2018's Mobile Trends

2018’s Mobile Trends Still Going Strong

We’re more than halfway through 2018, and the mobile market continues to grow and change. However, some trends have remained consistent and strong throughout the year.

Near the end of 2017, we looked at new and growing trends. Now we’re looking at how they’ve affected today’s app ecosystem and if they’ve lasted. What are they, and how have they changed since the start of the year?

App Store Optimization

To call ASO a trend does little service to the importance of optimizing apps. Good ASO requires keeping up with all user trends and changes in the App Stores. There have been many changes to both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, and the best practices for ASO have changed accordingly. Apple Search Ads now include creative sets, Google Play is testing the feature graphic impacts and frequently updates the Play Store while the Apple App Store now allows up to ten screenshots – all these changes and more cause seismic shifts in the ASO ecosystem.

It is because of ASO that apps can maintain high rankings and relevance within the app stores whenever changes and shifts occur. It’s the key to maintaining installs and views on the App Stores throughout every trend, making it essential in an ever-shifting ecosystem.Throughout all the changes, ASO remains not just a trend, but a necessity for app developers and marketers.

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) has continued to progress and grow since it first went mainstream with Pokémon GO in 2016. The advancements in AR technology have taken the concept beyond games, and AR has steadily been integrated into shopping apps, navigation, and more. Its presence in mobile games has also been growing, especially with games such as Jurassic World(TM) Alive.

AR has reached the point where both Apple and Google are making a concentrated effort to improve Augmented Reality on their devices. Apple revealed the ARKit 2 at WWDC 2018, while Google announced at their annual conference, Google I/O, that they would be adding further ARCore support to their devices.

The number of apps using AR has been steadily increasing as well, with a growth from 1,950 ARKit-enabled apps in the first quarter of 2018 to 2,200 apps and over 60 million users in Q2. The potential and users for AR continues to grow, and it does not seem to be slowing.

Business and Shopping Apps

It seems that no matter where you shop, there’s an app for that business. This extends beyond online shopping, although there are plenty of those, and encompasses stores of all shapes and sizes.

Successful shopping apps are seeing anywhere from tens of millions to hundreds of millions of users each month, with Amazon as the leader of the pack by far. The variety of shopping apps continues to grow, as it includes sellers such as Amazon, resellers such as Craigslist, individual stores like Best Buy or Target and even individual creatives like Etsy.

Shopping apps are currently seeing increasing profits, following a 54% growth in 2017. Mobile shopping is growing across devices and demographics and is poised for another successful year of growth as well.

Apps for specific businesses are on the rise, not just in terms of purchases online, but for membership perks such as discounts for recurring customers or being able to order food for pickup. Small businesses are also benefitting from having their own apps, joining in on the e-commerce market and the growing value it provides.

Regardless of the size of the business or the kind of commerce, shopping and business apps are a trend that is only going to keep growing.

Instant Apps

The growth of Android’s Instant Apps has been slow until now but has taken off in recent months. While previously limited to a few games, Instant Apps have been expanding to more apps since 2018’s Google I/O conference.

Instant Apps are essentially free demos offered on Android devices, allowing users to try apps before properly buying/installing them. They’re already seeing great success in increasing conversion rates – such as a 27% conversion increase for Jet and a 55% engagement increase for Onefootball – so more apps will begin utilizing instant apps as the trend continues to grow.

However, the growth of Instant Apps is also tied to the first two ongoing trends: AR and shopping.

With Google’s integration of ARCore to instant apps, the company created new possibilities for finding and launching apps during one’s everyday life. Google has enabled people to view items such as clothes or accessories with their camera through augmented reality and launch a shopping app as an Instant App to purchase them. Thus, we get a blend of AR, e-commerce and Instant Apps, accelerating and improving all three trends.

Wearable Technology

Wearable tech has found a nice niche and remains a solid trend in the app world. In addition to apps for devices like the Apple Watch, fitness apps have been embracing wearables for fitness wristwear and activity trackers.

The revenue and users for wearables have been steadily climbing, bringing in billions in profits and over 341 million users in 2018. Projections from Gartner suggest that the market will only continue to grow, expecting over 504 million sales of units by 2021. So not only is wearable tech an ongoing trend, but the future looks bright for it as well.

What Else? What’s Next?

As apps and technology advance, the trends will always shift and change accordingly. However, we can follow the trends to see which ones continue to grow and which are passing fads. It’s clear that these trends are still on the rise, and we’ll continue to see them evolve through the rest of the year and into 2019.

App Store Turns 10

Apple’s App Store Turns 10 – How Has it Changed?

