When we examine the evolution of the mobile phone, the first names that come to our mind are Motorola and Nokia. But it was IBM with its mobile phone ‘Simon’ that launched in 1994 that mobile phones got a touch of ‘intelligence’. IBM Simon combined the functions of a PDA and a mobile phone allowing users to make and receive calls, view and send emails and facsimiles with ease. As the years progressed, new players made a foray into the mobile phone business. When Blackberry and Nokia were gaining ground, an announcement by Apple in 2007 changed the industry forever. The first iPhone launched in 2007 and that heralded the smartphone race. From the iPhone to the HTC Dream, the first Android device, we have been witnessing a steady growth in terms of the features that a smartphone is packed with. Gone are the days of a separate laptop, phone, camera, and music player. Today, the smartphone packs all these features into one device and offers users a powerful tool. The smartphone revolution is powered by the apps that are offered in each operating eco-system. These apps also offer developers a mini-economy to build apps and get paid.
We look at some of the key trends in mobile apps and examine the categories of apps that will gain popularity in 2018.
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The Year of the Blockchain
The year 2017 saw terms like ‘Cryptocurrency’ and ‘Bitcoin’ enter the common lexicon. The value of cryptocurrencies like Ethereum and Bitcoin is at an all-time high. Despite all the rumors of an impending crash; the popularity of crypto-currency keeps increasing. There are two things here – one the actual crypto-currency and two the technology that powers this – ‘Blockchain’. We will see numerous crypto-currency clones mushrooming around the world and a few them will still find followers and users. But the real focus will be on ‘Blockchain’.
Blockchain offers a high level of security and is designed to keep information decentralized to prevent easy hacking. From banking to insurance and education to digital rewards, and healthcare records various organizations are looking to cash in on the ease of using blockchain. Our big bet in terms of mobile apps is on ‘Blockchain’. Apps that integrate Blockchain and allow businesses to combine the technology with their existing products/technology will gain traction. Apps that let users trade bitcoins with ease and in a secure environment will also gain popularity. Let us see if our prediction finds favor among app-developers.
Google’s ‘Accelerated Mobile Pages’ project gave an added fillip to those who were creating content for mobile phone users. The past five years have seen a steady shift in terms of the delivery of learning content. From responsive websites, which rendered content seamlessly on smartphone screens, to dedicated apps, and mobile-only websites we have come a long way. As learning tends to gravitate towards video-snippets and bite-sized learning, the focus is now on replicating the LMS on to the smartphone. Most major LMS-players offer an ‘app’ variant of their product. The challenge is to ensure that the mobile experience is as good as the full-feature web-LMS experience. The future is ripe for organizations focused on building apps that integrate with any LMS and deliver a powerful learning experience with in-built analytics.
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
The AR and VR bandwagon saw exponential growth in 2017. The availability of VR headsets across the pricing spectrum from Halo to Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard to Xiaomi has pushed product adoption rates. We have been seeing a host of educational products targeted at young learners that bring to life rhymes and fairy tales using powerful AR and VR apps. As the prices of AR and VR headsets continue to decrease and smartphones become more powerful, this year will continue to see another wave of AR and VR apps.
Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning
There was an interesting news-item last year that mentioned that Facebook shut down an artificial intelligence engine system. Researchers discovered that the AI system had created an own language for bots to communicate internally. This language was created without any human input, which led to a panic attack amongst the researchers and led Facebook to shut down the project. As technology turns more intuitive and humans gravitate towards complete dependency on technology for their day-to-day tasks, the growth in AI and Machine Learning apps is inevitable. It will be interesting to see how developers leverage AI and Machine Learning concepts to create app-based solutions to help both individuals and organizations.
Apple has its own secure digital payment system, Samsung is promoting its Samsung Pay service with extensive advertising. As banks across the world seek to push mobile-banking solutions with their own apps, the market for unified digital payment solutions is growing. When demonetization was announced in India in 2016, it completely changed the payment scenario as providers like PayTM saw a massive boost in the use of their app. Despite numerous worries about security issues, the ease of use of mobile payment solutions will only see better designed, unified digital payment apps making an appearance.
Any device that runs on an operating system and is connected to the Internet is subject to the risk of being hacked. A couple of interesting insights from an article published on ‘Mobile Business Insights’:
- Ninety-four percent of IT professionals expect mobile security attacks to become more frequent, while 79 percent report increased difficulty securing devices.
- Over the past two years, the number of vulnerability scans directed at IoT devices has increased 458 percent.
The market for mobile security apps and integrated security apps for all connected devices is set to grow. It is predicted that by 2020 this industry will be worth US$34.8 billion. Expect mobile security apps by key players to flood the market this year.
The shift towards the ‘Cloud’ was slow in the early years. The rise of Amazon Cloud, Microsoft’s Azure, and Google’s Cloud Services have enabled organizations to adopt cloud storage and hosting facilities with ease. Mobile apps that let users monitor their digital assets stored in different clouds have great potential. If you add in real-time user-analytics it sweetens up the service offering. Expect developers to combine cyber-security and cloud storage apps together.
What are your thoughts on these app-categories? What are your picks for mobile app categories, which will trend and be popular in 2018?