6 App Trends to Watch for in 2016

2015 was a big year for mobile and apps. Apps alone now represent over half (54%) of all time spent with digital media. Mobile advertising generated 30% of all digital advertising revenue. 68% of adults in the US (and 1.85 billion people around the world) now own a smartphone. Activision acquired mobile app developer King for $6 billion.

And that’s just a tiny selection of headlines from the past year. 2015 made quite a racket for the industry, but 2016 is shaping up to be even bigger and better.

Here are six trends we’re looking forward to in the sixth year of the decade. Be on the lookout for…

Mobile’s Going Even More Global

In 2016, the number of smartphone users around the world is expected to surpass two billion. Where are all these new smartphone users coming from? Developing countries, where smartphones are becoming increasingly affordable.

India is a prime example. Even though smartphone penetration in the country is only at about 10-15%, India is already the #3 country in the world for Google Play downloads. And expect the Android Play store’s rumoured return to China to make waves in the app marketplace too. If you’re making an app or advertising on mobile, be mindful of an increasingly global audience.

Less UA, More UX

The mobile app industry has laser-focused on user acquisition since its early days, but the tides are turning. As the app market matures, users demand quality apps and games, not quality install ads. Expect an increasing emphasis on user experience, engagement, and retention.

Spending on acquisition isn’t going to disappear, but going all-in on acquisition campaigns and hoping some users stay around for the long haul is on its way out. CPI (cost per install) ads aren’t getting any cheaper. It costs 6-7x more to acquire a new app customer than to retain an existing one. And in mobile, engaged users spend more. Better apps, more revenue – it’s just good business. Everyone wins.

More Brand Advertising of Mobile Channels

Mobile’s got everything a brand advertiser wants: an attentive, engaged audience, innovative formats, and a place in their audience’s pocket. Mobile ad formats are proving themselves to be very effective, with video ads delivering 5x engagement. And smart brands are starting to recognize this.

Expect more and more brands to enter the mobile advertising space in a big way. This is the year you’ll start to see Coca-Cola and Macy’s ads in between rounds of your favorite mobile game.

The (Continued) Beginning of Apps Everywhere

2015 heralded Apple’s entry into both wearables and connected TV apps, garnering widespread consumer attention for both. Smartwatches and wearables have performed fairly well, with 21% of all US adults using a wearable device. tvOS, though, has been a different story. On good days, top performing apps only bring in $100. That’s bad.

2016 will be a year of experimentation on these platforms. Early adopters on both the publisher and user sides will try new things and see what sticks. But mass market adoption and success won’t happen just yet. Expect more and more innovative apps across all the platforms available.

App Stores Shake Things Up

App stores continuously update their products to stay at the forefront of the industry. This year we saw Amazon launch Underground which pays developers on per-minute engagement, Google Play start testing streaming app demos, and Apple recently making its Swift programming language open source. So what’s next?

App stores will continue to find ways to better serve users content targeted to their interests. And not just for smartphones, but smartwatches and connected TVs too. Developers and publishers need to stay on top of what app stores want to stay relevant.

Big Mobile Acquisitions

Activision Blizzard’s acquisition of King is a powerful example of the broader industry accepting the validity of mobile apps. And this is only just the beginning. We’re betting that a few more of these will happen next year. Companies in mobile gaming are likely candidates, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see some utility, productivity, or shopping apps get acquired too.

Bring it On, 2016!

With all this ahead for mobile and apps, we’re excited for 2016. Apps have claimed their places as a critical part of our daily routines, so now it’s time for growth, innovation, and positive change. Onward and upward!

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