Ten years ago, Apple launched its App Store and reshaped the way we use mobile devices. Suffice to say, the app ecosystem has changed significantly in that time, and the app economy is on track to be worth over 6 billion by 2021. With ten years behind us and an infinite future ahead, it’s time to look back and see how the world of apps has changed.

How it Started

When the Apple App Store first launched, it had a mere 500 apps available. Several apps that do still exist today were just a shadow of what they would one day become, such as Facebook’s minimalist newsfeed. Other apps that are commonplace today, such as Twitter – which didn’t release its app until 2010 – didn’t even exist then. Many of the websites and mobile services that users are so used to having readily available had yet to create apps.

Many of the first apps available were simply experiments of the iPhone’s functionality or an avenue for brief amusement. Take iBeer and Lightsaber Unleashed: these were ranked in the App Store’s Top 10 while only filling the screen with beer or creating lightsaber sound effects. In fact, there was a novelty app called “I Am Rich,” priced at $999.99, which consisted solely of a glowing red button that boasted about how rich the user is.

Lightsabers Unleashed

Suffice to say, the app environment was a very different beast in its early days.

How it Has Grown

Today the App Store hosts over 2 million apps, a significant increase from its original 500. The saying “There’s an app for that” is truer than ever. We use apps to check on our homes during vacation, to order food, to buy movie tickets, connect remotely with friends and colleagues all over the world, and of course, for games.

Previously top-rated apps have shifted dramatically as well. Novelty apps are a thing of the past, and new tools and social networks have risen. Man apps relied on existing services and were simply a convenient mobile extension. Today, entire businesses, games and services are built with the App Store at their core. Few would have predicted that we’d be using apps to ask for rides from strangers, but now we have ride-sharing apps like Uber. Meanwhile, apps like Koi Pond no longer exist as the app economy has moved on.

Notably, Facebook has managed to remain relevant and constantly update throughout all these years, consistently maintaining a spot in the top 10 free apps. That is due in large part to its updating and adapting to the changing app environment. Other apps, including mobile games like Angry Birds, have managed to remain popular and relevant by becoming a brand and releasing new versions and spinoffs while improving.

How Times Have Changed

Technology has advanced since the early days of the App Store, and apps have grown with it. The Internet of Things (IoT) allows us to be more connected to everything, Augmented Reality (AR) has become more accessible and businesses of all sizes are learning the benefits of having an app.

App Store Growth

Furthermore, we’re seeing shifts in the demographics and markets. Mobile games dominate the app market at 17% of all existing apps, followed by business, utilities and entertainment. Free apps, which once consisted of only 25% of the apps on the store, are now widely available, with 89% of existing apps available for free.

Most importantly, apps have become a part of our lives. Users constantly wanting something to make their lives easier drives growth and demand, causing the number of apps readily available to the market to increase. Now, we have popular businesses at our finger tips, which has led to those not utilizing apps to be at a severe disadvantage.

So much has grown and changed in the ten years since the Apple App Store first launched, from the kinds of apps used to the technology behind them. One thing has remained constant throughout all the change, though: an app is only useful if users download it. For that, App Store Optimization is and will always be key to an app’s success. With ASO, you can keep up with the changes and developments in the App Store and app ecosystem to remain relevant no matter how times change.

Android Adds Adaptive Icons

Android Adds Adaptive Icons

Google has revealed a new tool for app creatives, allowing for adaptive launcher icons. With this, developers can set up their apps’ icons to display as square or circular images, better matching the device it’s being viewed on.

Additionally, adaptive icons allows for new visual effects to capture users’ attention. By utilizing a foreground and background layer, it enables movement on the icon image.

The adaptive icons will be available on all devices running Android Oreo, according to the device’s settings.

What is it?

Adaptive icons are introduced with Android Oreo (8.0) and is made to let icons be displayed in a variety of shapes across device models.

The idea behind the tool is simple: when developers make an icon for their app, they can control its look to take different shapes depending on the device being used. In addition to the ability to adjust the icon’s shape through a variety of masks, it can use two layers to add animated visuals.

adaptive icons
Image via https://developer.android.com/guide/practices/ui_guidelines/icon_design_adaptive

Developers can create adaptive icons by setting up two layers and a mask. One layer serves as the background on the icon, the other as the logo. By using two separate layers, icons can use minor animations and effects, such as making the logo move about the background when the device tilts to a side or bounce when selected.

The mask is provided by the device the app is displayed on and cuts a shape around the background layer while maintaining the logo’s placement. This turns each icon into the shape the device uses, creating a uniform design across the device.

