Monthly Archives: March 2015

15 Animation Tips To Make Your Mobile Games More Engaging

Popular mobile games invariably boast of smooth, seamless and engaging animations and graphic features. We here present some guidelines that animators should follow, while making a custom 2D/3D game.

Every quarter, a large number of mobile games are released by companies – and only a small fraction of them go on to become hits. More often than not, the chief issue with a flop gaming app is substandard character animation styles and transitions. Both for 2D and 3D games, the importance of including smart and lively sprite animations can hardly be overemphasized. Here are a few pointers to help you give that X-factor to the games you develop:

 

  1. Key frames need to be strong and consistent – In their bid to ensure smooth animations and slide transitions, this aspect is often overlooked by mobile game developers. However, experts have confirmed that, even the presence of a large number of frames cannot make the gameplay attractive and consistent, if the keys are not solid. Smartly implemented keys can depict a host of character actions in a game (crouching, pulling out weapons, moving about, etc.) in as few as 2-3 frames. You need to use silhouettes as well, and make sure that all ‘negative space’ is used up optimally. Everything that is readable should be displayed against the white background layout.
  2. Include pixel art in 2D games – Some opine that pixel art is dated, and they tend to make mobile games appear just a bit tacky. However, it is also true that using pixel art is probably the best way for 2D game developers to show off their creativity. Complex game characters can be created with the help of relatively few blob pixels. For experienced 2D app development experts, creating pixel art is hardly a time-consuming affair. There is one condition though – if a game does not really require creativity (a racing game, for instance), using pixel art is unnecessary.
  3. Bake the drawings – Unless the drawings you create prior to implementing animations are properly baked, exporting them would be a problem. Errors are also likely to be generated when game animators try to export a large number of drawings at once. When you are working in the Morph (or Deform) mode, bake out all drawings before exporting them.
  4. Use Staging to gradually build the game interface – Adding all the game elements to the interface at one go can make things appear cluttered. Using the staging technique would be a much more systematic option. Test each animation element carefully, and keep adding them sequentially to the game interface. This will ensure minimal distraction, and developers would be able to focus on how every element can be optimized further.
  5. Keep characters moving – Even when they are standing/static at a point. Little things, like making an animated character bob up and down, or making the hairs of a character stand up on their ends, can go a long way in adding to the liveliness of a mobile game. There are many other subtle things that relatively new mobile app and game developers miss out on – right from heaving of the chests (breathing) and blinking of the eye, to the movement of the hands (they should never hang limp). Your focus should always be on adding some distinct personality to each game character. Make sure that the characters do not appear to be made up of individual, separate particles.
  6. For 3D games, use Voxel art – What Pixel Art is for 2D mobile games, Voxel (Pixel with Volume) is for their 3D counterparts. You need not look beyond the super-successful Minecraft game to find out how smart usage of voxels can add to the coolness of your games. Each voxel has the additional dimension of depth (in essence, they are like cubes). In a gameplay scenario, there can be several thousands of voxels in the background – color-schemed and properly detailed. It will add just that extra dash of innovativeness and realism to the game.
  7. Scaling the layers – Those new to the domain of mobile app animation tend to make the mistake of using the Transform tool for scaling the layers individually. This, in turn, generally leads to the sizes on the sprite sheets getting messed up. Instead, you should use the Select tool – both for upscaling as well as downscaling the layers. This is particularly important if you are working with relatively large drawings, since they require more texture (in terms of pixels) on the sheets.
