Here’s why you need to prioritise mobile app development this year
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Here’s why you need to prioritise mobile app development this year

17 Jan 2018

The ubiquity of mobile phones means that it would be remiss not to prioritise learning programming languages for mobile app development.

Developers are in a constant race to keep up with trends in the tech world and adapt their skills accordingly.

It’s a kind of program-or-perish principle. The cutting-edge nature of tech is what draws a lot of people to the industry but it also means that things are in a constant state of flux.

Every new innovation will contribute to shifting demand from demographics, be they users or clients.

If you’re a programmer, you may be asking yourself where to put your energy next, wondering which trend in particular you should be looking at as a gauge of which programming skills should be your top priority.

If there’s any trend you should be keeping an eye on, I would maintain that it’s mobile app development.

Mobile commerce is booming

As of 2018, mobile commerce (m-commerce) accounts for more than 31pc of total sales, compared to 10pc of sales in 2012, according to data gathered by BigCommerce. That alone should be an indicator of the incredible growth of m-commerce.

Not only that, but the rates of mobile conversion (how many users actually follow through with purchases) have also shot up 30pc year on year. One-page checkouts and digital wallets – such as the likes of Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, Stripe Checkout and Paypal One Touch – have been a huge boon, bumping the conversion rate up 10pc and making decent progress towards eliminating the oft-cited issue with m-commerce, namely the tendency for consumers to get frustrated with clumsy purchasing processes and abandon the transaction midway through.

This, plus the fact that mobile app interfaces are improving as coding practices morph to meet the unique demands of the software, means that m-commerce is only going to grow in size.

While it would be remiss to state that desktop has descended into obsolescence – ultimately, it still exceeds mobile’s conversion rate – there have been a few key indicators demonstrating that commerce is making the transition.

Black Friday – a long-held post-Thanksgiving tradition in the US that had been, for a long time, restricted to physical retailers – experienced record-breaking sales of $5.03bn in online purchases, $2bn of which were made on mobile alone.

While that is an impressive and almost eye-watering figure, it pales in comparison to the jaw-dropping $25bn in sales reported by China’s e-commerce behemoth Alibaba on Singles’ Day. Alibaba even managed to break its previous record of $18bn sales from the year before.

What’s more, 90pc of these transactions were made on mobile – an increase of 8pc from 2016.

APAC has primarily comprised the demographic making mobile purchases for a while now, but projected growth based on existing statistics indicates that the rate will more than double in EMEA by 2021.

The app industry is its own economy

It’s important to be cognisant of how these commerce trends will impact the demands of clients and businesses alike, who will probably be starting to feel pressure to deploy a storefront app for their businesses.

Unquestionably, this is a direction that businesses are going to be considering, and one that you should be considering as a developer.

However, even though there is so much revenue being generated with m-commerce, shopping is the least popular category of app on the Apple App Store (AAS) cart.

The AAS as a whole is booming. In 2016, it generated more revenue than McDonald’s. Industry analyst Horace Dediu expressed at the start of this year that he expects AAS’s revenue to eclipse the global box office.

Taking Apple’s 30pc cut into account, AAS has generated $122.8bn in sales since it was first launched in July 2008.

AAS isn’t the only app store – there’s also Android, Amazon Play etc – but, for developers, iOS will be the priority as more than 25pc of AAS developers earn more than $5,000 per month. While 16pc of Android developers earn this amount, the latter has been described as more ‘top-heavy’, rewarding a few big players, while iOS has a wider spread of earnings.

What does this mean for developers?

In many ways, any modern programmer should already have much of the skills needed to adapt to the growing app industry. Java is consistently ranked the most popular programming language for a reason, but it’s worth looking into language trends.

Google announced in May 2017 that it is adding Kotlin, which runs on the Java virtual machine, as an official programming language for Android development. Many have touted Kotlin as a response to some of the most difficult-to-grasp elements of Java.

Many developers are also excitedly flocking to learn Swift, a language for developing native iOS or macOS apps. It is heavily influenced by Ruby and Python, meaning it will be pretty user-friendly and not too far removed from what the average modern developer would already know.

Though not solely pertaining to apps, it is good to develop a solid foundation in some cutting-edge technologies such as deep learning methods, augmented reality and artificial intelligence. There is already substantial evidence that app consumers enjoy these kinds of capabilities. Being able to personalise content is a top priority for m-commerce developers, and IKEA’s newly deployed AR app will surely whet people’s appetite for that kind of functionality elsewhere.

It’s a wonderful time to be a developer but, if you want to rise to the top within an already booming profession, it’s important to constantly look forward and develop your skills accordingly.

Eva Short
By Eva Short

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic, specialising in the areas of tech, data privacy, business, cybersecurity, AI, automation and future of work, among others.

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