Icon layers must be sized with the new guidelines in mind, which replace the previous 48 x 48 dp standard:

  • Each layer must be 108 x 108 dp
  • The icon itself must be sized at 72 x 72 dp and placed within the masked viewport
  • The outer 18 dp on each side of the icon is used to create visual effects

Developers can also create adaptive icons with Android Studio and in XML.

Adaptive icons are also used in shortcuts, settings, sharing dialogs and the overview screen.

What Does This Mean?

First and foremost, developers looking to utilize adaptive icons must design new icons. Icons not updated with the proper layers run the risk of looking inconsistent with others, in addition to lacking visual effects.

It’s important to keep the main focal point of the icon viewable in every format, as it is the first thing a user sees when browsing the Google Play Store and makes an important first impression. They’re vital to an app’s click through rate (CTR), so app design best practices must be taken into consideration.

Keep in mind that icons displayed on the Google Play Store will still be the same shape. The adaptive icons are displayed on the device after installation.

However, with the adaptive icons enhancements, developers will be able to transform their icons with animated effects while keeping the formatting uniform for the devices they’re displayed on. Developers who prepare their icons now may find the added effects will help keep their users active in the days to come.

App Store Spotlight Pokemon Go

App Store Spotlight: Pokémon GO

Whenever anyone talks about apps that were massively successful from the launch, or apps that brought augmented reality into the mainstream, it’s safe to assume that Pokémon GO will be mentioned. Niantic’s killer app was an immediate success, bringing Pokémon into the real world with augmented reality, but even though the app is a household name, is it properly optimized for the app stores?

Apple App Store

One thing that Pokémon GO did well was update its creatives with screenshots showing off all the new features that users were demanding. A recent update added trading and a friends list feature, so two of the first three screenshots include those features. The screenshot before those properly demonstrates the app’s features by showing a rare Pokémon in augmented reality with the pokeball (an item used to capture Pokémon) ready to be thrown.

Pokemon Go iOS creatives

Each screenshot shows off a different feature of the game, including gym battles, sending gifts and completing research tasks. There are even small touches to several of them, like the inclusion of rare Pokémon or scenic poke stops, that further demonstrate its value. However, with all of those features, it doesn’t include the overworld or trainer customization features, in spite of having space for two more screenshots.

The screenshots could benefit from callout text. These would explain the gameplay and features to the users in a quick, concise manner, while integrating important keywords and explaining the game’s value. Without them, the features such as gyms or trading are not immediately clear to people who don’t already play.

Additionally, many of the creatives seem focused on players who are already familiar with Pokémon. While the screenshots feature rare Pokémon such as Mew or a golden Magikarp, that means little to people unfamiliar with the franchise. While those do appeal to longtime fans, they make it harder to bring in new users, especially without a call to action explaining why they should care about those.

While the creatives are quite good, save for the lack of callout text, the description is very bulky on iOS. While it does properly call out each feature, include important keywords and mention the awards it earned, each section forms a large block of text. Even the headers take up a few lines, and without bullet points underneath them, they seem like another part of the paragraph.

Pokemon GO iOS description

Google Play Store

On the Google Play Store, Pokémon GO uses very similar descriptions and creatives. However, it does include more screenshots there, including the overworld map. It also includes an outdated screenshot from before the in-game gyms were revamped, which could be replaced with one showing a more recent feature. These screenshots could also benefit from callout text to better demonstrate the game’s features and value, because as with iOS, the images only stand on their own to players already familiar with the game, or at least with Pokémon.

Pokemon GO GP

The creatives no longer feature a video, but considering the number of updates the game has gone through since its promotional videos were filmed, that is for the best, as it avoids presenting outdated information. Additionally, its previous video was part of its featured graphic, which Google Play is experimenting with not using on many devices.

The description is written and formatted the same as the one for Apple, but it works much better on the Google Play Store. Here, larger paragraphs are acceptable, and the headers are more evident.

With that said, the description could benefit from placing its keywords closer to the start of each line, so that Google’s algorithms can better identify them. As it is now, the algorithm would read it as targeting “join one of three teams” and “succeed in defeating it in battle” as key phrases before “catch Pokémon” in some sections.

Overall Summary

While no one can doubt the huge success that is Pokémon GO, it still serves as a good demonstration of why the same description does not work on both app stores. Its description is the right length for Google Play but features a usage of keywords better suited for the Apple App Store, and without being properly optimized for each store individually, it won’t reach its full potential for either.

