhone 5S, fingerprint security is now being replaced by Face ID and similar solutions like Intel RealSense Camera.

In 2018, passwords will remain widely used due to their universalness. Everybody can use them. Biometrics is simply more convenient, although it requires a more complicated and costly device.

Before we continue with what biometrics might evolve to, let’s explain two terms closely associated with the topic. I’ll quote Gemalto experts on that.

Biometric authentication is the process of comparing data for the person’s characteristics to that person’s biometric “template” in order to determine resemblance. The reference model is the first store in a database or a secure portable element like a smart card. The data stored is then compared to the person’s biometric data to be authenticated. Here it is the person’s identity which is being verified.”

Biometric identification consists of determining the identity of a person. The aim is to capture an item of biometric data from this person. It can be a photo of their face, a record of their voice, or an image of their fingerprint. This data is then compared to the biometric data of several other persons kept in a database.”

Biometrics overview / Gemalto

Currently, biometrics is used not only on consumer devices, but also for law enforcement and border control needs. With such advanced solutions as Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems (AFIS), Automated Biometric Identification Systems (ABIS), or live face recognition, it is also gaining a crazy interest for homeland security in cities and airports.

But biometrics are also practical in healthcare. With biometric ID cards, fingerprints are used to confirm the identity of the bearers of the cards before they are given access to services. You’ll find more info on government biometrics usage at the Gemalto website.

On mobile, biometrics are used for protection and as an alternative to passwords. They are included in a variety of banking and financial apps, as well as passwords managers such as LastPass.

2018 will see the continued rise of the popularity of biometrics.

Personalization Is The Future

Let’s start with this:

Future Expectations for the Mobile Experience According to Internet Users Worldwide (Feb 2016) / source: eMarketer.com

Future Expectations for the Mobile Experience According to Internet Users Worldwide (Feb 2016) / source: eMarketer.com

What you see here is how many users (and that was February of 2016!) want mobile apps and websites to be personalized – how many users desire a more human-like experience.

Airbnb does it perfectly. It monitors users’ trips, preferences, and plans – then, it tries to offer the most personalized experience. Facebook does it, too. When there’s a sudden weather change in your location, the app will notify you. Just you. 

insanelab-mobile-app-trends-2018

Long story short? Here are the most important takeaways for mobile app development trends in 2018

  • The Internet of Things has grown, and will continue to grow.
  • With Azure, AWS, and Google, cloud-based apps will be huge in 2018.
  • BYOD is safer than ever before.
  • Mobile payments are getting more and more traction.
  • By 2018, world’s largest 200 companies will rely on apps taking advantage of AI and machine learning.
  • Cross-platform native app development is a reality in 2018.
  • Wearable apps market focuses on fitness but will most probably expand this year.
  • Try your luck with Android Instant Apps.
  • Lazy loading – have you used it yet?
  • “Building for billions” with battery-efficient and lite apps is a necessity.
  • Blockchain, blockchain, blockchain…
  • AR, VR, MR: get to know these acronyms!
  • Business intelligence, customer relationship management, big data, and communication – trends in enterprise apps this year.
  • Simplifying user’s journey within an app is huge.
  • Gesture-based apps allow the user to focus on content.
  • Fingerprint scanning is not the only biometrics solution on the market.
  • Personalization is the future.

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