Developers: Here Are 6 Technologies App Users Will Expect You to Consider in 2017
It’s never great to start out your content with a confession, but here we go anyways: We can’t, in good faith, assert that every one of these trends is going to demand your undivided attention in 2017. We get it, not everyone is going to have a foldable phone, charge wirelessly, and project apps onto thier bedroom walls.
What we can say, however, is that over the next couple of years, you would be wise to pay attention to these trends in mobile tech if you’re a developer wanting to remain on the cutting edge of what’s possible in the mobile space.
This list represents a mix of technologies and innovations you might either directly think about incorporating into core app functions, or just keep in mind when thinking about ease of use / how people will rely on their devices in general.
1. Virtual Reality
First things first: Virtual reality in its adoption by the mainstream public may be slightly further off than the hype would have you believe. That said, certain markets often push boundaries first, and gaming is certainly one of those.
App developers who focus on delivering games to the App Store and Google Play have plenty of eager testers at their disposal who will try out games that offer VR features.
Developing VR comes with its own set of considerations pertaining to field of view/peripheral vision, depth perception, and others that will be important to keep in mind if you plan to take advantage of this trend — which will only grow — going forward.
Here’s a brief article from the Guardian going over a few interesting initial apps taking advantage of Google’s low cost (or no cost) Google Cardboard apparatus for demonstrating VR.
2. Augmented Reality
Virtual reality’s little brother wasn’t gathering as much excitement— right up until Pokemon GO used it to demand the world’s attention.
In some ways, AR is ‘VR light,’ and can be a way to lightly introduce developers to using a combination of computer generated elements and the real world, rather than needing to completely create a digital environment from scratch as is the case with VR.
Augmented reality itself, unlike VR, doesn’t require extra peripherals, and most AR apps indeed don’t use VR headsets/goggles, instead letting users’ phone screens display augmented camera input and serve as the portal to a creative spin on reality.
Developing for AR is more about considering how the real world in front of an app user can be combined with generated graphics or sounds in either an exciting or useful way.
Snapchat’s popular lenses feature is a relatively simple example of this.
3. Wireless Charging
As (hilariously) put by one article: “Wireless charging might just be ‘the next magical thing that only Apple can do.’”
While the author obviously pokes fun at Apple’s habit of promoting features as unique despite other handsets having them previously, he’s probably correct in stating that wireless charging will be a buzzphrase of new phone reveals over the next year.
As far as developers are concerned, wireless charging — or more specifically “inductive charging — might not open up the same creative floodgates as imagining the possibilities of VR and AR, but that doesn’t mean you should forget about it completely.
Will there be apps that need to distinguish between a phone that’s hardwired charging vs. doing it wirelessly?
Should there be a difference in your app’s screen dimming behavior if a phone is set down for 30 seconds on a regular table or desk vs. when it’s been set on a wireless charging pad?
Unlikely to become the mobile developer’s favorite programming extra, but still worth keeping on your radar.
4. Foldable/flexible displays
It kind of feels like foldable mobile phones have always been ‘just around the corner’ for several years now, but we’ll get there soon, guys and gals, for real this time!
The practicality and adoption of these phones — of which we’ve already seen physical concepts — is unproven, but they could sure provide some interesting opportunities for developers to think about how apps could behave to adjustments in the shape and angle of the screen.
For a long time, we’ve known how to use handheld devices to project lit images onto a larger surface. Inevitably, this feature made its way to smartphones a few years back (though has caught on the most in the Indian market).
Still, look for devices over the coming years to test innovation here, perhaps combining 3D-capable displays with multiple projectors to create a hologram effect (Star Wars has teased us for too long!).
A wide enough adoption of such features is probably a ways off, but don’t doubt for a second that someone will have their ‘Pokemon GO moment’ after creating an addictive experience using hologram-like projections as AR, rather than just the screen and camera.
6. Voice / gesture commands that actually get used (and work)
Will anyone finally get it right and invent a voice-commanded smartphone assistant that actually does what the hell you want it to?
Every time a new version of voice control comes out for an OS — clad with a humanized name, of course — it’s touted as some sort of AI gamechanger. Spoiler alert: It never is.
It’s an odd beast, and in its current iteration most millennials might have the impression that it’s really only used by their parents to send text messages or awkwardly search the internet.
Even so, voice technology will only move forward, in one capacity or another.
In a more interesting direction, gestural commands that use motion detection in the phone or which allow input via the camera picking up various gestures or actions happening out in the real world, are something developers might be able to have some fun with.