Mobile app development is probably one of the hottest industries now and will remain so for some time. To understand what lies ahead in 2018 and beyond, we must look back at what happened in 2017. In my opinion the following developments during the past year will have a significant impact on how we develop mobile applications in the future.
The rise of neural networks APIand Neural Processing Units
The appeal of Artificial Intelligence lies in its ability to detect patterns, learn from them, and take some decisions on our behalf. Since the mobile is the de-facto tool of choice for accomplishing a sizable portion of daily tasks, the implementation of AI would tremendously benefit its users. Current AI implementations use cloud technology. But 2017 saw this trend changing in favor of dedicated Neural Processing Units (NPU) in smartphones and for good reason.
You see, AI requires computers to calculate too many things too fast in a short span of time – something that regular CPUs aren’t designed to do. A Neural Processing Unit (NPU), in the form of dedicated processors that are a part of a larger System on Chip (SoC), helps fasten offline processing of machine learning tasks. This approach also ensures better security because most tasks become self-contained in the device.
In 2017 Google announced the lite version of TensorFlow – its open source machine intelligence software library. While Google’s Pixel devices feature NPUs that use TensorFlow for image processing, its new APIs for Android devices has begun standardizing some experiences on mobile devices. Huawei’s Mate 10 also packs an NPU. Apple developers will only have to update their apps once with the company’s core ML framework. All this is very exciting. Watch this space for more!
Augmented Reality still growing in popularity
Trust everybody to remember the craze for Pokémon Go when it was first released in the summer of 2016. Since then, the appeal of Augmented Reality – the superimposition of computer generated images on real world pictures – has multiplied tenfold. Now there is SnapChat, Ink Hunter, WallaMe, and scores of other apps with innovative uses for AR. Even BAFTA has launched dedicated VR awards for the first time.
Clearly, in 2017, the craze for Augmented Reality (AR) only increased. Evans Data Corporation surveyed 600 mobile developers in 2017 and discovered that 44% of mobile developers are incorporating some form of augmented reality (AR) into apps. The other 30% are assessing or testing the technology in their projects.
The report further states: “Although AR has numerous uses and adoption is steadily climbing, developers complain about awareness as being a major challenge in developing or piloting an augmented reality app.” Building awareness takes time. And in my opinion, the time is now ripe for Augmented Reality to come into its own.
Freemium Model is here to stay
When it comes to monetizing apps, the ‘freemium’ model has turned out to be the winner. A survey by Clutch, a leading research and review platform for business services, revealed that 61% of app developers recommend a ‘freemium’ model for mobile app monetization. This comes close at heels of a report by Sensor Tower which states that the overall app revenue has only increased in recent years, growing by 35 per cent year-on-year to $60 billion in 2017.
Clearly, users prefer to download the app for free and choose to make in-app purchases as per their judgment. Moreover, with 82% of all app revenue being from gaming apps, people would naturally like to try out a game to see if it is worth the money!
Developments in Ionic
Ionic View is akin to a mobile app portfolio. It enables users to share, view, and test the apps they are developing across devices. In 2017, updates were made to improve the experience. The Ionic Blog states: “We’ve added a number of features to make it easy to share builds of your app with a lot of external testers and clients, including doing A/B testing and sharing different versions to different people. We’ve also added a ton of new native plugins to it.”
Likewise, in 2017, Ionic Cloud was deprecated and replaced with Ionic Pro – a powerful suite of tools and services, focused on development and testing. It automatically tracks runtime errors, makes it possible to update the app without app store submissions, and several other features. The Ionic Blog states: “As of February 1, 2018, we will no longer provide Push and Auth services. Anyone with an existing Cloud account can continue using Push and Auth through January 2018. After that, you’ll need to find an alternative provider.”
All good things come to an end, and so has the Ionic Cloud. Fortunately, Ionic Pro is a worthy successor.
Kotlin – Significant Leaps
In May, the Android team announced dedicated support for the Kotlin programming language. In addition, they also announced a collaboration with JetBrains, that developed Kotlin and IntelliJ, to move Kotlin into a non-profit foundation. Explaining the decision of the Android community to provide support for Kotlin, Mike Cleron, Director, Android Platform has stated: “…it was because we think Kotlin is a great language that will make writing Android apps easier and more enjoyable. Kotlin is also a great match for the existing Android ecosystem. It is 100% compatible with the Java programming language. You can add as little or as much Kotlin into your existing codebase as you want and mix the two languages freely within the same project.”
It can be safely said that in 2017, Kotlin has established itself as one of the topmost choices for mobile app development.
Developments in React Native
Open sourced in 2015, React Native already has an impressive user base including Airbnb, Skype, Instagram, Facebook, Facebook Ads Manager, Tesla, Walmart, and a host of exciting startups. In August, Microsoft shared that they have built the new Skype on top of React Native “to facilitate sharing as much code between platforms as possible”. React Native enabled them to power both – iOS and Android – Skype apps from the common codebase. They used ReactXP – an open sourced thin layer on top of react Native – to power the web app.
Sunsetting the past
Developers who still use the older versions of Android and iOS should prepare for a future minus support. For example, Android 4.x series is being used by very few devices. Similarly, devices using iOS versions other than 10 and 11 are just 7%. Naturally, providing support for these versions is turning into a challenge. If I were you, I’d say a heartfelt goodbye and move on.