In a very short period, the world went from being mobile to being stationary, the majority of us being stuck at home.
If you add the upcoming economic crisis to the equation you get a scenario where there you might believe that the mobile app development ecosystem will be affected this year. I am writing this article to tell you that you might want to reconsider this thought.
Let’s look at the actual trend
Though COVID-19 is having an impact on the app store revenue, growth remains strong. Let’s take a glance at the facts and stats to better understand this statement.
The App intelligence firm Sensor Tower published a revised 2020–2024 market forecast. According to this forecast, worldwide consumer spending on mobile apps is projected to reach $171 billion by 2024, which is more than double the $85 billion from 2019. The forecast also predicts that revenue from non-game mobile apps is expected to surpass that of mobile games for the first time by 2024.
In terms of app downloads, the forecast predicts a lasting lift from the impact of COVID-19. By 2024, downloads will reach 183.7 billion, up 9% from the earlier forecast that came out before COVID-19 that had initially accounted for 7 billion fewer installs.
Are these forecasts dead wrong?
Many of you must be reading and wonder is these forecasts are right, especially during this period when the overall economies are going down and businesses are trying hard to survive.
Let’s look at what is going on right now
Despite a decrease in usage for travel and hospitality apps, according to App Annie people spent 20% more time using apps in the first quarter of 2020 compared to 2019. During that time, consumers also spent over $23 billion in app stores — the largest spend per quarter recorded to date.
Consumers are looking for different ways to manage in the current situation, and in some cases, apps provide the perfect solution.
The clear winners in this period are apps in the field of remote work/communication, education, social media, and online shopping. Although daily active users of healthcare apps in South East Asia and India are declining, there has been a 110% increase in spending on these apps during the outbreak as the daily active users and downloads exploded in North America, Europe, and the Middle East.
Given the sheer volume of people working remotely, it’s no surprise to see video chat and online conference apps experiencing explosive growth. In North America, these apps witnessed an astronomical 627% increase in downloads and a 121% increase in daily active users.
Are these behaviors here to stay?
While some of the actual app usage explosions will cool off after the lockdown some industries will keep the current trend even after the lockdown period. Furthermore, in my opinion, new trends will emerge in the upcoming years influenced by this crisis.
As the data already shows, the app adoption and engagement is up across the board, while consumer spending within the ecosystem is remaining strong. This period, while unpredictable for consumers in many ways, will increase reliance on mobile apps as a means for commerce, communication, education, shopping, and entertainment.
Areas of interest in mobile application development
Some of these trends are a continuation of the trends settled before COVID-19 but some of them are confirmed in this period and some of them will emerge from the lessons learned from this period.
Service providers had to quickly adapt to the lockdown situation and to the new way of interacting with their customers so they all turned to digital. Mobile apps with services such as banking, online shopping, food delivery, and healthcare are working on incorporating chatbots as part of their apps. They allow consumers to get answers to their frequent questions without having to call customer support.
According to a recent survey, more than 63% of US online consumers were interested in interacting with chatbots. Research by Gartner indicated that chatbots will save $8 billion for US companies between 2019 and 2020.
As I mentioned in the previous section, healthcare apps surged during this period, and this trend is too strong to cool off. One relevant example is the medical field where apps like Push Doctor an online medical consultation app has observed a 70% rise in consultations while Well an e-telehealth application has observed a 400% hike in the number of downloads.
But online video consultation is not the only area where medical apps will have a growth trend. There are a large number of gadgets out there that can measure your heart rate, the way you sleep, your temperature, your weight, etc all of them connected to our smartphones. These external sensors readings concatenated with other symptoms could serve as an early warning system for each person. Also, in the era of Big Data, the information sent by millions of phones can predict possible outbreaks.
A good example is Kinsa that produces a smart thermometer that connects to your phone and provides personalized guidance based on age, fever, and symptoms. Kinsa also aggregates consumers’ temperature and symptoms data. This real-time data enables Kinsa to track and predict where illnesses start, so the health industry can be better prepared to mobilize the right resources in the right places at the right times.