  8. Include follow through movements – If the hands of a character abruptly comes to a standstill after, say, hitting an opponent or pitching a ball, that would: a) look odd, and b) hurt the continuity of the game. Remember to include natural follow through animation movements, to make the actions of the characters more believable. While preparing the screen transitions, make sure that the overlapping actions/views are consistent. Leading game developers generally add follow through actions via in-game animation.
  9. Don’t go overboard with the number of frames – Adding as many frames as possible apparently makes the visual element of games richer. Fair enough – but using too many frames can also result in interruptions in the timings of character movements (e.g., the audio features might not be in sync with the visual gameplay). Professional animators from mobile app companies recommend using a limited number of frames, and complementing them with a nice smear. Making a game good-looking is important – but ensuring that it works properly is even more crucial!
  10. Make use of vector graphics – Representing different shapes in a 2D/3D game properly necessitates the use of vector graphics tools for game animation artists. Inkscape and Adobe Illustrator are two top-notch, highly resourceful vector graphics libraries that you can use. If your game development budget allows you to, go for Corel Draw – which allows the creation of more precise graphics. For making 2D games, the Spine skeletal animation tool is extremely handy too. Read up more about the Spine tool here.
  11. Transformations are your friend – A rule of thumb that any good iPhone/Android game follows is that, all the animations have to be relatively lightweight (otherwise, the entire game will be slow and laggy). This is where the importance of Transformations comes into the picture. Skew, Move, Scale and Rotate are some of the animation transformations that you can use to add a natural feel to a game’s animation, without increasing its size much. If required, consider adding more drawing swaps.
  12. Implement ‘Squash-n-Stretch’ effects – Yet another way to add realism to your effects. Let’s consider an example to explain Squash-n-Stretch – when a button/tab is pressed on the game screen, it should display a ‘pressed down’ appearance (gradually returning to the original shape). Apart from UI elements like this, Squash-n-Stretch should also be applied on separate game particles – a bouncing ball, or a character which has just been hit, or a crushed bottle, and the like. This effect replicates the application of pressure on any element in the game interface.
  13. Think big, think ridiculous – App and game developers should always go all out with the sprite animations in 2D games. There is no dearth of games which seem boring and undercooked, simply because the animations are not interesting/eye-catching enough. Your aim should be coming up with animations which will ‘surprise’ and ‘excite’ (the two watchwords) final users. You have the resources – and there is no point in not making full use of it. Why should a fire-breathing dragon in your game generate only a pale bit of flame?
  14. Make sure that the animation timings are correct – A car whizzes through on the road, and the ‘vroom’ sound is audible 5 seconds later! Not a particularly good feature of any mobile racing game, right? For any type of games, designers and animators need to ensure that the timing is completely in sync with the poses (of characters) and the gameplay actions. Things like how long a character would remain suspended in air, or keep rolling, or bounce about, also depend on the animation timing settings. Test your game multiple times, to find out if there are any glitches in this regard.
  15. Pay attention to secondary actions – Secondary actions refer to those little things that bring about an air of completeness in a mobile game scenario. If you are making a character walk (primary action), implement a movement for its hands too (secondary action). While depicting a garden (spelling bee games, anyone?), decide how you will make the plants and flowers move. To provide an immersive experience, you need to create a back buffer, which would preload a frame in background, while the previous one is still being displayed. For seamless secondary actions in gameplay, assets might have to be loaded as well. Right from the flight of birds in the sky, to the movement of grass due to a breeze – you need to be attentive about everything.

