The explosion of the mobile app market leads to a natural and important question for business owners eyeing it as a possible revenue stream: is it sustainable? No wise business owner would invest the time and money into such an endeavour unless the projected payoff was long term. Fortunately, research answers the sustainability question with a resounding ‘yes’.

According to leading technology industry analyst group Gartner, by 2017, there will be in excess of 268B mobile app downloads, accounting for $77B in revenue. These figures suggest that mobile apps are well on their way to becoming one of the world’s most widely used computing tools. However, what will apps look like and do in the future?

The Evolution of Apps

According to Gartner, within the next few years, mobile apps will have entirely taken the leap from tablets and smartphones to cars, wearables and appliances. In fact, industry leaders, such as Microsoft and Google, have already entered the wearables market, and home appliance apps from companies like Bosch are leading the way in that consumer sector. In the auto industry sector, Apple has made the leap and developed Apple CarPlay, which offers a way to use your iPhone in the car. So, apps are not only for our tablets and smartphones. Industry behemoths are carving a path for apps to be used in nearly all facets of our lives.

The Changing Role of Mobile Apps

As the app market becomes more and more crowded, users have begun seeking out apps that serve a singular purpose. Multipurpose apps are taking a backseat to targeted apps because such apps offer a more precise, streamlined UX. Case in point is the mobile apps for the business market, which offers industry-specific apps for lawyers, doctors, and even those who work in construction and labour.

Apps 1 (PD)In addition to apps being developed with more specific functionality, they will also take a more prominent role in marketing. Businesses already use apps in their branding and marketing strategies, but that trend will accelerate. Why? The analytics that can be gathered from apps can provide a business invaluable information about the end user, which will help in determining future marketing efforts. As such, many free apps are created for the express purpose of gathering data, as well as website and brand promotion, or to generate ad revenue. Consumers are buying into the notion of the free app market, too. According to Gartner, in 2013, 92 percent of the apps that were downloaded were free.

There’s another way mobile apps will evolve to maximise the UX. Not only will the apps themselves be more task-specific, but they will also become more user specific. Apps will continue to be created but with more of an eye toward the user’s location and interests. That is where analytics comes into play. Businesses are beginning to use the critical data obtained through their existing apps to make the UX even more personal.

Native, Web and Hybrid Applications

Until recently, hybrid applications weren’t yet a go-to option for many developers. However, within the last year or two many of the kinks that once plagued hybrid apps have been worked out, and now they are used on a much wider scale. Forecasters believe that will not change, though the demand for native and web apps will always exist. To illustrate the point, Gartner estimates that by 2016, hybrid apps will populate more than 50% of the app market.

Each of the three types of applications works best for different situations. Here’s a quick breakdown:

• Native apps: Platform-specific, so no need to be concerned with compatibility. However, they’re limited because if a developer wants to offer the app on all platforms, he’ll have to design a version for each.

• Web apps: Run on servers and deliver content via browsers, so they work across all platforms. Different browsers will display the content differently, however, so resources need to be put into responsive design.

• Hybrid apps: Combine the best of both native and web apps, and the way they are written allows them to run on the device being used and not the web page. The app uses the browser engine, but not the browser, allowing the app to be useable on every platform while maximising the platform’s capabilities.

The mobile app market is quickly evolving, and it’s growing exponentially. With Gartner’s projection of 268B downloads and $77B in revenue by 2017, there is no better time than now to jump on the mobile app bandwagon.

By Beata GREEN

Beata GreenBeata is Managing Director of HeadChannel Ltd., London based bespoke software development company. She is responsible for overall strategic direction and overseeing the company’s continuing growth, building closer client relationships and maintaining best working practices. She enjoys brisk country walks with her red fox labrador and then relaxing in front of a TV crime drama with a glass of red wine.

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