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Mobile applications have countless uses for communication, shopping, playing music, keeping track of fitness, gaming, research, and lots more. Considering how much we rely on these apps in our daily lives now, it can be hard to remember that they’re a relatively recent phenomenon, with the oldest versions appearing in app stores in the ‘90s. As the number of smartphone users continues to increase, it’s a safe bet that mobile development will continue making advancements both in currently existing technology and in new kinds of apps. More than 3 billion users already own smartphones, and according to statista, that number is expected to reach 3.5 in the upcoming year and near 4 billion by 2021. Mobile applications aren’t just the future—they’re already dominating.

As expected, massive retail companies like Walmart and Amazon have already taken full advantage of mobile apps to boost user engagement and make it easier than ever to buy their products. Many phone models include shopping apps on their home screens, and making mobile payments is easier than ever. Of course, there are plenty of other uses for them with more on the way. The following are some current trends and statistics as well as ones to look out for in the future of mobile apps.

Annual App Growth

Just last year, the number of global downloads for apps on the major app stores like Google Play and Apple App Store increased from 178 billion in 2017 to 194 billion in 2018. According to Forbes, consumers spent over $101 billion on apps in 2018, which is a 75% market increase since 2016. China accounts for roughly 40% of the total global spending last year. The vast majority of these purchases (74%) were on gaming apps. It’s safe to say this will heavily affect further mobile app development in the near future.

Most Apps are Native Apps

While some app developers create apps that work across platforms, the majority of high demand apps are actually native mobile apps, meaning they only work for one specific operating system, typically either IOS or Android. These operating systems already have exclusive virtual assistants, such as Siri, and exclusive mobile web browsers, so it follows they would have exclusive apps.

These operating systems behave quite differently and attract different audiences, so mobile app developers have to be careful about which systems they design native mobile applications for. Apple operates on a closed source system, meaning they have to approve any native apps submitted for their mobile devices. Android operates on an open source system, meaning their source code is available for all app developers, and mobile users are free to modify their apps if they choose. While this simplicity for app development and personalisation can create a great user experience, some argue that open source platforms are less secure. This is a bit overly simplified, however, and the truth is that security depends on the features of the software, and good mobile developers can always make a product function securely.

Progressive Web Apps Are Expanding

Some view progressive web apps, or PWAs, as the absolute future of mobile app development while others have more conservative viewpoints. What’s undeniable, however, is that speed is essential for online business. In fact, sites that can load within two seconds tend to experience 15% higher conversion rates than those that take longer. Because of this, PWAs will likely shape a great deal of future mobile app development trends. 

PWAs are basically mobile websites that act like apps but don’t have to be downloaded. They can be run on smartphones, tablets, or computers and offer full screen experiences. They’re like a new type of mobile app, and users can choose to save them to their devices to make them run even faster.

PWAs offer a simple navigation experience, push notifications in a timely manner, and are compatible across all browsers. Android even offers instant apps that provide a similar experience exclusive to their platform. Expect each of these to play a key role in mobile application development moving forward.

Expect Massive Growth in Wearables

Wearable technology refers to basically any devices that are worn, such as smartwatches. Wearable devices typically have sensors that connect to the web in order to exchange data. These devices may do anything from keeping track of a users heartbeat to adjusting the thermostat when a certain temperature is reached.

According to statista, there were approximately 526 million wearables in use worldwide in 2017, and this number is expected to grow to approximately 1.1 billion by 2022 as we transition to 5G. 

The Internet of Things

We’re already well into the IoT with smart devices already in many homes communicating with each other and more inevitably on the way. From bluetooth speakers to smart refrigerators, homeowners are already creating personalized experiences with their devices. As we move into the world of 5G, we can expect not only much faster download and upload speeds for web apps, but latency between devices will be greatly reduced. This means a more efficient IoT than ever, and we’ll likely see greater advancements in cloud technology since it also relies on communicating devices.

Augmented and virtual reality

Most mobile users are likely already familiar with AR thanks to the wild success of Pokemon GO. While games may have been the most high demand apps to introduce mobile users to AR, its applications go far beyond entertainment.

AR has the capacity to improve most major industries through various apps and wearables. Take the medical field, for example. With the help of artificial intelligence, an AR program could help surgeons be more accurate. AR has great applications for retail as well. Many stores already use mobile apps to assist customers with chatbots and make credit cards as easy to process as possible. AR programs could be used to view products and customize them easily. AR is also seeing great use in the education system already to produce excellent visual aids for students. 

VR is the logical next step, and VR technology has advanced rapidly in recent years with a variety of headsets and applications available. New technology has allowed mobile app developers to improve their apps with VR playback options, such as what’s possible with Youtube VR. Social media apps have also taken advantage of this technology, such as Facebook Spaces, which allows users to interact in a virtual room. 

Cryptocurrency Apps

Not everyone uses apps simply for convenience or entertainment. There are many work-related apps, such a Slack, out there, and some even use mobile apps to make or store their currencies. Take blockchain apps for cryptocurrencies, for example. Some believe that consumer enthusiasm for crypto apps has already peaked, considering that the first half of this year saw only a 1.82% increase in downloads compared to the first half of last year. This assumption could easily be jumping the gun, however, as cryptocurrencies have seen plenty of surges and drops before. 

While blockchain is too diverse and complex a topic to be limited to a single app, many believe that it will become an even more enticing alternative to fiat currencies in the event of an inevitable market crash. When that day comes, those with crypto wallet apps may see big, tangible profits.

As mobile apps continue to grow in popularity and expand into new areas, it will be exciting to see exactly how the mobile app market evolves to keep the interest of users who constantly have more options.

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