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Top 3 Mobile App Dev Trends for 2017

Mobile App Dev Trends
This week, the Web Summit is in Lisbon. I’ll be there with the other OutSystems co-founders to participate in panels and enjoy the crowd reaction to demonstrations of OutSystems 10. Since a focus of some of the sessions is what will be big in 2017, I thought I’d follow a tradition I started in 2012 and make my predictions about the top 3 mobile app dev trends for 2017. (Click here to see my 2012 predictions.)

It’ll be fun to see if these top trends are part of the Web Summit conversation.

Mobile App Dev Trend 1: More Augmented Reality Apps

Who hasn’t been amazed by the success of Pokemon Go? And with that kind of success comes imitation and innovation. The list of augmented reality (AR) apps for the iPhone alone has reached a number high enough that the top 40 can be ranked. (I’m serious: check out the rankings here.)

mobile app dev trend - augmented reality

This AR app displays geographic directions around you. Photo courtesy of Apple iTunes.

AR is like virtual reality and GPS combined and it’s going to be hot in 2017. I’ve heard there’s an increase in the number of augmented reality mobile dev projects underway that go way beyond fun and games. As part of this top mobile app dev trend, developers can expect these types of apps to move into industries such as retail, manufacturing, life sciences and any others with a high degree of automation.

Gamers, have no fear; your games won’t be abandoned. 3D game developers are investigating how they can use augmented reality apps to enhance the engagement levels of their software. Initially, people were concerned about “broadcasting” their locations to a server through GPS, but that concern is steadily dissipating, thanks to wearables, sensors and the Internet of Things (Iot), which brings me to the next trend.

Mobile App Dev Trend 2: Even More Context-Aware Intelligent Apps

Expect cutting-edge, intelligent contextual mobile applications that combine IoT, machine learning and big data processing in 2017. Currently, the number of separate but connected devices is expected to reach more than 28 billion in 2017. Revenues and profits from the IoT industry have been surging since 2015, and some think that they will double by the end of 2017. So, related to this mobile app dev trend, developers can expect an increase in demand for apps that use smart device sensors.

mobile app dev trend: context-aware intelligent

Trulia is a context-aware real estate app. Photo courtesy of the Android Developers Blog.

What’s different about these “smart apps” from those in the past is that they separate sensors and content delivery and include a “thinking” component. Machine learning and artificial intelligence process the context and location of the person or sensor (often in a wearable) so relevant content or actions are recommended. This “contextual awareness” enables an app like Netflix to recommend programming tailored to the person logged in and not the whole household. It’s also what’s behind a smartphone health app that recommends the appropriate food for a diabetics to eat after a specific exercise to normalize their blood sugar levels. These apps will really take off this year and developers should be ready to integrate AI and machine learning into simpler apps.

At the same time, with approximately 50% of respondents in an AtSCale 2015 survey about Hadoop saying that they will be using it more extensively in 2017, developers should expect to be asked for some contextually aware, intelligent apps to process big data. For those who don’t know, Hadoop is an open-source implementation of frameworks for reliable, scalable, distributed computing and storage of very large data sources. So, as part of this top mobile app dev trend, developers will be challenged to strike the right balance between user-friendly interfaces and reliable, enhanced functionality in contextually aware, intelligent applications. And with that, we go to my third trend.

3. Mobile App Dev Trend 3: Much, Much More UX as Art

mobile app dev trend - parallax

Parallax example courtesy of wikipedia.

User experience will continue to be the single biggest indicator of the success of a mobile application (or even lack of success), just as it has been this year. And we will see some currently “trendy” UX characteristics become a basic part of UX.

Designing a diffused background is becoming more common for app developers and I see it becoming a requirement even now in 2016. Diffused backgrounds for apps, with highlighted call-to-action tabs and buttons and areas that are easy to tap, allow users to focus on the main features with the backgrounds providing minimal distraction. That’s a characteristic that’s bound to become a gold standard.

As for UX as a whole, it will keep up its evolution into an art form that is contributed to by graphic designers and artists. So look for parallax graphics, grid-based interface designing, split-screens, splash screens and visuals, and micro-interactions to gain traction. The days of simplistic flat apps will be gone in 2017.

A final note (about enterprise apps)

I’ve been doing some reading and I keep seeing that enterprise apps are poised to take off in 2017. However, I think that’s not a trend for 2017 but a 2016 reality. In fact, many of us at OutSystems whose job it is to look forward feel that it’s anticlimactic to bring up enterprise apps for 2017. They’re here and they’re real. And that’s why we’ve made sure you can use OutSystems to develop the enterprise mobile apps that so many businesses crave.

To be honest, I kind of cheated for this article. At OutSystems, we’ve pretty much known what things would be hot for mobile app development in 2017. So, we made sure you can address them with OutSystems 10.

Take a look and see. I’ll catch you on the flip side of Web Summit 2016.

About the author

Rodrigo Coutinho

A member of the founder’s team, Rodrigo has a passion for web development, great products, and geeky stuff. He spends his time designing future versions of the OutSystems Platform and dreaming about the cool future of the web.


Ana Sequeira

Thanks Rodrigo! It’s a really great article! I love it!

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