Another year, another dizzying array of mobile app trends. Most 2018 mobile app trends will build on the trends we’ve seen for the last few years. For example, in VR/AR, AI and IoT. But there are some genuinely new and exciting ones like Android Instant Apps and ‘The Notch’. We’re here to guide you through the biggest and best mobile app trends of 2018.
Mobile App Trends 2018
If you’ve been reading trends articles for more than a couple of years, you’re probably sick and tired of hearing about VR/AR. This isn’t a break through trend, but it is one that will become cemented in the year to come. Various tools have now been released to help developers. As a result, VR will begin to be incorporated in lots and lots of apps (particularly in the ecommerce arena).
EEVO lets users create rudimentary VR experiences with nothing more than 360-degree video and a few other media assets (no programming skills necessary!) Meanwhile, open source software ARToolkit gives developers of all budget and experience levels the chance to play around. Apple have even incorporated an AR toolkit into their own SDK. This mean’s that the tech and the native design are all sorted!
If last year was VR/AR’s breakthrough, 2018 will be the year this mobile app trend becomes mainstream.
Web/ Android Instant Apps/ Progressive Web Apps/ AMP
Following the success of businesses such as Uber, Instagram and Snapchat, there was a rush from both businesses and entrepreneurs to build apps. These companies rushed to build apps without necessarily even thinking about their web presence.
As explained here, it’s not actually as easy as that – building a business isn’t the same as just building an MVP. That’s not to say there aren’t benefits to businesses of building a mobile app. However, many businesses are realising that they need a web presence too.
This realisation is colliding with a few tech developments, notably Progressive Web Apps to make businesses think about creating websites which are truly optimised for mobile. PWAs allow for Android users (as yet they’re not supported on iOS) to use the app directly on the web. Users can access these combo-websites via a traditional looking app icon if they wish. PWAs can also deliver push notifications and integrate with native hardware like the camera.
The big benefit of this for businesses is that they can build just one website and get an Android app too. This reduces initial design and development cost as well as being easier to maintain. Crucially it gives them even greater levels of exposure as it gives them reach via SEO which is often greater than the reach of ASO.
For a more in-depth perspective on the pros and cons of different app types, check this out.
Wearable + Internet of Things
2017 saw the release of the Fitbit Ionic and the Apple Watch 3. Apple made changes to iOS 11 (especially with regard to Wi-fi and Bluetooth in the control panel) geared to making the Apple Watch work more seamlessly.
Various brands have ventured into the ‘tech glasses’ market, most recently (and disastrously) snapchat. Wired wrote earlier this year about how Google Glass might not have been as big a disaster as they’ve been portrayed. Either way, we’ll probably see another version of ‘glasses’ at some point in 2018. Maybe we’ll see something that tips the balance on this particular piece of wearable tech.
Meanwhile 2017 also witnessed a huge explosion in Amazon Alexa sales, which paves the way for a voice controlled internet of things. But it’s not the only way this can work.
The internet of things has been slower to take off than some anticipated. This is largely due to the fact that the appliances themselves need to be inbuilt with technology to integrate. However, apps which can turn the heater on as you leave work (or lock the door If you’ve forgotten!) have become increasingly common and will really begin to establish themselves in 2018 as the appliance market (which tends to have longer product and development cycles) catches up.
Of all the mobile app trends for 2018 discussed here, AI is the one already most firmly established. In fact, it’s so established that it’s often misattributed. Things that don’t really use AI in any meaningful sense are frequently sold as AI apps. What this means, though, is that there’s much more to come from AI.
AI has the potential to really change how enterprise decision making is made. If it’s integrated with an app that decision making can be easily accessible, personalised and mobile. Expect the AI hype to continue for consumers, but for AI to really begin to transform the way business is done in 2018.
Security and Data
2018 will be the year of GDPR. This data protection law comes hot on the heels of a number of stories about data leaks and poor app security. So, a big trend in mobile apps for 2018 will be making them more secure and data compliant. This is true for enterprise apps and those aimed at consumers. With data security in the news, and government watchdogs on the look out, users and businesses are likely to be much more cautious about the apps and companies they trust with their data. GDPR will affect the ways in which apps can use the data of individuals to personalise apps (especially sister apps). It will also affect how explicitly they will need to ask in order to collect this information in the first place.
Individual, behavioural based personalisation is one of the big advantages of apps – for businesses as well as users – so it’ll be crucial for designers and developers to work out how to comply with the rules and make users feel comfortable handing over their data again.
The concern among those in the know (IT leaders and professionals) about security is significant. 60 percent reported a data breach resulting from an insecure mobile app. 64 percent are concerned about a vulnerable mobile app in the workplace.
Currently, only 29% of companies security test their apps, but Gartner forecasts that this could reach 90% by 2020. So data and security are two connected mobile app trends of 2018 that will become important for businesses, developers (and designers).
‘The notch’ could be the X factor (no pun intended) of mobile app trends going forward. For the moment, of course, it only affects the iPhone X. As we saw with Apple’s decision to remove the headphone jack though – where Apple go, others often follow.
Apple at the moment have simply made handling the notch part of their SDK for developers. However, they’ve had to make some compromises and they haven’t been able to solve all the issues yet. For example, when you browse the web on an iPhone X, it renders web pages with white bars at either side.
Web browsing on iPhone X 😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/suqmxlrWVU
— Certified Great Deal (@DaftBott) 14 September 2017
Youtube, meanwhile, have decided to go completely fullscreen with their latest app for iOS. When you use Youtube in fullscreen on an iPhone X, the notch covers part of the video. However, there’s an even bigger problem. There is currently no Youtube video recorded in the correct 19.5:9 aspect ratio for the iPhone X. This means video will crop and be obscured by the notch.
Apple’s own photos app also offers full screen. However, it again runs into the problem of the notch obscuring part of the photograph. One advantage of these two apps on the new iOS is that Apple have added a zoom feature.
However, the notch isn’t just an issue on the phones that actually have the notch. Apple run one OS on all their devices. As a result, they have made changes to iOS 11 that are designed to help accommodate the X’s notch. These changes include larger, bolder titles. These changes are designed to cover up the fact that everything has to be moved down on the X to avoid bunching against the notch. However, when combined with the limited vertical spacing on a smaller phone (like the SE) this can significantly reduce the viewable content. Below, for example, is the new iOS 11.1 podcast app displayed on an iPhone SE. On iOS 11, the number of podcasts that you can see on one screen has been reduced from 5 to 3. The notch ends up, via iOS 11, resulting in UI/UX compromises on smaller phones.