I can’t believe we’re over halfway through 2016 and apps are now 8 years old. They’ve come an incredibly long way in a relatively short period of time. When starting out, they were lightweight versions of desktop sites (Facebook, Google Earth), or games. Now? There are entire companies who have built their business model around an app (Uber and Venmo) and are transforming industries in the process.
And there’s certainly no sign of the mobile industry slowing down. Not only has mobile usage surpassed desktop, but the mobile-first mentality continues to expand. Digital media time spent on mobile is now at 51%, with 90% of that media time spent on apps [Smart Insights]. And it should come as no surprise, since we’re virtually using apps for every aspect of our daily lives from commuting, to exercising, to work collaboration and even dating.
There’s no question that apps are here to stay, but there is a question as to how they’ll continue to evolve. So it’s not surprising that , the internet is full of conflicting opinions. But then I got to thinking, why am I looking for outsider advice when I work at an organization full of mobile experts?
So I bugged my very busy co-workers for their honest, unabashed opinions on where the future of apps is headed. Read on to get the viewpoint of people who eat, sleep, app repeat:
Think about your own app usage for a moment--the majority of us are using far fewer apps on a consistent basis than ever before. Like any species in nature, apps are going to have to evolve to survive, and we're already seeing the first of this evolution in the form of a heightened focus on engagement (the better, more personalized apps win). If you look closely, you can also see a second evolution on the horizon, the “Great Extension”, where apps co-mingle, share identity and are pervasive across devices and even 'things.' This is when the app really starts living up to it's name, with broad "app-lication" throughout our lives.-Lou Orfanos, Head of Product
“I see mobile continuing to transform the way businesses engage with their end users. For the first time, companies have the distinct opportunity to directly connect with consumers in more personal ways via a device always by their side. This technological shift puts a mandatory responsibility on companies to capitalize on this opportunity, and make the right investments to drive highly engaging experiences.” -Shannon Davis, Account Executive
The word "app" becomes less meaningful as the experiences become less centered around the launchable icon but begin to extend more seamlessly into web, core OS features, and our internet-connected wearables and homes. -DeRon Brown, Senior Software Engineer
Mobile apps that aren't leveraging the data they have about users will become extinct. Apps that succeed will pay close attention to user behavior and proactively communicate features, content, and activities that are relevant to them. A personalized experience will be a requirement of all future apps. -Brady Flanagan, Sales Training Manager
“As apps become bloated with features that distract from their core experience, users will begin to seek more streamlined, use-case focused apps that get the job done quickly.” -Chris Ciollaro, Senior Software Engineer
"The future of mobile/apps will include the continued 'appification' of each facet of our lives. We will rely on apps from the moment we open our eyes (or even while we're still sleeping), until the moment we go to bed. From making our morning coffee to managing our grocery shopping, mobile apps will rule every corner of our world." -Jennifer Tanenbaum, Account Executive
“Interactions with apps are going to become immediate and bite-sized. Apps are moving to a world where they're used via almost a concierge model: A central OS-level provider like Google Now or Apple Maps (or bot platform like Facebook) organizes the interactions with the user or the contextual triggers that launch an app, and then a mechanism like Android Instant Apps or Apple's iOS 10 Extensions will actually run the needed app in a smaller context. Slow-loading websites and apps that have long sign-ups or checkout flows will be superseded by apps with quick interactions powered by tools like Apple Pay.”-Yoni Samlan, Product Manager
"A lot of people are predicting that apps will die out in the next few years, replaced with things like bots. Personally, I can’t quite get there. I think bots will take over a lot of basic tasks that are currently handled by apps, but I can’t convince myself that a chatbot will provide a better user experience for something like browsing a product catalogue or planning a vacation. I think the future will have a more limited app ecosystem, where more basic apps have been replaced with bots. The apps that remain will leverage technology like machine learning to yield a more dynamic app that adjusts itself to the user - changing what information it provides, how the navigation is setup, etc. based on who the user is, where they are, the time of day, etc. The result will be apps that are easier to use and far more personalized than what we’re seeing today."-Aaron Sawitskly, Senior Product Marketing Manager
"Apps became popular because they allowed companies to deliver the real-time, focused experience that customers wanted but couldn't get on the web. Today, customers are demanding a cross platform view where everything they touch behaves like an app and knows everything about them. In the future, the interaction may be with an IOT device or a chatbot, but the experience will still be innately an app experience powered by individual data about that user.”-Henry Cipolla, CTO
There you have it. While how apps take shape in the future is TBD, we’re confident they will still have a prominent and integrated role in our daily lives. Apps are the backbone to interconnected technology, allowing us to have the personalized, omnichannel experiences we demand.
My personal thoughts on the future of apps? As we move into 2017, apps will continue to evolve and take new forms, but the underlying theme remains the same: to make it in this incredibly competitive app world, you need to know your purpose, know your users, and know how to deliver a seamless UX across all channels.
What are your thoughts on the future of apps?
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