Our Team’s Mobile Predictions for 2015

What will 2015 look like for mobile? We rang in the new year at Sourcebits by asking some of our team members – one each from the design, engineering, marketing and innovation departments – to share their industry predictions. Without any specific questions to guide them or knowing each other’s responses, most touched on the same 4 topics: wearable tech, flat design, smart homes/internet of things and the saturated app market. Below, we’ll walk you through these 4 topics, and you can also take a look at our Slideshare for more details. We’ve also added a section at the end of this analysis to cover a few more items mentioned by our panel.

Meet the Team:

3dbookFrom left to right they are: Piotr Gajos – Chief Innovation Officer, Harsha SN – Assistant VP of Engineering, Elliotte Bowerman – VP of Marketing, and David Forgash – Sr. Creative Director

Our 2015 Mobile Predictions:

Flat Design

3dbookThe app market originally began with 3d, realistic designs. But, thanks to Apple’s direction, flat design has taken over as the reigning champion. At Sourcebits, we think this trend will continue, but also evolve.

David: Flat design is going to stick around for a while because of how prevalent multiple resolution devices are, as well as its aesthetically pleasing nature. Designing custom interfaces has become a headache and a hassle, and skeumorphism is out because there’s no way to support it anymore. It would require about 4 separate iOS apps, and another 3-4 apps for tablets, and the maintenance alone would be astronomical.

Piotr: As far as design is concerned, iOS, Android, and Windows all reached the same point of appreciating flat design last year. The use of color, non-flamboyant typography, and focused design language can be seen across all platforms, with very similar rules at their foundations. Google’s efforts are leading the pack right now in trying to introduce the notion of depth and build on top of flat design with spatial differentiation elements, shadows, motion and depth. That will grow in 2015.

Wearable Tech

3dbookWearables are still regarded as largely experimental, with problems surfacing in both hardware and software. (See Google ending sales of Glass, while our client Vuzix focuses on enterprise smart glasses.) Our team acknowledged that breakthroughs in 2015 are needed for wearable tech to become mainstream, and we look forward to continued experimentation.

David: There are two problems with wearable tech before it can become mainstream:

  • How do you reply?
  • There are too many limitations and barriers.

The first issue with wearable tech solutions so far, like the Apple Watch or Google Glass, is that users can receive messages, but how do they reply? It’s a one-way stream of information, and nobody’s yet mastered how to make it two-way to communicate back. The Apple Watch probably comes closest, but there really isn’t anything that transcends the monitoring-and-reporting-back-to-the-device scenario.

The second problem is there are currently too many limitations and restrictions for wearables to work right now. If I want to write down my to-dos, I like to use Wonderlist or Evernote, but Siri is going to put them in Reminders. How do you tailor a digital assistant to the third party apps users like to use? Additionally, there’s unavoidable issues like Siri needing the internet to operate – but this will quickly drain battery life, so how useful will it be?

If both of these problems can be solved with wearables, you’ll have a yacht and a private island and you’ll never have to work again.

Elliotte: 2015 will be the year of experimenting with wearables, especially the Apple Watch and smart watches in general. Will watches be able to do what glasses couldn’t? The success of watches will depend on finding killer apps for them, with both developers and users figuring out the answer to the question: what value will wearables add that you don’t have, but want?

Piotr: There’s a lot happening in hardware this year with wearables. Wearables have not been a huge hit right away. Its a niche market, and what they’ve showed us so far is not revolutionary at all. Eventually they will be super successful, but they will need a breakthrough product like the iPod. With the iPod, there were already mp3 players on the market, so Apple didn’t invent a new product category, but they killed it because it was simpler than anything else and integrated it with iTunes, creating the start of a whole ecosystem. CES 2015 was full of wearables, from geeky and sporty to fashionable and professional.

Harsha: Wearables could have a great influence in the coming years, especially with respect to health. As one of the largest populations in America – the Boomers – reach old age, demand for smarter, more cost-effective healthcare will skyrocket. Wearables could, for example, help elderly people safely navigate the streets, giving them more freedom and security, and their loved ones more peace of mind.

Other examples where wearables could be valuable might include a doctor operating on someone or an engineer repairing something, receiving remote guidance in these delicate procedures. With implementation of wearables, what was not possible in the past can become an everyday reality.

