The Future of Smartphones and Apps

IDC has a new press release Smartphone Volumes Expected to Rebound in 2017 with a Five-Year Growth Rate of 3.8%, Driving Annual Shipments to 1.53 Billion by 2021.

“IDC doesn’t expect much change throughout the forecast with Android accounting for roughly 85% of smartphone shipments and Apple making up the rest.”

Despite the growth rates being low, remember these are growth rates, not shipments. A very large number of new smartphones are now being shipped every year.

What does this mean for mobile development? Dual Android/iOS app implementations will continue to be common. However, there’s a thought provoking press release at Mobile World Live (the press arm of the GSMA), where it’s suggested that consumers are tired of apps and bots might rule. I think the key word here is ‘consumers’ in that there’s currently too much emphasis on mobile and retail marketing. People are tired of retail marketing apps. Instead they want apps that do real stuff. Bots are part of this in that they can be used to more easily get things done. In the future, getting things done will increasingly involve VR, IoT, big data as well as bots. All these will need apps to implement the UI/visualisation parts. Mobile will become more of a tool rather than a retail marketing conduit.

Android Market Share at 81.7%

Gartner has new press release on smartphone sales. While Gartner concentrates on the battle between Apple and Samsung, the more interesting part for mobile developers is at the bottom of the press release where Android has extended its lead over iOS by 3.2%:

Android now has 81.7 market share. However, Google isn’t standing still and seems to be experimenting with replacing the kernel under Android and Chrome.

Mobile App Use

Flurry has an interesting new post on mobile app usage over the last year.

“overall app usage grew by 11% and time-spent in apps grew by 69%”

Most of the growth was in use of ‘messaging and social’ as well as other areas such as sports, news and shopping that demand that the user return to the app to discover new content.

Peak Smartphone Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Less Apps

Now that we are at ‘peak smartphone’, developers such as myself are starting to question what comes next. The answer is probably ‘more apps’.

As Gartner recently said

Much of the innovation in the mobile space isn’t taking place inside the smartphones themselves, but in the things that communicate with them. Gartner predicts that by 2018, 25 percent of new mobile apps will talk to Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Most IoT devices talk to smartphones via an app or the browser. The app is usually the preferred mechanism because it provides a richer experience that also provides analysis and usage stats to backend services.

In the future the app will increasinly move from being centre stage and the central purpose to being an enabler for some other, probably more useful, purpose.

Smartphone Shipments to Grow 5% in 2016

Canalys has a new press release where they say Smartphone shipments to grow 5% in 2016. This is despite the fact that Apple is expected to see its first annual decline.

canalyssmartphonebyregion

It’s interesting that while most of the growth will be outside established markets, EMEA and North America will still see a slight growth.

We are now in a stable phase where iOS and Android market shares are likely to stay roughly as now. This provides some medium term stability for mobile app developers choosing their mobile platforms.

mobiForge Device Use Insights

mobiforgemobiForge has a new article showing Apple losing share, Samsung and Huawei growing in Q2 2016.

The report has additional insights that are of more interest to developers. Also note that numbers are based on web traffic rather than new device sales so give a better insight in the installed base rather than short term buying trends.

First of all, the change in Apple web traffic depends on the country. You can use this to imply changing device ownership in your particular country…

applewebtraffic

The stats on screen size vs country also provide clues as to what screen size you should be optimising (your designs) for based on your target country:

screensizebycountry

More stats are in the full report.

Mobile OS Installed Base

Tomi Ahonen has a useful post on his blog showing the latest installed base numbers across mobile operating systems. Installed base numbers, as opposed to current sales market shares, can provide a better view of the real makeup of the user base…

tomiinstalledbase

Tomi says…

“Note that in my model I already had a very strong long-life factor for the iPhone and the iPhone installed base has for this whole decade been above the actual unit sales market share – due to the long life span of iPhones”

Smartphone Shipments Peaking

gartner136Gartner has new research that says Global Smartphone Sales to Only Grow 7 Per Cent in 2016 and will be the first year to see single digit percentage growth…

“The double-digit growth era for the global smartphone market has come to an end,”

gartnerphoneshipments

I guess most people who want a smartphone now have one. Any changes in OS market share will be due to switching. This isn’t necessarily bad news for developers as it means that mobile platform market shares are now stable and can probably be relied on for staying so for some time.