App Trends – If we were going to build an app, what would it be?

So, I’ve been writing content for NS804 for about six months now (congrats, me!), and for four of those months, I’ve had a singular question written at the top of my cubicle’s whiteboard:

What is the number one question people ask about making apps?

It’s a question I’ve been mulling over when I’m trying to sleep at night, and it’s something I try to consider during all of my content ideation. But it’s a pretty open-ended, context-subjective query.

I’m not even attempting to say I figured it out – I believe it’s an important question to continuously ask because it’s so chase-able and mutable. But I do think the subject of this blog post, at the very least, skims the surface.

The insider’s perspective

Just because I’ve only been creating content for NS804 for six months doesn’t mean I only have access to six months worth of mobile development experience – we’ve been around since 2012, after all.

I wanted to write a piece about app trends (which, if you’re looking for more content relating to current trends of the mobile market, check out this fantastic blog post by Kumulos’ Marketing Manager, Caroline McClelland). I also wanted to at least try to answer this question I’ve been chasing continuously.

So, in my best attempt to answer this previously posed question, I grabbed our CEO, Nick Jones, in our motivational poster-lined hall and asked, “If you were going to make an app, what would it be?”

Without hesitation, he responded with “On-Demand.” He’s a man of few, but pertinent words.

I also proposed the same question to our Business Development Manager, Jon Osborn. As his headphones blasted Biggie in the background (turn the volume down, Jon! Your poor ears!), he answered with:

“Enterprise AR, Process Consolidation (think a master platform), and games.”

So, let’s talk about those.

On-Demand apps

“Wait,” you might find yourself thinking. “On-demand isn’t trendy. Uber was 2009.”

And you’d be right about that – but just because the taxi service industry was flipped upside down a decade ago, doesn’t mean every industry has had its own shake-up. Both millennials and Gen Z have incredibly high purchasing power (in the billions), and love on-demand services – I might belong to the “industry-killing” millennial generation, but I would tout it’s much more accurate to say we like what we like, and we don’t what we don’t. I’ve always failed to see why “the customer is always right” doesn’t apply to millennials for some reason. The inability to adapt spelled the doom of the dinosaurs, just as it’ll spell the doom of Applebee’s. But, I’ve gone on a tangent.

There’s more ground to cover in the on-demand industry than just transportation and entertainment. The amount of service-based sectors that could evolve to work within an on-demand business model is truly staggering – and that’s why it’s expected to become a $335 billion industry by 2025.

The on-demand business model is the greatest boon to local and small businesses since, well, anything. On-demand services benefit from an intensely personal relationship to the consumer, so smaller companies actually have a leg up when compared to big box retailers and the like. Small companies with low overhead also have a strong potential to tailor their services to the demands of an on-demand business model, unlike their larger counterparts.

This isn’t to say large companies can implement their own on-demand services – just look at Kroger’s Pickup. The difference is, however, the potential for growth. If you’re a small business owner, this is the time to build an app to create an on-demand service within your business. It might seem like a heavy investment, but the payoff is worth it.

Millennials don’t like talking on the phone. It takes a lot of time, it’s not conducive to accurate dissemination of information, and it’s not on-demand enough. If your business uses phone calls to communicate with customers in any step of your funnel, you can implement an on-demand form of communication for booking, delivery, or any other service. If millennials are given the chance to place an order online or through an app versus over the phone, they’ll go with the online order every time – even if it takes a little longer.

Enterprise AR

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about AR at the enterprise level, and it certainly won’t be the last. Right now, with a lack of truly pervasive and useful wearables, AR or MxR isn’t entirely ready to make a splash. This is, however, soon to change; wearables are on the rise, and MxR headsets like Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 are soon going to be making waves in the manufacturing industry.

If you want to get ahead of the game with an evergreen, scalable app, go with AR. Once companies realize AR’s potential to dramatically cut training costs, improve worker efficiency, and increase quality, everyone is going to want an AR app to enhance their potential revenue.

Most of the logic behind AR apps is adaptable to many situations, so it’s incredibly scalable. If you build out your logic now, your business could focus on front end development for AR apps, and basically re-brand your backend to fit with the needs of your current client.

The “master platform” app

Time is money. That’s nothing new – but the potential to streamline a business’ internal processes has never been greater.

A master platform app is the perfect way to cut through the chaff of running a business – your accountants can access their books on their desktops, while your sales team can jot down and track leads through their phones, and your customer service reps can engage customers on their POS.

With one platform containing all of these different systems, it cuts down on training time, subscription fees, and time wasted transferring data between incompatible enterprise services.

The best part is, just like AR apps, the backend of a master platform app would largely be the same between one company or another, so it too is scalable.

Games

There’s nothing trendy about games, per se. Gaming trends come about with the advancement of technology – from mancala to jacks, to Pac Man and Flappybird.

There is a new trend coming about with mobile devices, however – foldable phones. This will be a huge boost for the UX of mobile games – right now, mobile games need to account for the fact that at least a quarter of the device’s screen will be blocked by the users’ thumbs. This will all change with foldable phones.

With the ability to interact with two screens, one can be dedicated to controls, opening up the possibility for more intricate or challenging game design. Visuals will also be enhanced as an entire screen can now be dedicated solely to display, rather than acting as a hybrid between visuals and control schemes.

The clamshell design is the optimal design for mobile (what was previously called hand-held) gaming – Nintendo adopted this style with the Gameboy SP in 2003, and with the release of the first generation DS three years later, solidified the UX of this design. Nintendo has been creating addicting games that utilize two screens in truly inspiring ways – and now mobile gaming will have the ability to do the same.

If you’ve been considering making a mobile game, but have been overwhelmed by the amount of saturation in the mobile gaming market, think about what you could do with a foldable phone. Many existent games will attempt to adapt their current UI to foldable phones, but it’ll be the games that were made with two screens in mind that will truly shine.

Think about the user

Trends are called trends for a reason – they’re not permanent, nor fool-proof rules. Whenever you’re in the process of ideation for a mobile app, always focus on achieving one goal – solving your users’ pain point. Nothing is as powerful (or profitable) as an app that creates a positive change in your users’ lives, and that’s not a trend – it’s human nature.

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