Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone a mere decade ago and apps soon became all-pervasive, with TV shows and web sites to transnational corporations conducting their operations through the medium of apps. But what exactly are apps? The term ‘Apps’ first gained currency among Apple and Android users, thanks to Apple App Store and Android Playstore. Apps are pieces of software that run on computers, mobile phones and other devices that may or may not be connected to the internet.
The app world is, however, undergoing a dramatic change. Many smart phone users have stopped downloading new apps and are relying on a few big applications to perform their tasks. The idea of mobile screens laced with independent apps that can be experienced only when opened, holds less appeal in today’s times. Technology is also making conventional apps redundant and entailing the need for new kinds of apps for a new world order.
The World of Apps
There have been 3 types of conventional apps, viz. desktop, mobile and web. Desktop apps are complete apps, comprising all the features of a program. These apps are meant to be used with a mouse, keyboard and a large display, and are generally offline. Web apps are generally lightweight as they are dependent on the internet and a web browser. Hybrid apps are a blend of a desktop and web app; they have an offline interface like desktop apps, but are also always connected to the internet. For example, Adobe Photoshop image editor is a full software program that runs on the computer, but Adobe Photoshop Sketch is a condensed version that can be used from a portable device. The mobile application market is dominated by Google apps such as Gmail and Google Maps, as well as social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. Walmart, Amazon and Bank of America also use mobile applications for customer engagement and direct marketing.
Apps in a new avatar?
The simple, conventional apps are rapidly metamorphosing into responsive websites, native apps and progressive web apps. Websites enable easy accessibility, but do not provide a pleasant user experience. Native apps deliver a rich user experience, but are limited to a few devices as they require a download. Progressive Web Apps or PWAs combine the best of mobile websites and native apps.
PWAs are mobile apps that were first introduced in the year 2015 and are being made available through the web medium. They function like native apps as far as navigation is concerned. But unlike their native counterparts, progressive apps run within a web browser and without the need for any download. If need be, these apps are downloadable in areas of low connectivity and remain updated at all times.
Marriage of Apps and Technology
Smart home, voice-controlled speakers are hogging the limelight in the technological world, given the popularity of Amazon Echo and Google Home and the frenzied pace of research in these emerging areas. Voice-activated apps would set these smart businesses on the fast track.
Augmented Reality is becoming a reality with each passing day. For example, Ikea’s app allows users to see the furniture in their home before actually making a purchase and this saves the end user time and money.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI-driven voice recognition devices such as Amazon Alex are displacing traditional apps as a means of accessing information easily and quickly. Chatbots are set to revolutionize the retail industry by offering tailor-made experiences to the customers. Bots embedded in an app such as Facebook Messenger and Skype will be able to book restaurants, make appointments and send emails in response to a single message, amounting to a return to the world of human conversations.
Unbundling an app into smaller, uni-featured apps is a new trend in mobile app development. Tech giants such as Google and Facebook have already shown the way by unbundling their flagship apps into smaller apps designed to address specific user needs, with the Messenger from Facebook and Docs and Sheet from Google being cases in point.
The future of apps probably consists in in-browser experiences. WeChat, the Chinese messaging app with nearly a billion active users monthly, offers multiple in-app experiences such as hailing a taxi, making mobile payments, renting a vehicle, getting food delivered and laundry picked up within the WeChat framework.
Apple Watch has heralded a transition from basic watches to smart wearables. Moreover, the smartphone is set to become the hub of a personal-area network consisting of healthcare sensors, smart watches, display devices and sensors embedded in clothes and shoes, negating the need for individual apps for different purposes.
Internet of Things
Billion of devices, including LED light bulbs, domestic appliances and medical devices, will be connected by the year 2020, according to a Gartner report. These smart objects will be a part of the Internet of Things and communicate through a smartphone or tablet app with different networks. Apps that integrate voice commands and touch-based features will become the order of the day in such a world.
M-commerce is becoming a buzzword in the mobile retail space. The rising popularity of Apple Pay and Google Wallet will facilitate purchases using mobile phones rather than conventional debit and credit cards, necessitating the need for mobile transactions apps.
To conclude, the technology of app development is evolving at a frenzied pace. And so is the business of app development. American companies had enjoyed unrivalled monopoly till the recent past. But with the rapid growth of app-related technology, American companies are compelled to look overseas to countries such as India and China for app developers and innovative app development work. Apps will not be dead, but rather embrace a new future, thanks to explosive technological growth and breath-taking expansion in new business markets.
|This article was contributed by fellow NYU students. If you would like to make a contribution to the NYU Dispatch, please email us.|