The State of Mobile Experience 2023: Future trends in mobile

We're excited to release our first-annual State of Mobile Experience report, which explores trends in mobile development through different perspectives. Below, we discuss some future trends in mobile that emerged from our research.

Editor’s note: This post was originally posted on Jul. 31, 2023 and was republished Dec. 11, 2023 to ensure all content and links are up to date and accurate.

In our recent study on the State of Mobile Experience, we spoke directly with mobile engineers to understand, among many other things, their perspectives on the future of the industry. What technology would make the biggest impact on mobile in the next few years? How would the challenges of today stack up to those anticipated for tomorrow? Read on for some insight into the key upcoming trends in mobile that emerged from this research. 

1. AI is predicted to impact mobile development in the near future more dramatically than anything else

The hottest thing in tech right now is undoubtedly AI. One can hardly navigate the internet today without experiencing it in the form of customer service chatbots, generated photos on social media, or even telehealth companies using it to diagnose routine illnesses. Industry numbers support this cultural surge. According to a 2022 study by IBM, 35% of enterprise companies are now using AI in their business, and a further 42% are actively exploring it.

Yet, based on industry experts we interviewed, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what this technology can do. Nearly 80% of mobile engineers we polled in our research said that AI will dramatically change the future of app development in the next five years. By comparison, 25% said that AR/VR and low-code/no-code development would be industry-changing. 

Most orgs, however, have a lot of work to do before they’re equipped to make use of AI’s full potential. For mobile engineers, this spells out a huge opportunity to develop specialized, in-demand skills for the future, as lack of skill and expertise were named the main barriers for business adoption of this technology.

2. Declarative UI frameworks, modern languages, and low-code/no-code development languages will offer greater efficiencies for mobile engineers

How engineers build apps is transforming. One reason for this is the development of more advanced coding languages and frameworks that abstract away a lot of the primitive steps of programming. And, based on our research, adoption of these is likely to skyrocket. A staggering 97% of iOS engineers we surveyed said they planned to use Apple’s more modern, concise Swift programming language over the more traditional Objective-C in the future. A big selling point of Swift is, of course, that it works with SwiftUI, Apple’s new declarative framework that makes it easier and faster to build complex interfaces. 

In the Android realm, a similar trend is evident. Over 80% of Android engineers from our study said they are currently using or plan to use Jetpack Compose, Android’s modern toolkit for building native UI, in the future. A major reason for doing this is to speed up development time.

Along a similar thread, we see a reinforcement of the major trend toward low-code/no-code development – one that’s well-known in the industry – in our research. While well behind AI, low-code/no-code tooling was the number two most widely reported emerging tech that engineers said would change the industry in the near future. 

All of these related insights from the research point to a mobile future with greater speed, efficiency, and specialized tooling that takes care of a lot of the figurative “scaffolding” of building an app. Not only will these advancements likely free up engineers to work on some of the more creative aspects of app design, but they will open up opportunities for less technical professionals to contribute to building.

3. Security and data privacy compliance will be bigger challenges in developing for the future

Lastly, a discussion about the mobile future would not be complete without talking about data security. Consumer mobile data is fundamental to propelling the overall, fast-growing data economy forward – and a big reason for that is how much of it is shared by apps. According to a 2022 study, 55% of apps available on the Google Play store share user data. 

As companies find more and more applications for using consumer data, legislation is now catching up. In the U.S., in particular, 2023 is expected to be a landmark year in shifting the legal tide of data policy in favor of protecting the end user’s rights – similar to the approach the EU and California have taken with GDPR and CCPA, respectively. 

Our research among mobile engineers reveals that this evolution is very much on their minds. Of those we surveyed, 17% said that maintaining data privacy/compliance was a key challenge for them currently – that went up to 23% when asked about it as a challenge in the next 5 years. Even more dramatically, the related topic of security & authentication saw an even greater shift in how concerning it is for engineers now vs. how much they expect it to be soon. All of this is to say, watch this space – security and data compliance tools and solutions will prove even more critical for mobile in the near future.

4. The rise of mobile RUM

More interest in Mobile Real User Monitoring (Mobile RUM) can be attributed to the increasing importance of delivering a seamless and optimized user experience in the mobile app landscape. As mobile devices have become ubiquitous and users expect high-performance applications, businesses and developers have recognized the need for tools that provide insights into how real users interact with mobile apps.

Real user monitoring encompasses so much, that developers are focusing on MRUM to really enhance their mobile experiences. Mobile experience is important, as 91% of people prioritize speed. Only 9% of users will stay on a mobile site if it does not satisfy their needs quickly. If Mobile RUM is not satisfying all of your needs, a combination of APM and observability may be able to cater to your specific needs.

For more info on mobile industry trends, plus deeper insight into both engineer and end user perspectives, check out the full State of Mobile Experience 2023 report.

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