3D mobile game animators need to be experts at solid three-dimensional drawing. Do not forget to add some ‘anticipatory movements’ before any action (for example, bending of the knees before a jump), to make the gameplay appear natural. Most movements in a game should follow a regular arc. Do not make your game a riot of colors either – pick 5-6 colors in the main theme, and play around with them.

 

Unless the content of a mobile game appeals to the end-users, it would never be successful – no matter how good its animation features are. However, the above tips can significantly add to the charms of a game – provided the underlying concept is interesting enough.

 

Do you have any other game animation tips to share?

15 Steps To Safely Root An Android Device

There are many misconceptions and uncertainties shrouding the process of rooting Android devices. In what follows, we have sketched out the steps for doing it, and have also briefly touched upon the benefits of Android rooting.

Close to 40% of all Android smartphones in the world are ‘rooted’ by their owners. The principle behind Android rooting is almost similar to that of performing an iOS ‘jailbreak’ – i.e., getting the scope for greater customization of handsets. However, unlike the iOS platform, Android is open-source, and hence, people are more concerned about getting ‘full control’ over the operating system (OS) when they root their devices. If you too own an Android smartphone, here is how you can root it safely:

 

  1. Backup your phone data and note down the software version – Although Android rooting is a fairly quick process, mobile software and app developers emphasize the importance of taking a complete backup of all phone data first. The version of the Android platform on which your device is running (i.e., Jellybean or KitKat or Lollipop) would also determine the rooting software that should be used.
  2. Select and install the correct rooting utility – Another significant point of difference between iOS and Android is the sheer number of vendors that the latter has (as opposed to the single Apple iOS platform). Each OEM performs their own tweaks on the original, plain-vanilla version of Google Android (except for, of course, the Nexus phones). This, in turn, means that the rooting utility/software compatible with a Samsung handset would be different from that ideal for a Sony or an Asus or a HTC phone. Do some research on the web, and find out which of the available software would be best-suited to root your phone, and install it on your PC. Popular rooting software for Android phones include SuperOneClick and Z4Root.
  3. Get the Android SDK as well – Not all rooting software need the Android software development kit (SDK) to function properly. Even so, software testers and mobile app development experts recommend downloading the SDK, in case it is required during the rooting process. Once the rooting software and SDK have been downloaded and installed, restart your computer (this might be mandatory), and do a complete virus scan.
  4. Activate the USB debugging mode – Okay, now it’s time to turn your attentions to your mobile device. Before connecting it with your PC, the USB debugging mode in the handset has to be activated. Provided that your phone is powered by Android 4.1 or later, you can do this simply by tapping on Settings → About Phone → Developer Options → USB debugging. Certain phones (running on Jellybean or Kitkat) might also flash a message: ‘You Are Now A Developer.’
  5. Use a reliable data cable – There should not be any connectivity interruptions when the rooting is going on. To ensure this, professionals from Android app companies highlight the importance of using good-quality data cables (to connect the mobile device to the PC). Ideally, use the data cable a couple of times before, and make sure that it is in proper working condition. A loss of connection during the rooting process can lead to damages in the phone software.
  6. Connect your device – You are now all set to initiate the Android rooting process. Use the standard USB cable you have selected to connect your phone with the computer (on which the rooting utility and the Android SDK are present). Within a few seconds, the computer should display your phone as a connected device. If the latter is not detected, detach it from the PC and try again. Non-detection can be due to problems in the data cable, or defects in the underlying phone software.
  7. Activate the SDK – As already highlighted, this might not be necessary. However, you should activate the Android SDK too, before starting the rooting process. A re-check of the data you had taken a backup of (using a software like KIES or HTC Sync) would also be in order. After all, once your phone has been rooted, it will no longer have any old data. The backup has to be complete.
  8. Start the rooting procedure – Not much to do here. Refer to the documentation of the rooting software (and your phone), and start the process. Provided that you have performed all the above steps correctly, the rooting should go ahead without a hitch. According to Android programmers and general smartphone app developers, rooting an Android phone takes around 10-15 minutes.
  9. Be prepared for minor hiccups – The task of rooting your phone might not be as smooth as it might seem from our discussion thus far. There are chances that you will observe certain problems during/after the procedure. There have been cases of Android devices getting accidentally locked after rooting. If you face this problem as well, do a hard reset, and then, use your computer to restore your handset. You might also find that nothing has really changed following the rooting (a telltale indication that something has gone wrong). Restore your phone immediately, to prevent your phone software from getting irreversibly damaged.
  10. Know the advantages of Android rooting – Many people root their phones simply because ‘others have done it.’ Do not be a part of this Android rooting bandwagon, and find out the precise advantages you get from doing this. If required, contact an Android software/app development expert for the purpose. Correctly rooting an Android device can give you many additional benefits – right from changing the CPU speeds (overclocking/underclocking), to installing custom ROMs. You can play around with practically any element of the UI of a rooted phone.
  11. Need to reverse the root? – Contrary to what many people believe, Android rooting is not an irreversible process. If you feel that the original settings of the phone were better, connect the device to the PC, select ‘Android Root’, and click ‘Remove Root.’ In case the screen freezes or crashes while reversing the process, get in touch with professional mobile experts.
  12. Install jailbreak-access apps – This is, arguably, the key reason for rooting an Android device. While general third-party applications can be installed on Android phones before rooting (iPhones need to be jailbroken for that), there are many customized ‘jailbreak-access’ apps showcased at the Google Play Store, which you can install now. Choose apps published by well-known mobile app companies – to stay safe from malware (unfortunately, the Android platform has a lot of it). AdBlocker and InstaWifi are two jailbreak-access apps for Android that enjoy enormous popularity.
  13. Rooting will render the default warranties void – But perhaps you were aware of this from the very outset, right? Doing an Android Root or an iOS jailbreak nullifies the default warranties with the concerned smartphones/handsets. However, many mobile app developers feel that Google is not particularly against Android rooting – since there are so many devices shipped with unlocked bootloaders. Unlike Apple’s rigid stance on jailbreaking, Google is a lot more flexible.
  14. Get rid of unnecessary pre-installed firmware – When mobile vendors customize the plain-vanilla Android platform, they install certain default software in their phones. Average users, in many instances, do not need these pre-installed software – and what’s more, these can hog quite a bit of the phone memory and affect battery performance. Only after you have rooted your device, can you get rid of such default firmware.
  15. If there’s a problem, consult an expert – The process takes only a few minutes, but there are ample scopes for an Android rooting process to go pear-shaped – if you are not careful enough. The rooting utility might be incompatible, the data cable might be faulty, you might not have activated USB debugging, and so on. If you find that your phone has started behaving erratically after being rooted, get it checked by a professional Android software developer/tester/app developer. Don’t try to troubleshoot on your own.