Saturated App Markets

3dbookWith the App Store and the Google Play store both hitting over 1 million apps in 2014, there’s no question the app stores are simply flooded. This frustrating state of affairs needs to change in order for developers to get their apps discovered and downloaded, and for users to find the apps they really want.

Elliotte: App discoverability needs to be figured out. There are so many apps and most are going unnoticed because the quality is low and the app stores are so saturated. Making the app stand out and fit the audience you’re targeting should be a huge priority for developers. On the consumer side, users are struggling to find the app which will solve their problem. When strategizing, designing, and developing, It’s important to think not just about building the app, but about the entire lifecycle of that app.

David: With the app market being so super-saturated, the only way you’re going to gain market share is by doing it better than the next guy. There is literally an app for everything, so who’s going to win depends on who can do it better, who can do it faster, more efficiently, more beautifully. Even users are catching on, asking themselves, “Is this app well designed? Has the app been updated in the past 6 months?” If not, users aren’t bothering because they know there’s a better designed, maintained, and supported app out there.

Smart Homes/Internet of Things

3dbookSmart homes and the interconnectivity of smart devices are becoming more common, but there are several barriers to ubiquity – mainly cost and inconvenience. Smart homes will have to demonstrate their value to have real staying power and go from novelty to normalcy.

David: Smart homes are definitely on their way. We can see that from last year’s CES as well as this year’s. But for most homes in America, smart homes and interconnected devices are an expensive upgrade, one that involves replacing lightbulbs, changing wifi, etc, to make it all work. In the not-too-distant future, newly constructed homes could have all this built-in and you would never know. It’s just a matter of time for technology and cost effectiveness to come in line.

Elliotte: The internet of things is picking up speed, coming from the fringes into mainstream arenas, with people using apps to control their environment like Nest and Phillip’s Hue. These apps use mainstream experiences in the home to bridge that mobile and home connection and start to augment your physical reality. As price points go down and the real value proposition of connected devices are realized, the tangible benefits – like Nest being able to lower energy costs – will be more obvious.

Piotr: Maybe 2015 will be the year of home sensors. Homekit was released but nobody has been really supporting it. But smart doors, locks controlled by Siri, automated garage doors, lights, and heating are all possible. People are just starting to build systems combining Homekit and mobile devices and we’ll see that evolve.

Harsha: The Internet of Things is a game-changer. I’m excited about it because there’s opportunity for various activities to be put into play. For example: someone travels often for work and can’t take consistent care of their home garden. With the Internet of Things, you could measure the humidity of the soil, the amount of sunlight the plants are receiving, etc and control the water sprinkler to keep your garden healthy while you are away.

There are many other scenarios, not just in home automation, which could use simplification. Say there’s a sick person in the home, and using various sensors you could measure their blood pressure, heart beat, brain activity, and all connected to the cloud. By always having access to this information, you can make decisions about your sick loved one more accurately and quickly. All in all, the Internet of Things is opening up many ways to simplify life.

Other Topics to Watch: Mobile Payments and Focused Apps

3dbookElliotte: With Apple Wallet, all the banks exploring mobile, and the beaming technology that’s happening, such as with Starbucks, mobile payments are going to be big in 2015. Retailers are exploring the way consumers can sync up their accounts with their phones, so you may not need to pull out your wallet in the future. Retailers have a clear incentive to remove as many barriers to purchase as possible, and the simple act of pulling out your wallet is a barrier because it reminds you that money is being exchanged.

David: By observing the trends in apps and app stores over the past 8 months, it’s clear to me that multipurpose apps are done. Apps are going to become more focused than they already are.

Conclusion

While our team maybe didn’t agree on HOW the mobile landscape is going to shift in the coming year, they all separately agreed that the 4 areas of wearable tech, flat design, smart homes/IoT, and the saturated app market were the trends to watch in 2015. Additionally, all said mobile is becoming an integral part of everyday life. In fact, much of the developing world is going mobile – and completely skipping computers. As Piotr put it: “Mobile is starting to penetrate more and more avenues – health, home, transportation, etc. Its not a gadget anymore, its a viable tool to help control aspects of our lives.”

Check out our Slideshare

Piotr Gajos, Chief Innovation Officer

Piotr is Sourcebits Chief Innovation Officer. A 2006 Apple Design Award winner, Piotr draws much of his inspiration from film and music, and focuses on leading our Innovation Strategy Workshops, generating new ideas for Sourcebits, and consulting on projects.