Every year brings new ideas and innovations—that’s what makes technology such a fun thing to follow. And while it’s not always possible to foreseen the individual success stories inevitably that crop up (I’m looking at you “Yo”), there are some overarching trends that we can look forward to.
A lot can happen in a year, and I expect to be surprised by some of it; nevertheless here’s a breakdown of what to expect in the app development world for 2015:
1. Apple Watch App Support
The Apple Watch is coming. That’s not really a prediction, so much as it is an official fact. When it comes out is still up in the air, but Apple have given the general time frame of “early 2015.” This release is going to have wide ranging effects on the app industry. The UK launch is even less specific, the official website has flip-flopped between stating :Early 2015” and just “2015.” Clearly they want to release ASAP, but there may be hurdles to jump through for international releases.
In any case, the first major effect that this launch will have is that early 2015 is going to be a golden opportunity for entrepreneurs. Apple has already released the development tools for the new watch, meaning that app builders have the chance to prepare their apps ahead of the device’s official launch. Come launch day, hundreds of thousands of watch owners will be eager to explore the new capabilities and apps available on their watches. The closer we get to the official launch, the more Apple will be working with developers to populate the Apple Watch app (read more here) store..
2. Watch Explosion
Relatedly, the Apple Watch is going to be a kick in the pants to other manufacturers who need to compete with Apple’s shiny new device. They’re not going to take this lying down, so expect major manufacturers like Samsung, LG, Motorola, et al., to have something up their sleeves. We know Samsung is working on more toys with their Tizen OS, and we saw some WebOS watches by LG at CES.
There will be more smartwatch activity this year than any we’ve seen, you can count on that.
3. The Internet of Things
Another thing we saw at CES was a renewed focus on the Internet of Things—specifically in the consumer environment. Samsung CEO Boo-Keun Yoon gave a keynote address at CES that went in depth about the importance of the internet of things, and outright stated that Samsung was set to ramp up the connectivity in their own devices.
As always, mobile apps will have a crucial role in the consumer user experience, since our smartphones will be our primary platform for controlling, monitoring, and otherwise interacting with our connected devices.
4. Other Wearables
Smartwatches are just one aspect of the wearable technology phenomenon. As the Internet of Things expands, wearables will absolutely be part of the trend. Other kinds of wearables are already being built and gaining momentum. The key aspect for most wearables will be their ability to blend in and be invisible amongst our day to day fashion. Wearables will be more popular where they are small or worn beneath clothing. Where smartwatches struggle a lot with fashion, due to being literally out on the wearer’s sleeve at all times, other wearables can take a more “invisible” approach to fashion.
5. Contextual Functionality
With the rise of the Internet of Things and wearables, the amount of data available for apps is going to be higher than ever. Apps will be able to use this data to provide automatic and contextually-tuned functionality to users. This isn’t an easy task, but it does have a lot of potential. Those who get it right will basically be writing their own ticket to success. Expect to see a small handful of major success stories in this arena.
6. Cloud Powered
Continuing a trend set in 2014, more and more apps are going to focus on cloud functionalities. With individual users more and more often owning multiple devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.) it is important to synchronize data through the cloud.
Likewise, no enterprise or business app can afford to ignore cloud. Cloud brings vast advantages in collaboration and convenience, while also helping to eliminate security and productivity problems that arise from lost or broken devices; if everything is stored on the cloud, workflows are simply much less likely to be interrupted.
7. Mobile Payment Integration
The introduction of Apple Pay has greatly renewed interest in specialized payment gateways. Apple Watch, alongside Google Wallet, are leading the charge for simplified mobile payments. New apps will have a lot of incentive to utilize these platforms, as consumer interest in them is high and mobile shopping is rapidly gaining popularity. Holiday shopping at the end of 2015 will likely involve more mobile apps than ever!
2014 brought some highly publicized security breaches. Snapchat was one notable example, since it was a widely used consumer app. Elsewhere there were big news stories on account of icloud,and of course the Sony debacle at the end of the year. These may not be be directly consumer-related, but they’ve certainly raised consumer awareness that digital security is not something to be taken for granted. Could 2015 finally bring an increased focus on proper encryption and security to our mobile experience?
9. Enterprise Apps
Enterprise corporations are continuing to adopt mobile solutions. As always, it is harder to shift momentum and adopt these new innovations in larger environments, but 2015 should be a year with a lot of progress in that area. A recent IDC study predicted that “over 50% of large organizations will invest in enhanced enterprise mobility management (EMM) capabilities to secure apps and data in 2015.” They also note that the idea of apps as providing bonus productivity is going to fall away, as their benefits become instead a competitive necessity.
Apps with high user engagement—like messaging apps, social media, and any others which can reliably be opened by users many times throughout the day—are currently grappling with the idea of turning themselves into platforms for value-added services. Snapchat is adding Snapcash, Line is creating taxi services, and you can bet more stories like this will be coming throughout 2015. App owners should keep an eye out for opportunities to form business partnerships and bring these kind of value-added services to their apps.
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