Rooting Android phones and tablets is all about getting ‘superuser’ permissions on the OS. After your device has been rooted, you can even install a new, custom kernel on it. Optimal usage of a smart device is all about maximizing its compatibility features and functionality – and rooting it is just the right way to achieve it.

 

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purpose only. In many mobile phones it is prohibited to root your device, since the underlying warranty is rendered void. The author of the article and the company will not be responsible if any warranty is void/nullified by rooting your device.

Apple Watch Or Pebble: Which Smartwatch Is Better?

The shipment of Apple Watch starts on April 24. While it is not likely to face much of a challenge from any existing Android Wear, its tussle with Pebble will be interesting. We have here compared the two sets of smartwatches in terms of a few important parameters.

The uncertainties about the release date of Apple Watch are finally over. During the March 9 Apple event, it was officially announced that Watch would hit the markets on the 24th of April, with pre-ordering being open from April 10. While Tim Cook’s ‘one more thing’ is easily the most hyped smart gadget of the year, the Pebble smartwatches are more than worthy rivals. The startup company set new records in crowdfunding on Kickstarter in 2012, and this year, it is also gearing up for the launch of a new smartwatch edition – the Pebble Time Steel. The million dollar question (the pun is partially intended!) is whether Apple Watch or Pebble will find long-run favor among users. The following comparative study should give an idea:

 

