2022: Predictions for the Year Ahead in Mobile

The last two years have been pretty amazing for the app economy – even if they have been horribly depressing for the real one. So what will the coming year bring? We had a little brainstorm to bring you this 2022 preview…

 

More companies will attempt to make ‘super apps’

Western mobile platform companies must look enviously at their Chinese counterparts. WeChat has around 1.2 billion monthly users, and these users do everything inside the app: messaging, shopping, dating, banking, gaming etc. etc. Although Facebook keep on edging into other areas outside of social, the fact remains that Western consumers prefer to keep thing compartmentalized.

Still, that hasn’t stopped a handful of major players from giving the whole ‘super app’ thing a go. And, interestingly, these wannabes are coming from all sorts of directions.

In 2021, for example, Klarna played its hand. The buy-now-pay-later firm launched a new app that lets users to everything (well at least related to shopping) thus “eliminating the need to switch between several apps.”

The announcement came weeks after a similar one from PayPal. And then there’s Block (formerly Square). Under the full time leadership of Jack Dorsey, it is fully expected to go for super app status. It might explain why a payments app would buy a music streaming service (Tidal)?

Outside the US and Europe companies like the food delivery giant Grab and the mobile money Specialist Paytm clearly have similar ambitions. In 2022, we’ll get a clearer idea of how realistic they are.

 

The NFT boom is coming for gaming

You don’t have to be a genius to predict this one. 2021 was the year that the blockchain-based NFT proved its worth in the art world. Whether you believe this to be a bubble or the start of an exciting new asset class, there’s no doubt that something new and important is building here.

As we stated in our 2021 review, gaming has also begun to embrace the crypto token as a means of rewarding players. A handful of titles are leading this (Axie Infinity is probably the leader), but there will certainly be a stampede into the space in 2022. And the phenomenon will probably blur with the idea of the self-contained metaverse. Indeed, the market analyst App Annie is already forecasting a $3 billion market for metaverse gaming in 2022 – “a collision of gaming, NFTs, and crypto…led by apps like Minecraft and Roblox.”

 

Mental health apps are where it’s at!

It seems a bit tasteless to be talking about an exciting rise in demand for mental health apps. Maybe wellbeing is a better word for it. Either way, this is an explosive app category. 

Market leaders such as Calm and Headspace are today among the most lucrative apps in the world. In fact, Calm has already surpassed 100m lifetime downloads and now commands a market valuation of $2 billion.

Deloitte Global estimates that there could be 20,000 mental health apps available  today. It predicts that global spending on these products will reach close to $500 million in 2022.

 

A Pixel on your wrist?

Over the last few weeks, the rumor mill has been buzzing with speculation that the Pixel Watch is imminent. This has, of course, been expected for years. So the noise means little. However, there were two big developments in 2021 that make it plausible that something is afoot.

In January Google closed a $2.1 billion acquisition of Fitbit. And then, in May, it unveiled a new version of Wear OS in collaboration with Samsung. The update added elements from the Tizen OS to improve battery life and speed.

Both developments convinced observers that Google is finally ready to take wearables seriously after years of neglecting Wear OS and allowing Apple to take 45.1% of smartwatch shipments (in the first half of 2021, according to IDC).

 

Speak to unlock?

OEMs keep trying to find the best way to combine smartphone security with convenience. And so the lock screen went from PIN to fingerprint to face. Each has its issues. Face was looking pretty good till we all had to put masks on.

The situation is still far from settled. This has led some commentators to speculate that voice unlock might be imminent. Obviously this UI is already prevalent on smart speakers, and also for mobile search. Less so for unlocking. However, voice is pretty secure and it’s also very user friendly for less digitally-savvy users.

 

The great streaming push back

Cheap and reliable 4G has fueled an incredible rise in the demand for mobile video streaming. Watching TV and video content on the go used to be seen as a bit weird, and was often a painful buffer-filled experience. Now it’s normal.

This in turn enticed a large number of companies into the market. Yes obviously YouTube, Netflix and TikTok, but also major brands looking to control their own destiny (Disney Plus, HBO Max) and companies offering localized services (WATCHA PLAY, MX TakaTak, iQIYI BIGO LIVE, Discord).

Is all this sustainable? Not according to Deloitte, which reckons 2022 will be the year that subscription fatigue sets in. It forecasts that people will re-evaluate their monthly commitments and that “at least 150 million streaming video-on-demand services (SVOD) paid subscriptions will be cancelled worldwide.”

 

Meet your new developer colleague: an AI

In 2018, Gartner forecasted that apps development teams will augment their work with artificially intelligent “co-developers.” More precisely it said by 2022 at least 40% of projects would have a virtual developer on the team,

Well, here we are. And plenty of experts think this is about right. They argue that AI tools are becoming off-the-shelf technology – accessible to more modestly funded studios. These tools can do the plumbing – convert speech to text, automate video, do image analysis, detect bugs, eliminate inappropriate content etc. – leaving the homo sapiens to deal with the nuanced human stuff.

 

Bluetooth, NFC, language support and more…Android 13 is coming

Well, of course, Android 13 is coming. The question is: what delights will this new version bring?

The community is already speculating and even claiming some inside knowledge. Indeed, XDA boasted of leaked screenshots of the unreleased version from which is made a few deductions. It reckons new features include:

  • Multi-user NFC Payments

Now that contactless mobile payments are so commonplace, it makes sense for Google to improve this functionality. XDA believes Android 13 will let users create multiple profiles for different users on a single Android device.

  • Disable background app limitations

In Android 12 introduced a background app limiter, which was useful for battery saving but got some pushback from power users with a reason for keeping apps live. Android 13 might therefore include the option to toggle.

  • Full support for Bluetooth Low Energy Audio

BLE Audio was partly enabled in Android 12. The new version will include full support.

  • A different language for every app

Currently, a change to language settings applies changes to every app. Obviously, per-app control would make a huge difference to millions of users. If the rumors are true, a new feature in Android 13 codenamed Panlingual will make this possible at last.

  • Runtime permission for notifications

Any app can send notifications. For users this can be useful or annoying. Android 13 will add a new runtime permission “POST_NOTIFICATIONS”. It could make notifications an opt-in at set-up – similar to Location and Camera access.

  • Battery saving – the Android Resource Economy

TARE is a new energy management feature that studies which apps are draining the battery and then sets limits to how many tasks that app can perform when power runs low.

 

All of the above is just guesswork, of course. However, at least we can be fairly certain that the app economy as a whole is in robust good health. We are lucky to be working in such a dynamic space. According to App Annie mobile users downloaded nearly 140 billion new apps last year – that’s 10 billion more than in 2020. And there’s every reason to expect a further spike this year.

 

So keep the faith, and use Calldorado’s Caller SDK to engage your existing users and find new ones. Have a great 2022!

Tim Green

Tim Green

Journalist

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