14 Mobile Trends from 2014

There’s no doubt that 2014 was a big year for mobile. From Ellen Degeneres’ Twitter-crashing Oscar selfie (which turned out to be a formidable Samsung advertisement), to millions of Instagram videos raising millions of dollars for ALS research, global mobile usage has spread far and wide. Mark Zuckerberg cited mobile as the future for Facebook. Mobile connections surpassed 7 billion this year, and are continuing to catch up with the world population of 7.2 billion people – although realistically about one in two people are actually subscribed to a mobile service. The idea that there will soon be as many mobile connections as people on this earth shows that mobile isn’t only the future for Facebook, it’s the future for the world.

At App360, we’ve been following mobile trends all year, and now we’ve pieced together the top overall trends in mobile. From record-breaking social media stats and new advertising opportunities, to digital consumer trends and emerging technologies, here are the mobile trends we noted in 2014:

1. Deep Linking

As our lives have become increasingly reliant on mobile tech, it has become more clear that apps operating within a given mobile ecosystem need to be able to communicate with each other. Your phone is a powerful little computer, and ought to be more than a house for disparate applications operating in isolation. Deep linking creates a more intuitive and relevant app experience, allowing you to different functionalities within an app the way you would access a part of a web page, with fewer steps and search capability that’s actually useful. We think our prediction came true and 2014 was clearly the year of the deep link.

2. mCommerce

mCommerce has been huge in China for several years now, and until recently, the US lagged way behind in this category: 69% of Chinese consumers have made a purchase via mobile, while just 43% of US consumers have done so, according to statistics compiled by Go-Glo Technology. However, this year’s holiday shopping season seems to indicate a turning point: on Cyber Monday, 41% of online retail sales came from smartphones or tablets, according to statistics compiled by IBM. Amazon reported that almost 60% of its sales came from mobile users, and as there is still plenty of room for growth in this category, 2015 will surely bring us new records in mobile shopping.

3. Freemium

Free got a new meaning this year, and some extra syllables. Freemium, free’s sneaky little cousin, was a big win for 2014 – just ask Kim K. The freemium business model offers a product free of charge and let users add other features for a premium. More consumers moving towards mobile created a robust market for apps, but it became clear that the majority of consumers weren’t going to pay for those apps. So, rather than creating paid apps, developers found a new way: creating addictive freemium apps that hooked users enough to pay for more features. Almost all of Google Play’s income came from freemium apps this year, and all different kinds of companies offer freemium services from streaming music (Spotify) to news (newspaper and magazine paywalls) to games (perhaps the app type best suited for freemium). Kim Kardashian is said to have made $200 million on her freemium app, while her net worth was estimated at a mere $40 million in 2013 – and the fictional version of herself was named the second most influential fictional character this year. And to think this all began with Candy Crush.

4. Oversharing Is So Over

Some 81% of internet users between the ages of 13 and 22 feel their peers share too much online, according to an August 2014 survey by Camp Mobile featured in eMarketer. Approximately one-third of US teens said they had posted things online they wish they could take back. This sentiment may be related to the rise of anonymous sharing apps like Secret and Whisper. Whatever the cause, we predict (and fervently hope) that in 2015, we will create an internet that is characterized by discretion and restraint rather than incessant selfies and YOLOs.

5. Mobile Wallets

Mobile wallets have been slow to take off (outside of Starbucks), but the much-anticipated fall 2014 rollout of Apple Pay is nearly guaranteed to make the wallet trend grow stronger in 2015. Google Wallet, which was unveiled in 2011, has had its share of issues, including a lawsuit with PayPal and a deficit of consumer interest, although it is accepted at a pretty wide variety of stores, including Toys “R” Us, Jamba Juice, Subway and Foot Locker. However, both Apple and Google are making a concerted effort to lure more users to their payment systems, mostly through incentives. And in 2015, the Merchant Customer Exchange, a group of retail powerhouses including Best Buy, Dunkin Donuts and Rite Aid, will begin offering its own mobile payment solution.

6. Wearables

Almost nothing represents the over-hyped notion of the internet of things better than wearables, though in terms of warm public reception, it’s been a rather bumpy ride for the more conspicuous wearable products (ahem, Google Glass). However, there is a great deal of excitement around the spring 2015 launch of the Apple Watch (announced in fall 2014, in conjunction with the iPhone 6 and 6+), and if any company can bring broader consumer acceptance of a controversial product category, it’s Apple. Whether smart watches and other wearables will take off outside of Silicon Valley in 2015 remains to be seen, but after the Apple Watch, wearables should start to gain more traction.