  • Available Versions – Pebble started things off with a rather unremarkable regular smartwatch, but soon grabbed eyeballs with the much sleeker Pebble Steel. The Time Steel would be an interesting addition to the portfolio of the company’s smartwatches. Apple Watch, on the other hand, will also be available in three different versions – Apple Watch, the Apple Watch Edition and the Apple Watch Sport. In terms of numbers, both Apple and Pebble offer equal options – but the basic version of Apple’s smartwatch certainly has an edge over that of Pebble.
  • Display screen – Device experts and iOS developers worldwide were surprised when Apple did not provide iPhone 6/6 Plus a sapphire glass screen display. Watch, however, will be having it, along with high-end Retina Display features. The latter will ensure crystal clear display of all visuals – from images to icons. Pebble smartwatches come with an e-paper display, with the LCD backlighting being a high point. Comparatively though, it is less tough/resistant than Sapphire glass, and visual elements can appear blurred on it. The Force Touch option of Apple Watch also contributes to its superiority.
  • App Support – A recent FastCompany report revealed that Pebble has well over 1100 native applications, along with more than 100 companion apps (i.e., which require a companion iOS/Android device). Not surprisingly, Google’s Android Wear, with a measly 193 apps at the Play Store, did not have a chance to compete against it. Apple, on its part, has confirmed that there will be a set number of native apps on Watch, and has released WatchKit for the creation of third-party Watch apps. However, professional mobile app developers feel that it will take some time for the Cupertino company to match up with the sheer range of apps that Pebble offers on its smartwatches. And as we all know, apps are everything for any smart gadget!
  • Battery performance – Tim Cook put doubters to rest by confirming that the battery of Apple Watch would last for a minimum of 18 hours (termed ‘all-day battery support’). However, this performance rather pales into insignificance in front of the 3-7 day battery life of Pebble smartwatches. With Watch, you will need to have a charger ready everyday – but with Pebble, charging might very well become a weekly task.
  • Platform support – This is yet another factor where Pebble steals a march over Apple Watch. The latter is supported only on the new iOS 8 platform, and has to be paired with an upgraded iPhone 5 or iPhone6/6 Plus. In contrast, Pebble smartwatches are compatible are compatible with both the iOS and the Android ecosystem (from iOS 6 and Android 4.0). This automatically ensures a bigger reach, and consequently, better sales. Apple Watch has to rely on its higher selling price to pull in more revenue.
  • Smartwatch functionality – When it comes to bundling in functional features in a smart device, expect Apple to do a great job. The presence of the new and improved Siri is being viewed as the icing on the cake for Apple Watch, which already has a taptic engine, a mic and a speaker. Unlike Pebble Time Steel, users will be able to make calls with Apple Watch too. The availability of near-field communication (NFC) on Watch is a real clincher in its favor as well. The maximum that can be done with Pebble Time Steel is receive notifications, create voice memos, and use the built-in GPS feature. The absence of calling options is a drawback.
  • Material and design – Pebble Steel, as its name suggests, is made of stainless steel – and it is a definite improvement over the all-plastic original Pebble smartwatch. Apple, on its part, has gone with steel for Apple Watch, and anodized aluminum for Apple Watch Sport. The most talked-about version is, of course, the Apple Watch Edition – which boasts of a stunning 18-carat gold finish. App development experts as well as general tech enthusiasts feel that Apple Watch can easily double up as a fashion accessory – something that Pebble does not quite do.
  • Customization options – Android Wear has a grand total of less than 30 watch faces. Compare that against the whopping 4300 faces that the Pebble smartwatches come with. Users have more than ample opportunities to pick their favorite watch face to show off. To start things off, Apple is offering six different designs for each of its Watch version, a total of 34 different designs, and ‘millions’ of customized faces. We will have to wait and see whether it indeed offers more personalization options than Pebble.
  • Focus on health & fitness – Pebble smartwatches have Runkeeper, while Apple Watch will have the HealthKit and Research Kit apps. Both of them offer personalized health and fitness tracking – although Apple’s health support seem more well-rounded than that yielded from the Pebble wearables. Pebble Time Steel and Apple Watch will have built-in accelerometer (the other versions of Pebble watches also have 3D accelerometers). It’s a fairly close race in this regard, with Apple Watch appearing to win it by a hair.
  • Price pinch – Apple has always been (except for that disastrous iPhone 5C experiment) been associated with premium products. The price tags of Apple Watch versions reflect that…once again. The Apple Watch Sport is the cheapest of the lot, at $349/$399 (for the 38 mm and 42 mm models). The starting price of the mid-range Apple Watch is $549 (which changes according to the band chosen), while that of Apple Watch Steel is $599. If you wish to flaunt the Watch Edition, you will have to cough up in excess of $10000 (not everyone’s cup of tea, one might add!). In comparison, Pebble offers smartwatches on a budget – with the basic Pebble watch model available for $99. Pebble Steel comes with a price tag of $199, and Pebble Time Steel (expected to launch in July) would be priced at $299. All of them are cheaper than the cheapest version of Apple Watch. The message is loud and clear – if you want to own an Apple device, you have to pay big for it!
  • Controls – The Digital Crown and the taptic engine of Apple Watch make it the more advanced smartwatch, but first-time users can get a little confused by it. In contrast, the Pebble watches offer a more user-friendly device control setup. There are buttons on either side of the screen, for scrolling and navigating across menus. It will be a challenge for iOS app developers to make apps for Watch with smooth in-app navigation.
  • Physical dimensions – While the smaller version of Apple Watch is roughly similar in dimensions with the existing Pebble smartwatches (15”x1.4”x0.4”), the larger Watch model would be a quarter of an inch wider. The upcoming Pebble Time Steel has a thickness of only 0.37 inches. Both Pebble and Apple Watch are lightweight, streamlined gadgets. Nothing to really choose between the two here!
  • Additional features – For all its affordability, the Pebble wearables do not offer much in the way of extra features. Apart from the notifications, GPS and voice memo sharing feature (Time Steel has a mic), the only other feature worth noting is the E-Compass. Watch, on the other hand, soars high in terms of additional functionality, with support for Apple Pay and seamless Passbook integration. For those who wish their smartwatches to do more, Apple Watch is the way to go.

