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Here are 2017's top six mobile app trends

The booming rise of smartphones all over the world has led to a surge in the number of apps. Both Google Play and the Apple App Store house about 2 million apps – and this number will not reduce any time soon.

  • A comScore report says that mobile users surpassed desktop users way back in 2014
  • Gartner predicts that more than 268 billion downloads will generate $77 billion worth of revenue in 2017
Today, apps are built not just for smartphones but for wearables, connected homes, smart cars, IoT-enabled devices and much more. Heading into 2017, this presents a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs and consumers. Cloud-based apps and services have gathered increased importance over 2016 and the ability to share and sync data in real time with the server and other devices has driven many innovations. But it is now time to look ahead to 2017 at some key mobile app development trends.

1. Location-based services (LBS) will continue to rise

With the availability and ease of use of GPS on all mobile devices today, location-based services (LBS) will begin to evolve further and give users real-time information or deals based on their whereabouts. Several key areas where LBS can be implemented and put to good use are indoor mapping, location-specific payment portals, retail offers, security features, navigation, travel & tourism and more. Leading tech giants have recently made huge purchases in the LBS space, and Beacon technology is also becoming increasingly popular. Since the service drains battery pretty fast, hardware advancements in this particular area can also enable developers and businesses to flourish in 2017.

2. Integration of augmented reality (AR) into utility apps

Apps that use augmented reality (AR) have long been viewed as gimmicky for promotional purposes. But over time, a large number of apps have integrated AR. With the addition of wearables, AR tools can be used more effectively and productively than ever before. In that context, recognition of words or phrases is something that can be capitalised upon in messenger apps and the like. If someone sends a video, text, or audio with a particular catchphrase, a related actionable item can popup. For instance, the word 'cab' can open a taxi sharing app and 'coffee' can open a calendar request notification. Other integrations such as social media syncing, location tracking, product links and more can also be made use of.

3. Android Instant Apps to become a common trend

Google recently announced its Instant Apps feature that delivers exactly what the name indicates – it enables Android apps to run instantly. These apps do not require to be downloaded or installed and can be run with just a single tap. This 'run-only-as-you-need' concept could change the app industry. Imagine conducting a search and then having a related app turning up on the results page that can be run instantly without installation. No need to wait for it to download, no need to use data to install it and best of all, no usage of precious memory space on the phone to store it. Such apps are generally preview versions though with a few advanced features missing, but they are perfect to gain quick insight into their use.

4. Embedded AI within apps to become a norm

Imagine a picture that changes dynamically according to your mood or situations. With more developers enabling machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) into their apps, the implications of this can have a huge impact on how the app industry works. While photo filters are relatively easier to create, developers could soon start devising innovative ways in which self-learning apps could customise what they display to users based on their personal preferences or location-specific data. Also known as neural networks, such services can soon shift from data centres to everyday devices such as cameras, phones and IoT-enabled devices.

5. IoT app integrations to continue unchallenged

The Internet of Things (IoT) industry is in the midst of a major boom right now, and apps that integrate with IoT will have the most potential. Companies in the fields of health, education, security, smart homes and automobiles have started experimenting with and integrating IoT advancements. For developers, such integrations will involve the usage of complex mobile platforms and enterprise backend infrastructure that can communicate and share data among all devices. Data analytics will also play an important role since all the data that is stored and shared needs to be accessed easily and efficiently.

6. Application security to be more important than ever before

The security of a smartphone has become more crucial than ever because of the sensitivity and sheer quantity of user data available such as account information and contact details. Surprisingly, a large number of people still do not take smartphone security as seriously as they should, and app developers can play a crucial role in addressing this issue. Apps with in-built security features should be prioritised, either at the API level or with a simple code to access the app itself.

Additionally, coding for Apple's iOS is now moving from Objective-C to Apple's own programming language, Swift. More developers are sure to adopt the use of this platform. This will be a game changer for many developers due to its ability to provide a better user experience and enhanced features.

Ultimately, providing a premium and smooth user experience is the key for all apps to succeed, especially in 2017. Design skills and understanding the customer has become a priority for the best mobile app developers. Rich media including images, videos, and audio that make apps better and more memorable are becoming crucial.

Jayavardhan B N is chief executive officer and co-founder of Hashtaag, a Bengaluru-based app development and consultancy firm. The firm creates and enterprise-grade mobile and web applications.

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