The Future of Mobile Application Development

second screen

This is the third of three posts based on a talk I gave at BCS in December. You can catch up with the first two parts here and here.

In this post I’m going to take a look at the technologies vying to become the next hotbed of mobile app development and do a bit of speculation about the direction they’ll take us in.

Wearable Technology


Wearable tech isn’t a new thing by any means – though up until recently we’ve generally only worn technology to tell the time or improve our hearing – but it has acquired a trendy new buzz word. The reason? Miniaturisation has made wearable what once would have been unthinkably cumbersome – sophisticated computers and communication devices can now be incorporated into wristbands, glasses or even clothes themselves. Oh, and the market of ‘wearable tech’ is estimated to exceed $12billion by 2018.

Google Glass

Released to developers in 2013 Google Glass is an ‘augmented reality’ device that is set to get a consumer launch at some point this year. David Thompson has seen a demo of Glass and his opinion is that while the product still has a long way to go before fulfilling the promise of genuine AR, the possibilities are exciting.

It can record images and video and can almost be entirely controlled by voice alone when in operation.

At the moment though Google’s head-mounted computer works best in tandem with an Android phone via Bluetooth. It runs a version of the Android OS itself but the API (Mirror) is fairly limited.

Most of the third party apps available are centred around taking and sharing pictures or displaying feeds to the user though there are more interesting applications like driving assistants and fitness coaches.

Galaxy Gear

Samsung’s smart watch, like most smart watches released to date (cf. Pebble and SmartWatch 2), met with a universally poor reception when released in September 2013.


While it can take photos and video, the Galaxy Gear only operates with a Samsung smartphone or tablet running Android 4.3 or above (because it requires Bluetooth low energy). This drastically limits the potential user base and, therefore, the interest to developers.

The Pebble has several advantages over the Gear: it doesn’t require a host phone; it’s compatible with any smartphone running Android 2.1 or later and it’s actually a wearable size. But it also seems to be failing due to a high price point, poor battery life and only being able to hold 8 apps at a time.

In short, ‘the year of the smart watch’ has yet to materialise.



The Nike+ FuelBand was a simple but effective foray into the wearable tech space from the sportswear manufacturer. The FuelBand is worn on the wrist and tracks physical activity, allowing users to share and compare stats via the Nike+ online community.

As you’d expect from copyright fanatics like Nike though the FuelBand was highly proprietary – it only worked with iOS 5.0+ and any attempts to hack the technology were met with swift legal action. Third-party development was therefore non-existent.

Problems with the FuelBand included the poor monitoring of activities involving the lower half of your body and the possibility of gaming your stats with vigorous arm shaking. It did prove the viability of fitness related wearable tech though (fitness apps have been huge on mobile phones for years already) and offers up lots of possibilities for the future of sportswear.

The ‘also-rans’

Notable failures in the fledgling wearable tech market include the Bluetooth cocktail dress that lights up whenever your phone rings (because you definitely want everyone in the room to know when that is and isn’t happening); Bluetooth earrings (which are like Bluetooth headsets with the added bonus that everyone else thinks you’re really talking to yourself); the USB tie with hidden in-built cooling fan (because real men don’t use fans?); and the iPod controlling lederhosen (which allow you to keep your iPod safely tucked away in your feather-decked Tyrolean hat).

The Connected Car


Computers have been an essential part of car technology for many years but now automobiles are becoming part of the Internet of Things and the market for connected cars is predicted to treble over the next five years.

Despite being well out of its comfort zone one car manufacturer, Ford, looks like it’s ready to take on Apple and Google when it comes to establishing platform dominance in this lucrative new market. It acquired Livio Radio (an in-car app platform) in Q3 of last year – its first tech acquisition since 2000 – signalling its intent to rival iOS in the Car (due for release this year) and a planned automotive version of Android.

In-car apps are obviously going to be big business – especially in the states where the daily commute chews up so much of the average Joe’s day. As well as putting sat-nav manufacturers out of business they can also help you find places to park, less congested routes and the cheapest fuel.

The race is also on to develop viable driverless car technology and Google seems to be in the leading pack (see image above).

Second screens

The rise of the second screen continues apace (perhaps in inverse proportion to our attention spans) as people increasingly seek an enriched experience while watching television. The ability to interact with content, or unlock new content, by interacting with a smartphone or tablet app (or, in the near future, Google Glass apps?) is becoming a focus area for content providers.

We’ve already seen the use of the second screen in video games for providing the gamer with additional info (Nintendo DS, Wii U etc) but so far that’s only been via bundled controllers.

As televisions, games consoles and home internet devices continue their march towards becoming a single, do-it-all device which streams content from the internet and delivers it to multiple screens, perhaps the real battle for dominance will be between the providers of operating systems rather than among OEMs – the same trend we’ve seen in mobile phones.

This would explain Apple and Google’s exploratory recent ventures into delivering content to your TV.

That’ll certainly be a fun fight to watch.

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