By Lacey Kobriger
Welcome to the future of mobile. With explosive growth in the mobile space over the last few years, it can be challenging to keep up with all the new technology coming to mobile apps. We gathered a team of our mobile Nerds (Android Engineer Patrick Fuentes, Principal UX Designer Laura Heurung, iOS Engineer Jon Rexeisen and myself) to offer expert insights on the coolest technology emerging in the mobile space and what it could mean for consumers.
Get ready to meet the next billion smartphone users
This year at I/O, Google announced that — in an effort to provide a greater reach and support to all customers — the next version of the Android operating system would have a lightweight variant. This version, dubbed Android Go, is geared towards consumers with no (or limited) data plans and economy models of Android phones. All Android phones that have 1GB of RAM or less will automatically be configured to run Android Go, offering a better mobile experience to consumers with these devices.
This new Android OS option will help make smartphones more obtainable and offer an opportunity for a broader audience to be reached through mobile apps. This also means that in order to reach this audience, there may be special considerations for your app to ensure it’s available in the Android Go Play Store. Reaching lower-income, rural or global audiences is becoming easier in the mobile space and Android Go is the latest effort in making mobile products more accessible to everyone.
Mobile apps are the new mobile web experience
The mobile web experience has become more ubiquitous in the last two-to-three years. In response, many businesses have made the move to ensure their web content is responsive for display on mobile phones. However, Google has pushed this space further with Instant Apps. This new feature will allow consumers to access content in a mobile app by clicking on a Google search result, a social media post or a link. The app experience loads as quickly as a typical website but offers a completely native version of the app — although with a limited feature set — outside of the mobile browser. This allows users to get a taste of your app, and commit to downloading after experiencing the value. We anticipate this will lead to greater app awareness, and if your content is valuable, more downloads.
Instant apps do not need to be made separately from an existing mobile app; it is an experience that can be enabled in most existing apps in the Play Store. This feature also provides an opportunity to increase app downloads and daily active users through organic interactions instead of expensive marketing campaigns. We expect to see Apple offer a similar capability for their apps in the future, meaning ever-growing potential for your app to be discovered, downloaded and used.
No longer science fiction
For the first time, augmented reality, machine learning and voice controls are obtainable for developers and designers of mobile products. Both Google and Apple have committed to supporting these technologies and have created tools and hardware to bring these experiences to mobile devices. We found some of the most exciting developments for mobile that we believe will make a big impact on how people interact with their apps.
Connecting the digital experience to the physical world
ARKit from Apple is a framework that allows product teams to bring augmented reality into their apps, allowing objects to be placed and tracked in a 3D space with their phone’s camera. Clever use of augmented reality can add depth and delight to everyday tasks by using a device you already have in your pocket. The experiences you can create span the gamut of crafting an immersive parallel world or helping people discover information about their environment. Using ARKit to build an augmented reality-based experience can offer new opportunities to educate, immerse and help people in ways that were previously impossible. We recommend following @MadewithARKit on Twitter for a glimpse into the amazing capabilities of this technology.
Your app can understand and learn about the world
TensorFlow and Cloud AI from Google and CoreML from Apple brings machine learning to nearly any mobile app. Machine learning can help simplify and automate complicated tasks such as making a smarter job-searching engine or allowing people to search for information using images. An example of how quickly this technology is becoming widespread can be seen with facial recognition technology. Products like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Google photos and Apple photos have leveraged machine learning to make images searchable or create fun moments where your phone can recognize things it’s looking at. As these companies continue to use this technology, the capabilities and reliability of accurately recognizing a face grows and improves. Facial recognition is just the start; machine learning offers us a unique opportunity to build smarter experiences that can add delight in previously impossible ways.
People talk to their digital assistants more than ever before
Given the commitment to machine learning and augmented reality by Google and Apple, we expect to see rapid growth and consistent improvements in the next couple years. Apple has a reputation for only releasing technologies that are ready for the broad consumer experience. If their investment in voice control is any indication, It is likely that these technologies will soon become commonplace for mobile devices and many mobile apps. Both Siri and Google Assistant have made huge strides in a few short years and have lead to Google reporting that 20 percent of their mobile searches come from voice services. The success of these voice control systems has also influenced stand alone hardware focused on voice, such as Apple’s HomePod, Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa.
What does this mean for your mobile app?
Position your product for innovation
With rapid growth in the mobile space, it can be hard to know when it is best to release new features to existing apps. We recommend doing at least two major releases each year: in the spring and fall. Apple and Google announce their plans for the year in the spring and release new features, operating systems and devices in the fall. Syncing your product planning and releases with these announcements can help keep your app ahead of the competition.
The future is now
Right now, mobile is becoming a leader for innovation in the consumer space. As you explore the exciting future of mobile technology, it’s important to consider how these new tools can impact your business and find the right fit for your product. Creating memorable, delightful and timely user experiences shape how your product is received and bring your brand into the spotlight. Mobile capabilities and technology will likely continue to grow in amazing ways in the coming years and we can’t wait to see what comes next.
Continue the discussion with us next Tuesday, July 25 during our free Nerd Therapy panel event at our Twin Cities headquarters. Our panelists will share their thoughts on how powerful mobile can become and what it means for businesses and consumers in the future. We hope to see you there.
Published on 07.18.17