With that said, the latest updates to its creatives do a great job at demonstrating each of its new features as well as details that would appeal to fans of the Pokémon franchise. While there are still some areas it could stand to improve, it’s still an example of great creatives overall.

No app is beyond criticism and there is always room to improve. For as popular an app as Pokémon GO is, a solid ASO strategy could help it even further.

Educational Apps and Summer ASO

Educational Apps and Seasonal ASO: How to Gain Installs During the Summer Months

Summer Loss of Knowledge and Downloads

We’re well into summer, and children are enjoying having several months free from school. “Summer learning loss” begins as kids grow complacent over the summer and forget 25-30 percent of what they learned during the school year. Parents want to make sure that their kids don’t forget their studies, and developers of educational apps want to help.

However, as Google Trends shows, searches for “Education” and similar terms tend to steadily decline during the summer before returning for the new school year.

GoogleTrendsEducation
Source: https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?q=education&geo=US

So the question is: how do you keep the number of installs high when everyone is on summer vacation?

The answer is through App Store Optimization (ASO). A good ASO strategy involves constant refinement and updates, and that includes seasonal updates. There are many ways that educational apps can maintain a high install rate throughout the summer, instead of dropping off when the school year ends.

By allowing parents to find your educational app in the app store and demonstrate its value, you can gain an advantage over competitors. The tips below will help ensure that your app is visible to parents and kids.

Summer Style Metadata

During the school year, users may be searching for “school” or “education” apps. During the summer, they’ll see more searches for “summer school” and similar terms, so developers should be able to take advantage of seasonal search trends.

As the seasons change, so do the terms users search for the most. Research the keywords that are trending for your demographic to gain visibility and monitor your keyword ranking movement over the season to determine what works. A strong ASO strategy requires keeping up with changes and finding ways to integrate them with your existing keyword bank.

Summer School Search Results

However, they must also remain relevant to the app. While it is possible to add “summer” to a keyword bank and remain relevant, “vacation” is less likely to be related to the app’s functions and would not be a good addition. It’s important to find keywords that are not only in high demand for the summer, but also relevant to the app’s features and functions. Failure to do so will only cause the app to fall behind its competitors.

Sell it With Descriptions

The description is where app developers have the most freedom to describe how their app can be beneficial at all times of the year. As such, updating the description for the summer is a valuable way to let potential users know why they’ll still need it outside of the school year.

Think of ways to appeal to students, teachers and parents to let them know the benefits of downloading and using your app during the summer. Remind your audience that it’s important to learn all throughout the year and use a well-written description to increase summer conversions.

Developers can also consider including concepts and pitches such as:

  • Keep your brain sharp during summer vacation
  • Beat summer learning loss with educational games
  • Get ready for the next school year
  • Learning doesn’t have to end when school does

These are a few examples of summer and vacation-focused ideas and pitches your description can include to demonstrate the app’s value during the summer. Each one includes education-based keywords, such as “brain,” “school” or “learning” while acknowledging the fact that school’s out for the summer. These terms and phrases can be used to emphasize how the app can help even during summer vacation.

Additionally, including the updated keywords and metadata in the new description will help the app rank better for those terms. If used properly and frequently, they will help improve the app’s relevance and increase its ranking in searches for those terms. This is especially important for Google Play, where the terms used in the description become the keywords the app ranks for.

In short, not only does updating the app’s description help pitch it to users as an educational app for the summer, but it can improve its relevant search rankings too. Updating the description is essential.

Creatives with a Summer Twist

As the seasons change, apps can remain relevant by updating their creatives while maintaining their core messages. Now that it’s summertime, your creatives can demonstrate how the app can help with learning during the summer and illustrate how it can be used outside of a school environment.

summer creatives

You can include screenshots of the app’s features for teaching children about the world around them, or videos that talk about forest or aquatic life. By demonstrating the app’s value for providing lessons out of a classroom, you show the users how it’s useful even after the school year.

Research competing apps and see which of their strategies are working, such as incorporating summer colors and iconography. If your app has any seasonal features, this is the place to showcase them, while conveying to parents how your app is an important educational resource.

In Summary

As educational keywords see lower volume during the summer, app developers have to try different strategies to continue appealing to users. By utilizing a strong ASO strategy and appealing to parents looking to fight off summer learning loss, educational apps can keep their download numbers high throughout the summer.

It’s important to know which keywords and creatives are trending during a season in order to capitalize on them. DATACUBE is a perfect solution for finding which keywords are trending, comparing competitor creatives and tracking your keyword ranking movements. With proper ASO, you can stay on top of the store even during the off-season.

App Store Optimization (ASO) Blog | Mobile App Marketing