Prediction Time: What Will Be Hot (And Not) in 2019

Ascendio! Things are looking up for the app economy next year. Not least for Harry Potter and his new AR game. But what else will be rising and falling in 2019?

 

The app economy will break records (again) 

After ten years of insane growth, we’re all waiting for the app market to slow down. It hasn’t happened yet. And it won’t be happening in 2019.

The reliable app market watcher App Annie reckons consumers will spend $122 billion in app stores next year. What does that mean? Well, it valued the market as $72 billion in 2016.

Despite the fact that most people regularly use between 10 to 20 apps, they are clearly hungry to try more. That makes life tough for app makers, but the rewards for those who score a hit are massive.

 

The world will go mad for Harry Potter: Wizards Unite

There’s never been an app phenomenon to rival Pokemon Go. The gaming sensation of 2016 raced to $1 billion in revenue inside six months. Well, that might be eclipsed in 2019. Niantic, which made Pokemon Go, is all set to apply its AI magic again, this time with the Harry Potter: Wizards Unite game. Expect stories about people hunting for wizards on busy motorways.

 

Potter aside, don’t expect much from AR

Augmented Reality is supposed to be changing the world. But so far, it’s only ‘wins’ have been Pokemon Go and SnapChat rabbit ears. The tech giants all have platforms to help developers – Facebook’s AR Studio, Apple’s ARKit, Google’s AR Core – and there are some great AR scenarios out there. While Harry Potter: Wizards Unite will put AR in the spotlight again in 2019, it’s hard to see anything else breaking through.

 

5G will land at last

It’s difficult to underestimate the possible impact of 5G. The next-gen network will change everything. 5G will be fast enough to make hi-def live streaming trivial, and capacious enough to connect billions of devices simultaneously. It could spell the end of Wi-Fi, the start of IoT – and a world of new options for app developers. And it will kick off in 2019. Get set for carrier and handset launches through the year.

 

Streaming video will continue its astonishing ascent

Cheap data and big hi-res screens have made short-form video a BIG THING in mobile. They’re keeping Instagram and Facebook at the top of the table and fueling the eye-popping rise of apps like voice-syncing app TikTok (whose owner ByteDance just became a $75 billion-valued unicorn). App Annie reckons ten minutes in every hour of consuming media next year will be spent watching streaming video on a phone.

 

 

You might put a chatbot in your app

Chatbots were very big in 2016. That was the year Facebook went all in on the idea, and everyone decided (for a month or so) that bots would spell the end of apps. They didn’t. In fact, it’s never been easier to build a bot into your app. There are now dozens of specialists offering tools you can use to code a bot that will automate customer queries and so on. Expect much more of this in 2019.

 

 

You might put some AI into your app too

The chatter around artificial intelligence is pretty deafening now. Plenty of people think AI will ultimately kill us all. But while you’re waiting for death, you can at least explore how AI could make your apps better. It used to be hard to do things like translations and facial recognition and categorizing vast databases. But now, you can use AI tools like Google’s TensorFlow to solve these puzzles. It’s a Python-friendly open source library, so it’s very accessible.

 

Instant Apps are on the march

Google is ambivalent about native apps. Its success is based on the web, not apps. But without Android apps, Google would be nowhere in mobile. Android Instant Apps are an interesting combo of web and app. These are apps that run without full installation. They are small and battery-friendly but still do most app-like functions. Instant Apps have yet to change the app world, but there is a growing family of them: New York Times Crossword, Red Bull TV and Skyscanner to name three.

So why might next year be big for Android Instant apps? Because of distribution. With Google Play Instant, people can find your app in Play Store, Google Search, social networks, and anywhere you share a link. And Google recently launched a new publishing format, the Android App Bundle, to make it easier to build an Instant App too.

 

‘One to watch: The Android One phone explosion

How best to describe the relationship between the big Android OEMs and Google? Frenemies is a good shout. The OEMs want to distinguish their phones from each other, so they layer on their own UXs. Google prefers a no-frills install. The signs are that Google may be winning out. Its Android One project puts an official brand stamp on phones that offer a clean version of the OS. Nokia and Motorola have committed to it. All the signs suggest there will be many more One phones to come in 2019.

 

No notches, no chins?

The big phone makers have competed hard to eradicate the bezel. That has led to the rise of the notch and the chin – ugly gaps in the screen where the camera/facial recognition kit are housed. Now, the race is on to find a way to bury these tools under the display. The rumors are that Samsung has won. Its Galaxy S10 will be all screen, say insiders. We’ll see at MWC.

 

The bend is nigh? Expect foldable phone demos (but not launches)

After bezels, the next design battleground for OEMs could be foldability (is that even a word?). An obscure company called Royole already unveiled a foldable phone in 2018. Everyone laughed. It was terrible. Then Samsung showed off its Infinity Flex Display, proving that the big boys are taking this seriously. But the smart money is that 2019 is way too early to witness more than demo concepts.

 

So, there it is. A selection of possibilities for the year ahead. Only time will tell which will materialize – and which unexpected event will surprise us all. Let’s just hope it’s not a war started by that marauding army of killer AI bots.

 

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