Mobile technology trends to watch for in 2016

Last year was truly excellent for the mobile world especially in terms of developments made to the web browsing on smartphones and tablets. Will 2016 be similarly exciting? Here’s what we believe is likely to make news in 2016.

Web fragmentation and more focus on Web Performance

According to mobile experts from Applause, it is likely that ‘walled gardens’ created by companies like Google (AMP), Facebook (Instant Articles), Twitter, Netflix, Pinterest, etc. will be more visible in 2016 increasing web fragmentation. We agree that these ‘powerful regions of influence’ will grow in 2016 but more importantly they will also force the ‘egalitarian, open Web’ to address Web Performance issues.

In 2016 the focus on Web Performance will accelerate and this will be caused by the fact that today many websites are extremely slow to load on smartphones. Many companies will look for ways to optimize their content to load blazingly fast on mobile just like the largest players do.

Great UX on ALL devices

In April 2015 Android’s head of design Matias Duarte declared, somewhat surprisingly, that ‘mobile is dead.’ Is his statement true in 2016?

We believe that designing mobile-only websites is an outdated approach similarly to relying on the ‘classic’ RWD. Instead, in 2016 web designers will take into consideration all web-enabled devices that customers may use to access websites, including desktop PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones, low-end phones, TVs, or even wearables. Adaptive Web Design is probably the most flexible way to adjust the UX on all device categories because it’s very difficult to make one experience work across such a wide range of devices and contexts

Shift to mobile web at the expense of apps

Last year’s Morgan Stanley report showed that mobile browser audiences are twice as large as app audiences and they grow faster. We’re convinced that this trend will continue in 2016.

More companies will realize that most of their potential customers will visit their website on mobile devices before checking if there’s an app available in the app store. Given that you only get one chance to make a first impression, these companies will focus on optimizing their websites, rather than developing native apps. Luke Wroblewski recently tweeted about that the reality of native mobile apps is generally ‘harsh’ (very few users regularly download apps, there’s high drop-off rate during app on-boarding, and shortly after the install, etc.).

Initiatives like AMP may also help drive shift to mobile web, especially if Google starts to highlight AMP links in search results.

Android’s world domination continues

Apple phones are the world’s most popular devices in terms of both sales, and web browsing. But if you look at all Android smartphones combined, they’re much more widely used and sold. Just check out this map based on DeviceAtlas statistics predicting future changes in the web browsing share.

Apple’s reality check

In 2016 Apple must be vigilant to stay on top. Perhaps a 4-inch iPhone would be a feasible way for Apple to reach new customers. The Q3 2015 mobile traffic report showed that a lot of customers use small form factor phones. Of course given that the new phone won’t spark criticism like the Apple’s infamous battery case adding a comical hump to the iPhone’s back.

Less hype around wearables

The hype around wearables is likely to decline in 2016 given that many consumers learned what these things are capable of and if they really need them in everyday life. Therefore we believe that less people would buy wearables because they’re a novelty and, at the same time, more people will get wearables because they know what to use them for.

Wider adoption of the latest technologies changing the mobile web

2015 saw many new technologies that will change the way websites function and how they are browsed on smartphones. We expect a wider adoption of these technologies in 2016. Here are some of the trends to watch for:

Dramatic increase in number of offline, and push-enabled web apps

Some of the latest HTML5 technologies to hit the web include service workers and push notifications. With service workers, web apps can be designed to function without a network connection, that is, offline! And with push notifications, a website can reach its users even when it’s not opened in the browser. These technologies will change how we interact with the Web, and you can expect to see a lot more sites implement them in 2016.

Accelerated physical web technology adoption

The Physical Web, based on Bluetooth Low Energy beacons, is set to radically enlarge the web with the addition of billions of physical world objects. The web is approximately 25 years old right now, and it will likely look very different after the next 25 years; the Physical Web is one major step along this journey.

Physical Web beacons are pretty cheap right now, but now that this technology has been integrated directly into the browser we should see wider adoption in 2016, resulting in greater demand and even lower priced beacons themselves, even to a sub-$1 price point.

Flash will (finally) die!

Flash has been dying a slow death for a few years now. One of the reasons we believe it is actually happening now is that there are finally better alternatives, namely in the coming of age of HTML5, and support for HTML5 technologies in mobile devices.

Safari browser will see reinvigorated development effort

It’s no secret that Safari is lagging behind the other main browsers. Safari was the development of WebKit, the engine that powers several of the other main browsers, so it’s sad to see it neglected.

We expect to see a renewed commitment to implement in Safari some of the cutting-edge standards already available in other browsers today. Failing this, users may turn to other browsers where enhanced features will be available in their favorite web apps. Some pundits are already referring to Safari as the new IE6. Nobody wants this!

photo: Christian Schnettelker

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