Since the invention of smartphones, mobile applications have gained vast popularity all around the world. Nevertheless, the way in which they are designed and how users interact with them nowadays are different from what they used to be. This might make some people wonder whether the applications that they know today will survive or die during the coming decades.
History shows that there have been trends in regards to how the applications were designed. It is noticeable that the history of mobile applications consists of cycles and certain patterns repeat themselves.
“Initially, we had applications that we would install on our devices because they would work faster. We would not have to wait for a server to calculate anything and wait for a response after sending a request and all the procedures required by an application would be processed on our personal device,” said Saint Leo computer science instructor Eva Groudas.
The situation changed when people noticed that some of the processing could be done on the web. In such a situation, it would not be required to have a very powerful device to process some sophisticated tasks.
“The servers could do some of the processing for us remotely without having to install the software on our devices. Therefore, the client requesting a service from a server would not need to have a very fast computer with expensive hardware anymore because all the heavyweight processing would happen on the server,” said Groudas.
In 2007, Apple introduced the first iPhone. At the time, the market was not as big as it is today and the developers had an easy task of developing applications just for the iPhone’s operating system. However, the situation changed when other devices running different systems, such as Android, were introduced to the market.
“Apple came up with smartphones that amazed people with how easy it was to use them and how good the applications looked. People realized that the web-based applications did not give them the same feeling as the native smartphone applications did, and they did not really like them. As a result, due to the market changes, the native applications that were installed on the devices regained their popularity, as they gave the users a much better experience,” said Groudas.
The aftermath of developing the first iPhone and the increase in the variety of devices that are accessible to the users affected the way in which mobile applications are developed.
“Currently, the variety of devices that can run mobile applications is very high. It is a nightmare for the developers to create native applications that will run on each of the systems. Companies have to hire developers that specialize in creating applications for many different platforms. The market is huge, and it is very difficult and costly to develop such applications independently,” said Groudas.
Because of the issues related to the process of development, it was necessary to find some kind of solution. As a result, history repeated itself with more and more applications that are developed being web-based nowadays.
“The industry has been trying to resolve the issue and find a way to merge all the branches together and avoid developing native applications for different systems. The result was creating mobile web-based applications that give the users a feeling of being native,” said Groudas.
The approach has been very successful, as most of the applications that are created are entirely based on the communication with an external. This ensures that the user does not have to install anything on their device and they can simply access a website instead. Nevertheless, many existing applications, even those that use communication with the Internet, still have to be installed on the users’ devices.
“The majority of mobile applications are based on the communication between the client and the server. However, there are still many applications that have to be downloaded and installed on a device,” said Groudas. “I think they will adapt and they will be modified, but they won’t go away. The hardware might take a different shape and thereby the applications will change as well, but the applications in regards to passing the data will never go away.”
Even though history repeated itself, there is still a chance that it will happen again in the future. It is still unknown how mobile applications will look like years from now. Taking into account all the rapid changes that happen in the technology industry, the mobile applications of the future might have an entirely new shape in few decades.