One of the sessions I attended at FOSE 2012 was titled: “What the Research Shows: The Future of Mobile.” It featured two researchers, Dr. David Metcalf of the University of Central Florida, and Aaron Smith, of the Pew Internet and American Life Project. These gentlemen focus on researching how and why we use the internet, and what we use it for. Mobile is of particular interest to these researchers because of how it has completely changed the demographics of internet users.
Smartphones have flattened the internet curve, and introduced a new demographic to web services. This has forced agencies to adopt mobile strategies that provide high quality of mobile services to their constituents. As the number of smartphone users continues to outpace broadband connections, services need to be both accessible to traditional web users and mobile users. However, these need to be part of one cogent ecosystem, instead of many disparate systems that (partially) interact.
Smartphone applications are providing educational benefits (the second most downloaded category of apps – to games of course) and enabling access to healthcare information that was previously difficult to find. Mobile is the way for users to consume data – whether merely reading articles or perusing Facebook (who state that over 50% of all their traffic is via mobile).
One of the discussions was whether or not “The App was dead.” Both the speakers quoted that most users average only about 5 apps they use, and use the web for the rest. While this certainly does not describe my own use, I know that I prefer GOOD applications and I think I’m not alone in this. While HTML5 is a solid way to create mobile-friendly capabilities, apps allow users to interact locally, do not require network connections and usually look better.
Thus, the future is more likely to look like a bunch of very flexible data stacks, wrapped in iOS/Android/WP.x applications. This allows the operating system to optimize user experience (one of the most important properties of any application), instead of leaving that up to the mobile browser. While this does not apply to games and 3D applications, it will more than do for most apps.