Insights /

Mobile development trends to watch in 2024

Mobile development trends to watch in 2024

Running an effective software development team means staying aware of the state of the industry. Trends in mobile app development never stop moving, with some driven by emerging mobile device types and a wider variety of form factors, as well as overall shifts in attitudes toward technology.

The key to adapting to the latest ideas, whether they've risen quickly or have been progressing for years, is to learn more about them and assess which apply to your specific work and use cases. If a new trend can help you pursue your primary goal of producing apps that lead to positive user experiences, it's worth further investigation.

2024's leading mobile app development trends

While there's a varied list of trends, old and new, impacting mobile development in 2024, the most prominent item on that list comes as no surprise. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have risen to the top of priority lists across industries, and mobile developers are working hard to integrate them into software products and engineering workflows alike.

In addition to AI and ML, other areas of focus include the resurgence of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), along with voice-activated user interfaces. The trend landscape is filled out with concepts that were also priorities in 2022 and 2023, including the many flavors of cross-platform development.

This year's top trends include:

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Interest in AI and ML goes back years, but has recently changed focus and increased in magnitude. The constant emergence of promising new use cases for mobile features based on generative AI is a major factor fueling this new enthusiasm.

Today's AI solutions are powered by vast reserves of processing power and training datasets that are more widely available than ever before. Major software and hardware players — Google, Amazon and Microsoft among them — have made AI part of their developer tool kits for mobile application development. With every tech giant and numerous startups focusing on iterating AI solutions, it's clear there is still significant future potential for new, powerful use cases to emerge.

Some of the top uses for the technology today include using generative AI algorithms to analyze text, create detailed responses to natural-language questions and perform image processing. Previous interest in AI focused mainly on aspects such as ML — the deployment of generative algorithms in apps has occurred remarkably quickly.

Voice activated interfaces

As a knock-on effect of the increased interest in AI, related technology areas have received a boost in recent months. For example, rapid improvements in large language models (LLMs) has enabled developers to empower more accurate and useful voice-powered interfaces for mobile applications.

Allowing users to perform more nuanced actions via natural-language voice commands has powerful implications for the accessibility of software. High-quality voice interfaces are also useful in contexts that prioritize hands-free access, such as navigation apps for use in cars or on motorcycles.

While voice interfaces have existed for years, increasing LLM maturity has boosted the associated user experience. Functions such as search, chat and assistance requests are now ready for further voice integration.

Augmented reality and virtual reality

Since AR and VR mobile features depend on specialized devices and interfaces, the popularity of these concepts rises and falls based on the reception of the latest hardware releases. As 2024 begins, a new wave of impressive devices headlined by Apple's Vision Pro has reignited interest in developing AR and VR content.

Making mobile applications compatible with AR and VR interfaces represents a relatively new and increasingly popular branch of development. Whether they're adapting existing software for use on headsets or creating new software specifically for these devices, engineers are considering the possibilities presented by the latest consumer and professional gear.

One potential takeaway from the Vision Pro release is a rise in the relative importance of AR content. This is a notable shift because the previous wave of development focused on crafting fully immersive VR experiences.

5G connectivity as a new normal

Some trends take time to build in magnitude, becoming more pressing as they expand in scope. This is the general story of 5G coverage. Taking advantage of these high-speed connections has been a developer focus area for several years now, and progress is ongoing.

The latest reports reveal that 20% of all mobile subscriptions include 5G access, with a penetration rate of 61% in North America. By 2029, a projected 85% of the population will have access to 5G globally. The steady rise in availability means more developers can factor in 5G when building their applications' capabilities.

Smartphone equipment manufacturers around the world now consider 5G a standard inclusion rather than an option, which makes it even safer as a development priority. This increasing ability to count on high-speed connectivity should remain on the list of mobile app trends for years to come.

Progressive web apps

Many of the most prominent trends in mobile development today revolve around the effort to allow users to access applications across platforms and device types without the need for parallel development teams. Progressive web apps (PWAs) fulfill this role, creating app-like experiences accessible via a simple web browser.

Some of the appeal of PWAs comes from their ability to serve customers who will only have limited interaction with a company or service and, therefore, may not want to download a full app. For example, parking meter solutions are ideally suited to PWAs. These applications are also affordable to maintain, as they only require one development team across all devices.

While the use of PWAs has remained part of the development ecosystem for years now, it has perhaps never been as popular as it is today. Companies are acutely interested in the ease of use and budgetary advantages that come with maintaining these web resources instead of engaging in traditional mobile app development.

Cross-platform native development

PWAs are far from the only method that can allow companies to develop for multiple platforms with a single team and code base. Frameworks that allow the development of native-like app experiences remain popular.

The two main options for developers are React Native — made by Meta and based on Javascript — and Flutter — made by Google and using the newer Dart language. Since both frameworks have solid support from tech giants and strong communities, the choice of which to use may come down to developer preference.

The primary appeal of both React Native and Flutter is largely the same. Developers can work on a single code base in one unified team, preventing silos, disconnect and extra spending. Because apps require long-term upkeep after they go live, the budgetary and functional advantages of cross-platform development keep paying off over time.

Cross-platform hybrid development

Hybrid development remains a leading option for teams that want an even more streamlined way to create cross-platform apps, relative to React Native or Flutter. While those frameworks involve creating a consistent code base that interacts with the native mobile features of each operating system, hybrid apps work the same across device types.

These apps are less complex to update and maintain than their cross-platform native counterparts, potentially driving even greater savings on development costs. The downside is that they may not be able to deliver the level of near-native performance that comes from using React Native or Flutter.

The efficiency of cross-platform, in general, remains a major trend in 2024. Companies have long understood the importance of reaching the widest mobile audience possible, which means either split development teams or some form of cross-platform solution. The exact approach chosen by each company is an internal decision.

Stay aware of fast-evolving development trends

No predictive list of app development trends can be 100% complete because in today's technology ecosystem, new and prominent ideas rise to the surface remarkably quickly. A new tech trend can emerge one year and be an inescapable part of the future of mobile apps by the next. Leading developers should be ready to pivot and take on new priorities on the fly.

This year, there are a few areas to watch in case of quick advancements. For example, the use of AI technologies such as Copilot to boost developer productivity has been limited so far — many companies worry about issues such as data usage and intellectual property ownership — but could soon increase. When engineers can entrust rote coding tasks to AI utilities, the production impact could be significant.

Other potential developments could come along with new device releases. As more advanced hardware emerges in spaces like AR and VR, there will be market demand for software that uses the technology's capabilities to the fullest extent.

Harness new mobile app technology trends through partnerships

One of the best ways for your organization to stay up to date on the latest app development trends and priorities is to work with experts. When you engage with a skilled third party, either for consulting or more hands-on development support, your team can learn from the experience. The outside professionals will be able to provide insights on which trends to pursue and how best to do so.

Transcenda's experts come into every project with up-to-the-moment knowledge of mobile development best practices. Working side-by-side with them on your next project allows you to take this information on and see it in action.

Want to see how Transcenda could apply tech expertise to pursue your objectives? Contact us.

Subscribe to receive the latest industry insights and news about Transcenda

Related articles: