BERLIN, Germany – Our lives have become more connected and comfortable with the introduction of smartphones. Google’s Android is one of the most popular smartphone operating systems, and is utilized in a plethora of other devices such as TVs, smartwatches, etc. The development of mobile apps for these smart devices are evolving at an accelerating speed, and Android developers must be familiar with any new trends to survive and stay relevant in this fast-paced environment.
Did you know that about 86% of smartphones are based on Android and that there are over 2.6 million apps in the Google Play store? Mind-boggling, right? Perhaps even more impressive, it is expected that the total revenue generated from its apps is going to be approximately $700 billion by the end of 2021.
There’s a lot of opportunity in Android with many applications yet to be discovered, built and integrated. Google itself is working on capturing new markets where they can integrate their operating system. As such, the demand for Android developers is only going to increase in the future.
With this in mind, let’s explore some of the trends in Android app development to look out for.
Instant apps allow users to use some parts of an Android app without installing it. They look similar to the original app but don’t consume any storage, which is of considerable benefit to Android developers.
For example, game developers can take advantage of this feature by allowing end-users to play a particular portion of the game (i.e. a demo) before then encouraging them to download the full game. Indeed, the New York Times used instant apps to effectively distribute their Crossword application to over 1 million Android users.
E-commerce companies can also take advantage of instant apps to show off their product line, thereby encouraging the user to download the app. Instant apps are being adopted by more companies each passing day, as they offer a similar experience to the complete Android app.
In this era of COVID-19, instant apps can play a very important role in adapting to increasingly restrictive health regulations that make simple tasks—like ordering food at a restaurant—far more complex. It is no longer feasible to go to the counter, stand in a long queue, and place your order. Instead, restaurants can just put a QR code on each table, allowing the customers to simply scan the code and open an instant app to place the orders while maintaining appropriate social distancing.
Gone are the days when your watch was just able to tell time (and the size of your bank account); in 2021, our smartwatches can do just about everything—from making phone calls to tracking our sleep cycles. In recent years the smartwatch market has exploded as users young and old are increasingly drawn to the health-monitoring benefits of wearables offered by major companies like Fitbit, Apple, and Samsung. It is expected that the market will nearly triple in size in the next five years, projected to grow to a whopping 157.2 million new smartwatches shipped to customers in 2026.
This huge market is still relatively new and untapped, and therefore ripe for the development of novel specialized apps. In addition to the clear benefits as a fitness tracker—step counting, calorie calculations—smartwatch offer a unique way for patients and doctors to easily monitor serious health conditions and encourage recovery. Moreover, the broader data tracking opportunities are unparalleled as the tech-saavy users—particularly among the millennial demographic and in the Asian marketplace—look to their devices to help boost productivity and social reach.
WearOS is a smart band/smartwatch version of Android, developed in 2014 specifically for smartwatches and other emerging wearable tech. This area of Android development has a very promising future, as many companies are developing apps specifically for smartwatches. Unsurprisingly, health tracking apps dominate the WearOS marketplace, a trend that will no doubt continue until the next great innovation in wearable tech comes along.
AI chatbots are becoming increasingly popular, as they can help companies provide customer support on chat or coordinate product orders from request to delivery. The main advantage of a chatbot is that it provides easy and fast access to different features of an app without being overly dependent on humans.
About 265 billion service calls are made per year, costing companies approximately $1.3 trillion annually. Many of these customer queries are very similar and/or simply require a straightforward solution, and therefore can be handled very easily by chatbots. By helping to reduce needless overhead, chatbots can help many companies cut costs while providing more affordable 24/7 customer support.
Many companies are now focusing more on the automation side, investing in smart chatbots that can make the use of ML/AI and become smarter. Tech giants like Google, Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, etc. have developed completely independent platforms to develop chatbots which could be integrated into the Android apps. Some of the most popular platforms are DialogueFlow, IBM Watson, Amazon Lex, Microsoft Bot Framework. Clearly, learning more about these systems can be a very useful tool for aspiring Android developers.
Android Jetpack is a collection of libraries and tools which can help Android developers create high-quality apps, follow best practices, and create complex products in a simple manner. Problems that plagued developers in the past—managing activity lifecycles, configuring changes, and memory leaks, to name a few—are now simple tasks thanks to the libraries in Android Jetpack. Plus, Google updates Jetpack even more frequently than base Android builds, so developers always have access to the latest and greatest available libraries before they’re even implemented anywhere else.
Similarly, Jetpack Compose is Android’s next-generation UI development toolkit that helps to build high-quality user interfaces with less code by removing entire classes of bugs. No longer do developers have to deal with the sluggish XML, instead devs can just define the UI and Compose will take care of the rest! Though it’s currently in alpha, Jetpack Compose promises to be the next big thing in Android development in 2021!
According to NASDAQ, the value of Bitcoin could reach $100,000 in 2021, after already commanding a market cap of over $1 trillion. Yet despite such impressive numbers, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies make up just a small fraction of potential uses for blockchain technology. Indeed, in the past few years, blockchain has been increasingly integrated into the way mobile apps are being developed.
Blockchain offers an inherently more secure way to send and receive data, and Android apps that utilize it are far more protected than traditional alternatives thanks to the encryption of data. Thus, many banking firms are shifting to blockchain to make their ecosystem more secure and prevent data leaks.
Further advantages include receding middleware, increased anonymity, and improved authentication methods as demonstrated by existing frameworks like OAuth, JWT, SSH, etc.
In the world of business, cutting costs is key as many start-ups operate under tight budget constraints. After all, developing a native app can be quite expensive when you need to hire a specific developer for each different platforms. Luckily, Flutter is here to solve (hopefully) all your porting problems.
Flutter is an open-source SDK from Google, which is used to develop applications for iOS, Android, Linux, MacOS, Windows, and Web using the same code base. This means that developers only have to write the code once, after which that code can be compiled across multiple platforms. No longer do companies need to make separate hires for iOS, Android, and Web versions; now just one developer is needed, lowering both cost and development time since Flutter is easy to learn.
With the full weight of Google behind it, Flutter has a very bright future and could one day replace Java/Kotlin entirely. Indeed, perhaps one day all Android app development would only need to utilize Flutter, keeping everything neat and “in-house.”
Another exciting modern frontier is the Internet of Things (IoT), or the rapidly growing number of smart appliances and devices. For instance, voice-controlled lighting, wireless kitchen appliances, and robotic vacuum cleaners all fall under the umbrella of Home Automation. While still in its relative infancy, these IoT devices require user input and typically rely on Android for their interfaces and/or associated apps.
By the same token, the automobile industry is becoming increasingly digital as companies like Tesla, Ford, and Hyundai work on networked and autonomous vehicles that can be controlled via an app. As electric and self-driving cars become the norm, the demand for specialized software development can only increase, and Android developers are well-positioned to capitalize on this growing market.
With the recent introduction of foldable Android smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip and Fold, a whole new arena for novel apps catered to the folding screen. While such phones are currently quite expensive and rare, there is no doubt this cutting edge technology will become more commonplace in the future. As it does so, companies will no doubt be coming up with innovative ideas on how to use the extra screen real estate and incorporate both the folded and unfolded states of the phone.
The future is very bright for Android development as the demand for Android devices is increasing with each passing day. As an open source platform, Android has attracted a wide range of businesses in industries ranging from healthcare—where some apps allow users to get medical check ups via their phone—to video games; Google recently introduced the subscription-based Stadia which allows players to enjoy high-end games on the the cloud removing any hardware limitations and installation requirements.
So whatever your specific interests might be as a developer, there’s no doubt that there’s a niche for you in the rapidly expanding universe of Android development!
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