7. The Beautification of the Mobile Web

Aesthetics matter, and every company with an online presence can no longer afford to ignore the mobile web experience. Airbnb recently unveiled a new mobile website that aims to be every bit as good as its desktop website and its app (and offers the same features), yet offers an experience that distinguishes it from both. We anticipate that more companies we love will follow the trend, so we’re never stuck squinting at our screens, pinching and scouring a website built for the desktop web experience. At the same time, it’s hard to beat the native app for a truly platform optimized experience.

8. App Un/bundling

One day not too long ago, you opened your Facebook app and realized that you could no longer send messages within the app, and got a notification that you would need to download a separate Facebook Messenger app to use the mobile messaging functionality. Similarly, Google divided several functionalities within Drive into new apps (Docs, Sheets and Slides), and Foursquare released Swarm, which separated out its check-in function from the rest of the Yelp app. While users may find these moves vexing, unbundling represents a move toward improving the user experience by distilling apps down to their essential function, rather than trying to pack 50 different features into a single app.

9. Security

Security and privacy were big concerns in 2014, especially in the wake of the leaking of private nude photos of several high-profile celebrities, exposing vulnerabilities in Apple’s iCloud and calling into question the security of the cloud in general. Add to this Uber’s user-stalking scandal as well as assorted viruses, and 2014 proved to be a year that highlighted how utterly vulnerable our information can be on our devices. Look for 2015 to come up with at least a few suitable solutions on this front.

10. Unlocking Advertising Possibilities on Mobile

Advertising permeates virtually every aspect of our lives, so why not mobile? Native advertising will become more omnipresent in 2015 (think Facebook’s cleverly-placed video ads, or sponsored content or tweets, all of which exploded in 2014). According to a report by Business Insider, mobile advertising is the fastest-growing advertising category, so we can expect a proliferation of ads within mobile apps, as well as an increase in sponsored content, still to come.

11. The Messy World of Mobile Messaging

You probably have multiple messaging apps on your smartphone, including but not limited to Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, LINE, Twitter, and Instagram. And of course you have your built-in texting function on your device. You’ve probably started a communication thread via Snapchat, had a return missive by text or Instagram post, replied via yet another different service, and so on. Conversations aren’t necessarily linear entities anymore, partly because there are so many fun ways to issue a response. You could even have an entire conversation in emoji, if you so wished. In 2015, there will probably be a slew of new ways to communicate, further complicating the ecosystem, and we can’t wait to see the new ways communication will evolve.

12. Mobile Dating

Online dating, once a source of shame and consternation for sexually frustrated singles, is now basically de rigeur, thanks in large part to a proliferation of hook-up and dating apps that essentially gamify the process of finding love. The easy, almost careless swipe-left, swipe-right action that powers Tinder turned the app into one of the hottest mobile playthings in 2014. Similar apps like Glimpse and Hinge have also become popular, and have gone a long way toward de-stigmatizing online dating and hookup culture in general. Someday, we might scoff at the notion that people actually met offline.

13. Mobile Streaming

This year, millions of Instagram users dumped ice water on their heads to help fund ALS research. Sounds funny, but the viral movement raised over $115 million in a few short weeks. Instagram’s 3 million #ALSicebucketchallenge videos indicated how impactful streaming media can be. Not just Instagram, but streaming music services like Spotify and Google Play have become exceedingly popular as over 70 million people in the US stream music regularly. But let’s not forget the biggest streaming trend of them all. Video has been unchained from the living room as more and more consumers opt for cable alternatives. Cable is so passé. The new way to watch your favorite shows and movies is by streaming them on Netflix or HBO Go, among others. What’s more, not only are these “cord cutters” opting out of cable services, but they’re also streaming on the go, preferring to rack up data charges than deal with Comcast customer service one more time.

14. Smartphone Opens the Door to the Smart Home

Literally: your phone is now capable of unlocking your front door (provided you have the right setup). It can also set your security alarm, turn on your oven, adjust your thermostat and lights, and even control your washer and dryer. The rise of smart homes began only a couple years ago, and it wouldn’t be possible without a smartphone. Mobile acts as the remote control for all of your smart devices, which you control through their dedicated apps. The worlds of Iron Man and Oblivion may seem far out, but they aren’t as futuristic as they may seem. The Jetsons future has arrived and is about to materialize right under our apps.

In short, 2014 brought many new trends into the mobile space. We predict that these trends will carry forth into 2015, which (we hope) will be a year of more seamless connectivity and more impressive features on mobile. If only someone could fix smartphone battery life, then we’d be in business.