It’s almost impossible to keep up with the trends that occur in the world of mobile development. That’s why it’s such an exciting industry to be a part of – I’m always learning.
I’ve managed to whittle down a list of eight mobile development trends that I’m really excited about. Hope you enjoy!
1. New languages
A few years ago, if you wanted to code a mobile app you had to use an old version of Java on Android and Objective C on iOS. Whilst they got the job done, these languages could be a bit clunky, hard to decipher and lacked some of the features.
In 2014, Apple released Swift, and in 2017 Google officially adopted Kotlin, while also allowing for Java 8 features. These newer languages help coders to write ways that are easier to understand, be more productive and produce apps that are less prone to certain kinds of bugs. These languages continue to evolve pretty quickly, improving with every release.
2. Reactive functional programming
With mobile applications, you are generally not in control of when things happen, or when data is available. We are at the mercy of external factors like how good the internet connection is, how long it takes to write to an SD card.
Then there is the most unpredictable factor of all – the user. Yet many apps have been coded using a style born in a context which was far more predictable. Today there is a growing appreciation and use of a different paradigm.
Libraries like those under the Reactive Extensions umbrella (http://reactivex.io/) encourage us to write apps by composing streams of unpredictable, constantly changing data.
3. Blurring of distinction between web and app
It used to be the case that websites and apps were quite separate beasts. Apps were downloaded from a store and felt slick, smooth and easy; websites on mobile phones, however, were often a painful, laggy, clumsy experience.
The web on mobile has been steadily improving and now there are a range of innovations which are blurring the distinction between the two worlds:
- Progressive web apps, – web pages that work offline and have an icon on your home screen
- Android has created the notion of instant apps – subsections of apps that you can open straight from a website
In the future it will be harder and harder for users to tell where a website ends and where an app begins.
4. Power to the user
Android and iOS began with quite different philosophies – Android is an open-source platform which has always extolled the values of freedom, variety and customisation. This meant freedom for device manufacturers to take the operating system and modify it; freedom for apps to do what they want with the device’s resources; and freedom for the user to customise all sorts of things. On the other hand, iOS was keen from the beginning to maintain control, in order to deliver a consistent end-user experience. As time goes on, it seems to me that both operating systems are slowly converging on a happy-medium. Android has recently been asserting more control and standardisation. Project Treble is an initiative by Google to help device manufacturers to stay up to date with the latest version of Android. Newer versions of Android enforce stricter rules on things like what apps can and can’t do in the background – which protects battery life. Meanwhile, iOS has been introducing more options for users to customise controls and settings.
5. Artificial intelligence
Leaps forward in AI will create new possibilities. Whether it is through services in the cloud, that apps can connect to, or Neural Processing Units baked into the hardware of your phone.
Expect these constantly learning algorithms to be solving more and more problems, and perhaps making more decisions on our behalf.
6. New approaches to security
There will probably always be an arms-race between those seeking to protect digital lives, and those seeking to hack past the layers of protection. Google recently launched Google Play Protect – a comprehensive security suite which scans your phone for signs of malicious behaviour. In the iOS world, in addition to introducing new security features at an operating system level;
Apple is increasing the requirements that app developers are expected to comply with, regarding secure transmission of data.
The Amazon Echo, the Google Home and, most recently, the Apple Home Pod have brought speaking artificial intelligences right into our homes.
A significant number of users also make daily use of voice-recognition features on their phones.
We are only at the very beginning of exploring the world of voice-interaction.
8. Number of connected devices
The number of connected devices that the average user owns will only increase. The internet of things will force consumers to think less in terms of individual products, and more in terms of eco-systems of phones, fridges, thermostats, smart TVs, voice-driven computers and more.
Nowadays it is impossible to launch a phone without giving attention to the various accessories that can interact with it – including watches, intelligent earphones and styluses.
I have no doubt that by the time I finished writing this, another hundred new developments entered the world of mobile. Are there any you’re especially keen to share? I’d love to know.