The history of apps is not the longest or most illustrious, but it certainly is fascinating.
It started as early as 1992, with the creation of the first ‘smartphone’ which included basic apps like a calculator, contact book and inbuilt games. Although we all think of those little square tabs on an iPhone screen as the original modern apps, classic Snake on your old Nokia 3210 was technically a mobile app.
When you look back to what apps used to be, and compare them to the marvels that currently lie a tap away on your phone, the evolution of these innovative bits of technology is simply mind-boggling. The difference is night and day.
But apps aren’t done evolving just yet. As technology improves and our needs change, apps are constantly being developed that challenge and push the boundaries of what we once thought possible.
The future of apps looks bright, but where exactly are things headed?
The rise of augmented & virtual reality
Augmented reality (AR) is something we are all aware of, if not simply because of the 2016 phenomenon that was Pokemon Go. But augmented reality, and its big brother virtual reality (VR), are set to make waves in the mobile app world in ways that go far beyond catching Pikachu in a local park:
- Product Visualisation: From a consumer point of view, augmented and virtual reality allow users to visualise products while in their home environment. Wondering what a piece of furniture will look like in your garden? Soon, augmented reality will allow you to experience a realistic 3D model in whichever location you desire. Moving abroad? No need to travel to view properties — VR apps will allow you to walk the corridors without flying back and forth.
- Skill Acquisition: In an increasingly interconnected world, remote learning is becoming commonplace. Online courses, webinars and internet conferences have taken the online world by storm, yet something is certainly lost through an inability to interact with your environment. With VR apps, though, this could change. Entering a virtual space, you can learn remotely while still getting involved in the learning experience. Writing on a whiteboard made of noughts and ones, stirring virtual cake mix, or steering a digital car wheel — the virtual sky is the limit.
- Navigation: AR is also set to change the way we navigate our planet. Mobile apps have already revolutionised how people get around, but in 2016, Apple patented an augmented reality mapping system for iPhone users that could be the next step in the evolution of maps. Instead of a top-down view, the system allows users to view the world in 3D through their phone screen. Holding up your mobile and scanning the world around you, you’ll be able to follow directions, view landmarks, search for attractions and businesses in the local vicinity and more.
Autonomy in day-to-day life
Apps are already an important part of daily life.
Far beyond playing music, checking Twitter updates or timing eggs, apps now allow mobile phone users to control numerous aspects of their daily life, from planning hair appointments and meetings to changing the temperature within your home and ordering groceries.
But things are set to become even more advanced.
Increasing integration of technology into the modern world means apps can connect, manage and control just about anything. Apps in the near future will be responsible for everything that makes up what you’d probably refer to as ‘normal’ daily activities. Things as simple as getting the coffee brewing in the morning and running a bath will eventually be part of your phone’s basic functionality.
Apps are also set to take the place of some physical objects.
Credit and debit cards are already making way for the likes of Apple Pay, yet soon your keys and ID will go the way of your Visa, too. Smart locks are slowly becoming more accessible, meaning you don’t need a key to enter your car or home. Likewise, ID cards are set to become electronic, another indication that soon, the only thing you’ll need to manage your life is a smartphone.
Apps that save lives
A number of apps exist to monitor exercise targets, and aid health and dieting plans. However, mobile apps of the future are going to be able to do more for your health than tell you how many calories you’ve burned.
Recently, there has been a rise in the interest in ‘fall detection apps’ — apps that allow for the elderly or ill to be monitored in the case of accidental falls. This technology is new and in its infancy, but future apps are likely to increase accuracy and monitoring capabilities.
Other health applications look set to land on the app store in the future include those that monitor all aspects of biological signs and environmental conditions. Using sensors implanted in mobile phones and on or within people, these apps constantly assess the health of the mobile app owner. From tracking explorers in harsh conditions to monitoring those suffering from diseases, apps of the future will help keep users aware of their health, potentially saving countless lives.
Medical apps are also being developed to assist or automate a number of condition-diagnosing procedures and health management services, freeing up doctors’ time and ensuring patients get the support and treatment they need.
Changes aren’t just coming to the way we use and consume apps. Changes are also coming to the way we develop them.
App creation is a notoriously expensive venture. The price of a multi-platform development project can range from an average of £20,000-£30,000 up to heights so dizzying the figures are enough to give any would-be developer a mini heart attack.
Yet, as with all things app-related, change is coming. As apps evolve, so too does the software to develop them. While the newest developments and functionality will continue to cost sky-high prices, more basic app features and designs become far easier and cheaper to develop.
The result is the rise of the affordable app. Costs of thousands turn to hundreds, meaning apps become more accessible to the wider market. Potential app owners that were previously priced out, such as small businesses, local publications, bloggers and indie game developers are now able to launch mobile apps.
Photograph by ParampreetChanana