In 2018, Apple’s trademarked phrase, “There’s an app for that” will turn nine years old. Back in 2009, it did seem like there was an app for almost everything. However, these apps were generally single-purpose programs. As technology has progressed, so have apps.
As a result, apps and mobile devices have evolved in complexity, making them both more useful and more difficult to manage. With the emergence of augmented reality, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, cloud technologies, and the aforementioned Internet of Things, what will apps look like in the year to come?
Apps Are Getting Smarter
Without a doubt, artificial intelligence (AI) will play a major role in app development throughout 2018.
According to Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2018, “Intelligent Apps” is one of the top trends to watch out for 2018.
As proof, industry giants are betting big on the emergence of AI in the mobile space. In a speech in October, Apple’s COO Jeff Williams defined the new A11 Bionic chip as a “neural engine,” a processor modelled after how our brains work. This is the same chip that powers the iPhone X and will surely power additional Apple products released next year.
Not to be outdone, Samsung is investing heavily in artificial intelligence, opening a new research center in order to adequately respond to quickly changing markets. Also building on the Android platform, Google is hoping its $400M acquisition of DeepMind will pay off in a big way, both for their personal assistants and for mobile apps to give their Pixel line of phones a leg up on the competition.
All of this will result in apps becoming more predictive to their user’s needs, actions, and preferences. Take, for example, a commuter who uses her music app on the way to and from work every day. On her way to work, she listens to up-tempo music to get energized for the day, and often finds herself skipping a number of slower songs or artists. On the way home, however, it’s the opposite and she finds herself skipping around to find slower, calmer music for the ride home.
Currently, apps aren’t smart enough to realize what type of music a user wants at specific points in the day. However, with AI built into music apps, the mobile device she’s using can begin to recognize patterns in genre, artist, tempo, and style, and connect them with specific times of day. Her app would then be able to personalize her music choices throughout the day. If that isn’t specific enough, the music app would also be able to integrate with the phone’s GPS and adjust the type of music that’s playing based on her location. That way, if a commute is taking longer than usual and the user is stuck in traffic, she will still at least be able to enjoy the music she wants to hear.
Security Smarts Are Critical
Not only will apps need to get smarter with the help of AI, but they’ll also need to get smarter when it comes to security as well. The days of only worrying about viruses and malware on a desktop or laptop are over — because for many people, their smart device is now their only device.
2018, expect mobile threat defence apps to become more popular
There is now a major payoff for hackers to break into smartphones and tablets, making mobile apps both vulnerable to attack and sometimes the source of a breach.
In fact, malware and viruses are masking themselves far better than ever before. Just recently, a WhatsApp lookalike tricked millions of users into downloading it from the Google Play store. This type of app catfishing can easily infiltrate mobile devices, allowing the device to be remotely controlled and used as a portal to its internal storage or as a gateway to its larger network. You can find apps that are supposed to be stop this kind of attack. Google has their Play Protect, which is a built-in anti-malware application installed on all new Android devices. However, it failed to catch the phone WhatsApp release, making developers and users alike wonder what they need to do in the future to protect their mobile devices.
Throughout next year, expect mobile threat defense apps to become more popular. A number of popular apps, both integrated and from third parties, are designed to detect threats, but few act as threat deterrents for mobile devices. This type of security will become far more relevant for Android device users, and for organizations who have a BYOD (bring your own device) strategy. As Android continues to dominate IoT networks and multi-device integration, it will be even more critical that all Android devices are protected from malware and intrusion.
Focusing on Deeper Network Integration
This brings up another key factor for app development and trends we can expect to see throughout 2018: deeper integration with IoT devices. As of September of this year, over 15M Amazon Echo devices have been sold (and keep in mind these sales numbers are coming before major 2017 holiday discounts). It is reasonable to assume that the most popular personal home assistant will have sold over 20M units by the end of the year. Couple this with the looming release of Apple’s own home assistant, and app designers will have plenty of incentive to integrate with home IoT devices throughout 2018.
While less popular commercially, IoT integration is becoming critical for workplaces as well. Offices are getting smarter, and employees are beginning to rely far more on automation than ever before. Expect manufacturers of multi-function office machines to roll out apps that integrate with their new devices, letting employees know when ink and toner are low or alerting them if the device is malfunctioning. Buildings themselves may also get into the IoT game by offering smart locks or NFC/Bluetooth ID cards that enable simple management of user access, even allowing access to be granted only for specific time frames.
App Cloud Development and Deployment
Another trend for organizations is cloud migration. While historically this has been popular for web application development and data storage, there is a major cloud market for mobile devices and apps as well. With users on so many different Android devices of varying size, OS version and usage levels, development on the cloud has become extremely popular. Android users have begun to expect every app on the Google Play store to work on their device flawlessly no matter what. Throughout 2018, it’s reasonable to expect app Android releases will become much smoother and work across a much wider variety of devices.
Mobile cloud traffic will increase 11 times with a compound annual growth rate of 60%
More and more applications are also running in the cloud, making them faster, safer and smaller. One example is Android’s Instant Apps, first announced back in May of this year. However, the Play store only started seeing integration with Instant Apps as of October. In short, this offering allows users to run a cloud-based version of the app directly from the Play store for demo purposes. So rather than needing to download the entire app, enter any information needed and then finally get started using it, they will be able to test the app within seconds as it runs on the cloud.
This can also be seen as a proof-of-concept that entire apps can be run off the cloud — not just for demos, but for full experiences. Apps that run on the cloud will be faster and far safer, as updates can be pushed instantly or even deleted entirely in the event they’re malicious. Throughout 2018, expect to see cloud-based mobile applications begin to emerge.
The AR/VR Experience Is Here
Also emerging in 2018 will be the mass-market augmented reality and virtual reality experiences. Consumers have long awaited this technology, and glimpses of concepts like Pokemon Go let them know augmented and virtual reality are here. As an example, the Transformers movie series will be releasing an AR mobile game ahead of their latest movie release which is expected to be available in February 2018. Meanwhile, Niantic (the company that created Pokemon Go) is developing and plans to release an augmented reality game based on the Harry Potter series.
171 million people will use VR hardware and software worldwide in 2018
Augmented and virtual reality go far beyond gaming, with practical uses for everyday consumers as well. The excuse “I’m not sure how it will work in the house” no longer applies thanks to offerings from Amazon and Wayfair, which allow you to preview what a piece of furniture will look like in your home. Via their augmented reality apps, you can now hold your phone up to a room and see the piece displayed as part of your home. This technology can be applied to a much wider group of customers and companies. For example, landscapers and contractors can create mobile virtual renderings of your home, and users can have their navigation app display as a HUD either when driving or walking to their destination.
Throughout 2018, investments in these technologies will pay off for developers and consumers in a big way. The past few years may have felt like a lot of hype and planning for these advancements, but they will be here and popular before you know it. If you have an idea for an app that utilises these technologies, it is best to jump on it now before the wave of popularity hits and many application ideas are already in development or released.
Originally published on Ciklum Blog on December 12, 2017.