Another relevant example is that scientists have run studies demonstrating how smartphones’ speakers and microphones can be used to detect with great accuracy important changes in breathing that occur before opioid overdose deaths, and that how people use their phones can be used to predict Parkinson’s disease with 100 percent accuracy. Another study found that accelerometer data from cellphones and smartwatches, which measure how your devices move through space, can estimate the severity of Parkinson’s tremors, helping patients understand their disease progression.
The smartphone, powered by smart apps and smart gadgets will be a powerful tool in medicine.
This period showed the world that we need a system where every operation that previously required your actual presence, can be done remotely. This ranges from remote work, opening a new bank account, shopping, and interactions with the government institutions.
As people will begin to be mobile again, I don’t think they will lose the habit of solving everything remotely and this will open a huge demand for digitization by migrating a lot of systems to web and mobile apps. Banks will no longer need huge buildings to operate as they will slowly transform into digital banks, no more ques when trying to pay a service and at least for a while no more crowded open spaces full of people working together.
In my opinion, every business will have have a web / mobile app in the near future to interact with its customers.
The latest trends in mobile app technology indicate that beacon growth should be something to watch in the following years. Beacon technology is a mobile application development trend that has been completely embraced by museums, hotels, the healthcare industry, and more. It is useful in location technology and proximity marketing.
Beacons could also be used to track people such as patients or doctors in hospitals during emergencies and provide reliable indoor turn by turn navigation.
AR and VR
There are many apps in eCommerce, real estate, the automotive industry, healthcare, and education that are already integrating this technology for better user experience. In 2020, it seems clear that AR utilization will be a focal point for the mobile app development industry.
With the power of extremely fast internet speed in the user’s hands due to 5G, the loading time and image quality will highly improve the user experience for AR apps.
This is a trend in every industry and it doesn’t skip mobile development. Its use is a way to make the apps smarter and able to customize the output to every specific user. As time passes, finance and accounting, customer service, the healthcare sector, and many other businesses are going to integrate AI into their native apps.
Your smartphone will track you throughout the day to learn, plan, and solve problems for you by leveraging its sensors, cameras, and data to accomplish tasks automatically. For example, in the connected home, it could order a vacuum bot to clean when the house is empty or turn a rice cooker on 20 minutes before you arrive.
Once the remote education has proven to work in the current situation, it is here to stay. In the future students will use tablets to learn assisted by AI systems while interacting with the teacher via videos and online conference calls. Tests will also be able to be taken on tablets or computers and you will probably be supervised by an AI that will observe you and identify any attempt to cheat.
IoT and connected devices
IoT is now seen as the next big thing. Industry experts have started calling it the Industrial Revolution 4.0.
Gartner reports that there are 14.2 billion connected things in use in 2019 and it anticipates that there will be 25 billion connected things by 2021. Another report by Fortune Business Insights indicates that the global market for IoT, which was valued at $190 billion in 2018, is forecasted to reach $1.11 trillion ($1111.3 billion) by 2026.
IoT changes the way humans interact with machines, and even how machines interact with each other and the mobile phone is often the gateway that makes this possible.
You can imagine various scenarios here: unlocking the door with the phone, turning the air conditioning system on when you are near your home, watching your smart vacuum cleaner’s movement on your phone, syncing your grocery list with the content of your fridge, using a tablet to tweak the parameters of a factory autonomous robot, monitoring connected to sensors in a manufacturing line and the examples can go on and on.
Besides the examples above, there are more and more systems that run iOS or Android operating systems: fridges, mirrors, smart speakers, cars, smart TVs, watches, glasses, points of sale, and so on. In the future, mobile developers won’t write code only for smartphones, but also for different kinds of devices even custom ones.
More trends can be described in this article but I think you get the point and you are looking at this industry with a different mindset. Mobile apps have grown to an extent where every digital use case has a place for them. The rate at which mobile applications are being used and adopted has given birth to a time where there is not even a single business domain that wouldn’t have thought about investing in mobile applications.
In my opinion, mobile apps remain a major economic driver and a healthy environment for developers, investors, and enterprises through 2024 and beyond.