The global app industry is set for further robust growth this year. In the following discourse, we have focused on some of the most remarkable mobile trends that are likely to grow in 2015.
The combined revenue figures from app stores is projected to reach $77 billion by the end of 2017 (as per a recent Statista report). Although countries like United States, Australia and United Kingdom are still the epicenters of the worldwide mobile revolution, usage of mobile apps has witnessed major surges in many other nations across the world (including developing countries). The 2014 year-end stats about mobile applications made for interesting reading, and as we enter the third month of 2015, the following trends are expected to gain momentum:
- App revenues would no longer be the highest in the US – According to AppAnnie, mobile apps were the most profitable in Japan in 2014, with South Korea and the United States taking the 2nd and 3rd spots respectively. The trend should continue this year, with countries like Brazil, Germany, Indonesia and Mexico all emerging as strong sources of revenues/profits from app downloads and usage. India is not far behind the eight-ball either.
- iOS would remain the most profitable – Last year, the gap between the profitability of iOS apps and Android apps was a whopping 70%. This year, the gap should get somewhat smaller, but Google is not going to mount a serious challenge on Apple mobile platform’s profitability anytime soon. Even after the series of troubles that iOS 8 has run into, the platform remains the top money-churner for mobile app developers. But…
- Google Android will pull away further in terms of downloads – iOS wins the revenue-generation round hands down, while Android aces the worldwide market-share consideration. Mobile app analysts have confirmed that the total download figure of Android applications was at least 60% higher than that of iOS apps. Do not be surprised if the difference in downloads widens further in 2015.
- The monthly mobile app download count should breach the 9 billion barrier (for US users) – For the last 4 years, the average app download counts by smartphone-users in the United States have been 8.9 billion, 8.6 billion, 8.8 billion and 8.8 billion respectively. With many new mobile apps and software already launched by app companies in 2015, the figure should hover around the 9.5 billion mark by year-end. There are several high-end smartphones scheduled to release during the year too. That would egg on the app download figure further.
- Marketing via mobile apps will be huge – During 2015 and beyond, marketing and promotional campaigns via mobile apps will no longer be an option for businesses. The user-base is huge, and companies that do not have dedicated mobile marketing plans are going to lag behind their competitors. The total monetary value of mobile advertisements is likely to hover around $13 billion. Paid ads will gradually become more important than organic marketing (search market).
- Not all social media apps will be equally popular – The remarkable difference in the fortunes of Facebook and Google Plus apps highlight this. While the former led the way in 2014 with 69% downloads, G+ lagged well behind with a meagre 19% download figure (less than Instagram, Pandora Radio, and even Yahoo Stocks). Among the hundreds of social networking and social media applications launched this year, only a handful will be successful. The onus is on mobile app companies to focus on the quality and usability of their products. If something is viewed as not user-friendly, people will have loads of other options.
- Kids’ apps will become even more popular – At present, nearly 85% children in the 6-9 age group have their own tablets. Approximately the same percentage of kids and teens in the 14-18 age range own smartphones as well. Given these figures, it is only to be expected that Android and iPhone/iPad apps for kids would continue to surge in popularity this year. Mobile technology has been accepted worldwide as a vital cog in preliminary education, and the downloads of learning apps would soar.
- Well-made and well-promoted apps will always have an initial demand – Surveys conducted by app development companies in the US reveal that, 1 out of every 5 smartphone-users in the country are ‘app install addicts’ (i.e., they try to check out as many new apps as possible). A large chunk of these ‘addicts’ are mobile gamers (both male and female), while there will always be a demand for social networking and parenting apps too. Whether these apps would succeed in the long-run, or bite the dust due to unfavorable reviews, is quite another story though.
- Mobile shopping is going to surge – By the end of 2014, 39% of regular shoppers in the United States had started buying stuff via these applications. This year, the trend is going to further gain strength – with the arrival of Apple Pay and the general increase in familiarity with NFC (near field communication) technology helping it along. It has also been seen that that the usage of mobile shopping apps is maximum between 12 noon and 8 pm (i.e., afternoon to late-evening). Developers have to ensure that their apps are not down during this time-span.
- Mobile apps are the new best friends of young adults – In particular, the millennials. Nearly 8 out of 10 people in this category spend more than two hours everyday with their smartphones, playing games, reading stories, checking the news, and interacting on social media apps. In the US, 65% of all mobile-owners keep their handset with them at all times. Smartphones are the last thing they check before drifting off to sleep, and the first thing after getting up.
- Photo-sharing apps will grow at a rapid clip – Among social messaging apps, Facebook Messenger held a healthy lead in 2014 – but what was remarkable was the upsurge in the popularity of photo-sharing applications. The download count of Pinterest app grew by an impressive 43%, Snapchat witnessed a 57% surge in downloads, and apps like Line, Vine and, of course, WhatsApp were all major movers. This year too, image-sharing and messaging apps will find plenty of takers.
- Tablet apps will remain in demand – There have been reports about how tablet sales have tapered off worldwide. While that is partly true, the fact remains that close to 49% of the US population own tablets – and regularly use iPad apps or Android apps on them. The tablet-penetration figure will move towards 51% in 2015, and should be somewhere around 53% by 2018. Smartphones and the new-fangled phablets are squeezing the tablet market, but it is not going away anytime soon.
- Apps for Apple Watch will be at the cynosure – Apple fans are talking about it, general tech-enthusiasts are talking about it, and many mobile app companies have already started working on beta versions of Watch apps. WatchKit was officially released in mid-November, and details about the arrival date of the smartwatch would be shared during the eagerly anticipated March 9 event of Apple. Developing apps for Watch will be a new trend among developers in 2015, while using them out will be what every Watch-user will be after. Before the year is out, we will have a fair idea as to whether Apple Watch becomes as big a hit as the Cupertino company is expecting it would be.
- Mobile search is all set to become a regular habit – In 2014, 130 million people in the United States used mobile apps to search the World Wide Web. The figure has been projected to move to around 202 million by 2018. Users of mobile search functions is already around 17% higher than the total mobile-Facebook users, and the gap would increase further in future.
- Popularity of the Amazon Marketplace will increase – Both the mobile app download list as well as the mobile ad market will still be dominated by Facebook and Google (in that order) – but expect major movement from Amazon. It is already the only retailer app in the list of top 15 applications – and the provision of giving reviews is expected to boost its popularity over the next few quarters. The current share of Amazon in the mobile ad marketplace is a measly 0.57%, but that is likely to change soon.
The mobile app market grew by an unprecedented 76% in 2014 – and early trends suggest the growth will be in a similar range this year as well. While iOS and Android will remain the top two mobile platforms for app developers and users alike, Microsoft is the favorite to retain its No. 3 position, ahead of BlackBerry. It would be fascinating to watch how the global app industry shapes up over the course of the year, and whether we are in for any surprises.