While the spotlight is firmly on the imminent arrival of Apple Watch, one thing emerges pretty clearly – Pebble will prove to be a stiff challenger. It has been in the market even before the first Android Wear was launched, its features are mostly comparable with those of Watch, and it is much less pricey than the eagerly-anticipated Apple smartwatch. iOS app development experts feel that the absence of a third-party app marketplace for Watch can initially hurt its prospects too. The overall functionality of Apple Watch is more, and it certainly sports a more beautiful appearance than the Pebble watches. The question remains, will there be enough people eager to fork out big bucks for what is, in essence, a companion device of an iPhone?

 

Well, that’s the users’ call!

Mobile Apps In 2015: 15 Major Trends

The global app industry is set for further robust growth this year. In the following discourse, we have focused on some of the most remarkable mobile trends that are likely to grow in 2015.

The combined revenue figures from app stores is projected to reach $77 billion by the end of 2017 (as per a recent Statista report). Although countries like United States, Australia and United Kingdom are still the epicenters of the worldwide mobile revolution, usage of mobile apps has witnessed major surges in many other nations across the world (including developing countries). The 2014 year-end stats about mobile applications made for interesting reading, and as we enter the third month of 2015, the following trends are expected to gain momentum:

 

  1. App revenues would no longer be the highest in the US – According to AppAnnie, mobile apps were the most profitable in Japan in 2014, with South Korea and the United States taking the 2nd and 3rd spots respectively. The trend should continue this year, with countries like Brazil, Germany, Indonesia and Mexico all emerging as strong sources of revenues/profits from app downloads and usage. India is not far behind the eight-ball either.
  2. iOS would remain the most profitable – Last year, the gap between the profitability of iOS apps and Android apps was a whopping 70%. This year, the gap should get somewhat smaller, but Google is not going to mount a serious challenge on Apple mobile platform’s profitability anytime soon. Even after the series of troubles that iOS 8 has run into, the platform remains the top money-churner for mobile app developers. But…
  3. Google Android will pull away further in terms of downloads – iOS wins the revenue-generation round hands down, while Android aces the worldwide market-share consideration. Mobile app analysts have confirmed that the total download figure of Android applications was at least 60% higher than that of iOS apps. Do not be surprised if the difference in downloads widens further in 2015.
  4. The monthly mobile app download count should breach the 9 billion barrier (for US users) – For the last 4 years, the average app download counts by smartphone-users in the United States have been 8.9 billion, 8.6 billion, 8.8 billion and 8.8 billion respectively. With many new mobile apps and software already launched by app companies in 2015, the figure should hover around the 9.5 billion mark by year-end. There are several high-end smartphones scheduled to release during the year too. That would egg on the app download figure further.
  5. Marketing via mobile apps will be huge – During 2015 and beyond, marketing and promotional campaigns via mobile apps will no longer be an option for businesses. The user-base is huge, and companies that do not have dedicated mobile marketing plans are going to lag behind their competitors. The total monetary value of mobile advertisements is likely to hover around $13 billion. Paid ads will gradually become more important than organic marketing (search market).
  6. Not all social media apps will be equally popular – The remarkable difference in the fortunes of Facebook and Google Plus apps highlight this. While the former led the way in 2014 with 69% downloads, G+ lagged well behind with a meagre 19% download figure (less than Instagram, Pandora Radio, and even Yahoo Stocks). Among the hundreds of social networking and social media applications launched this year, only a handful will be successful. The onus is on mobile app companies to focus on the quality and usability of their products. If something is viewed as not user-friendly, people will have loads of other options.
  7. Kids’ apps will become even more popular – At present, nearly 85% children in the 6-9 age group have their own tablets. Approximately the same percentage of kids and teens in the 14-18 age range own smartphones as well. Given these figures, it is only to be expected that Android and iPhone/iPad apps for kids would continue to surge in popularity this year. Mobile technology has been accepted worldwide as a vital cog in preliminary education, and the downloads of learning apps would soar.
