Mobile users have high expectations, and there is no such thing as one size fits all. Many will use different device form factors – smartphones and tablets – and a mix of operating systems, sometimes interchangeably.
This has a profound effect on mobile app development. Mobile apps will not only need to be available on a given user’s preferred device, but also work consistently across different devices.
Apps also need to deliver value to users and be engaging, which means mobile app development should encompass innovative and unusual areas beyond traditional application development.
Smarter focus on the user
The user comes first. Much emphasis has historically been on aesthetics and look and feel, but this is now shifting to usability, effective interaction and the overall user experience.
To improve usability and engagement, some of this interaction is moving beyond the traditional small mobile screen into virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR).
Although the immersive nature of VR has long appealed, it was AR which had a big boost in 2016 with the popularity of Pokemon Go. Despite sounding similar, VR and AR have entirely different purposes and require completely different thinking from a developer perspective. The impact of AR is likely to be broader than VR as it can be added to so many applications and does not force users to become immersed, but simply assisted as their physical and digital worlds overlap and can therefore be applied to existing mobile devices.
Products in this fast-paced and embryonic area come and go, even large ones such as Nokia’s Here, and there are probably more open source projects than proprietary AR development toolkits, such as ARToolkit and development specialists such as Azoft that can help with the integration of AR. HP’s Aurasma, Blippar and Wikitude provide end-to-end capabilities with maturing software development kits (SDKs) for app developers to use.
Putting mobile into context
It is not only the front end of mobile applications that are changing. At one time, the focus for mobile context revolved around location and the opportunity for location-based services, which in some respects has morphed into appetite for AR. Now there is greater emphasis towards a broader contextual understanding that exploits the sensory reach of the mobile device environment in combination with the power and capacity of big data in the cloud. Combining this with remote capabilities to exploit artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and what is sometimes termed ambient intelligence (AmI).