  8. Well-made and well-promoted apps will always have an initial demand – Surveys conducted by app development companies in the US reveal that, 1 out of every 5 smartphone-users in the country are ‘app install addicts’ (i.e., they try to check out as many new apps as possible). A large chunk of these ‘addicts’ are mobile gamers (both male and female), while there will always be a demand for social networking and parenting apps too. Whether these apps would succeed in the long-run, or bite the dust due to unfavorable reviews, is quite another story though.
  9. Mobile shopping is going to surge – By the end of 2014, 39% of regular shoppers in the United States had started buying stuff via these applications. This year, the trend is going to further gain strength – with the arrival of Apple Pay and the general increase in familiarity with NFC (near field communication) technology helping it along. It has also been seen that that the usage of mobile shopping apps is maximum between 12 noon and 8 pm (i.e., afternoon to late-evening). Developers have to ensure that their apps are not down during this time-span.
  10. Mobile apps are the new best friends of young adults – In particular, the millennials. Nearly 8 out of 10 people in this category spend more than two hours everyday with their smartphones, playing games, reading stories, checking the news, and interacting on social media apps. In the US, 65% of all mobile-owners keep their handset with them at all times. Smartphones are the last thing they check before drifting off to sleep, and the first thing after getting up.
  11. Photo-sharing apps will grow at a rapid clip – Among social messaging apps, Facebook Messenger held a healthy lead in 2014 – but what was remarkable was the upsurge in the popularity of photo-sharing applications. The download count of Pinterest app grew by an impressive 43%, Snapchat witnessed a 57% surge in downloads, and apps like Line, Vine and, of course, WhatsApp were all major movers. This year too, image-sharing and messaging apps will find plenty of takers.
  12. Tablet apps will remain in demand – There have been reports about how tablet sales have tapered off worldwide. While that is partly true, the fact remains that close to 49% of the US population own tablets – and regularly use iPad apps or Android apps on them. The tablet-penetration figure will move towards 51% in 2015, and should be somewhere around 53% by 2018. Smartphones and the new-fangled phablets are squeezing the tablet market, but it is not going away anytime soon.
  13. Apps for Apple Watch will be at the cynosure – Apple fans are talking about it, general tech-enthusiasts are talking about it, and many mobile app companies have already started working on beta versions of Watch apps. WatchKit was officially released in mid-November, and details about the arrival date of the smartwatch would be shared during the eagerly anticipated March 9 event of Apple. Developing apps for Watch will be a new trend among developers in 2015, while using them out will be what every Watch-user will be after. Before the year is out, we will have a fair idea as to whether Apple Watch becomes as big a hit as the Cupertino company is expecting it would be.
  14. Mobile search is all set to become a regular habit – In 2014, 130 million people in the United States used mobile apps to search the World Wide Web. The figure has been projected to move to around 202 million by 2018. Users of mobile search functions is already around 17% higher than the total mobile-Facebook users, and the gap would increase further in future.
  15. Popularity of the Amazon Marketplace will increase – Both the mobile app download list as well as the mobile ad market will still be dominated by Facebook and Google (in that order) – but expect major movement from Amazon. It is already the only retailer app in the list of top 15 applications – and the provision of giving reviews is expected to boost its popularity over the next few quarters. The current share of Amazon in the mobile ad marketplace is a measly 0.57%, but that is likely to change soon.

The mobile app market grew by an unprecedented 76% in 2014 – and early trends suggest the growth will be in a similar range this year as well. While iOS and Android will remain the top two mobile platforms for app developers and users alike, Microsoft is the favorite to retain its No. 3 position, ahead of BlackBerry. It would be fascinating to watch how the global app industry shapes up over the course of the year, and whether we are in for any surprises.