A lot can happen within a single year. Between work life and family life, it can be tough to stay fully up-to-date with the latest news and mobile application development trends.
As a mobile developer, it can also be tough to filter out the relevant information that could impact your work. Sometimes, we need to take the time to look up from our desks and see what’s happening around us. Taking the time to do so can provide us valuable knowledge, from resolving your current technical issues to anticipating what users will be expecting from the latest mobile applications.
So, what has happened in 2016 that mobile developers should know about?
Security has been a popular issue for this year in mobile development. The importance of protecting a user’s privacy was highlighted by the San Bernardino iPhone case.
Larger enterprise companies are beginning to shift their focus towards having security become the core component on which everything is built. Apple announced at their WWDC event that new security changes were being made even at the hardware level to ensure the integrity of their devices.
Encryption was talked about a lot this year, with both Apple and Google announcing changes to how they are protecting user’s data on mobile devices. Google’s announcement to move to file-based encryption meant their lower priced mobile devices will see the same encryption benefits as their higher priced counterparts.
Apple’s New File System
Apple also announced a redesign of the file system used on all of their devices. The new design, called Apple File System (APFS), will replace the current generation that was originally designed over 30 years ago when floppy disks were state-of-the-art.
The next generation file system is designed to scale from an Apple Watch to a Mac Pro. It has been designed from the ground up with encryption as a primary feature and takes advantage of the latest flash and SSD storage technology.
Apple’s compiled programming language Swift has been gaining in popularity over the last year. September saw the first major release since it was made open-source at the end of 2015. Apple has begun moving away from Objective-C in favor of Swift this year. Even going as far as rewriting commonly used features like the Dock bar on the Mac in Swift.
Apple is looking to get Swift into the hands of students with the release of Swift Playgrounds. A new application for the iPad that aims to teach the fundamentals of Swift through solving puzzles. The application requires no prior programming knowledge, perfect for students just starting out.
Google released their seventh version of the Android operating system named Nougat. The release contained a lot of user experience improvements along with some important security updates. The changes in security included file based encryption and greater transparency on how applications access your stored data.
Android Nougat also switched its Java Runtime Environment (JRE) from Apache Harmony to OpenJDK. This has allowed the new Vulkan graphics API to take advantage of the device's hardware to produce high-performance 3D graphics for game applications.
Just In Time (JIT) compilation has been added to Android Nougat to allow for profile-guided JIT/AOT (Ahead Of Time) compilation. This allows the performance of Android applications to improve as they run with commonly used methods being precompiled and cached, while other parts of the application remain uncompiled until they are actually used.
Firebase is a mobile and web application platform that provides tools to help developers create and manage their applications. Google acquired Firebase back in October of 2014 and has been integrating a host of its products into the platform.
The Google I/O event in May of this year saw the announcement of many new features and a redesign of their web dashboard. Firebase provides an array of features from analytics to monetization and cloud services. A great new feature for developers is the Test Lab which allows your application to be run on physical devices hosted in the cloud being controlled all from within the Firebase web dashboard.
Version 9.0 of the Unicode Standard was released in June bringing with it 7,500 new characters including 72 new emoji characters. New scripts and characters added support for lesser-used languages. For example, Nepal Bhasa, a language of Nepal, Fulani, and other African languages.
Important security updates were also made to the specification to help with issues like visual spoofing, where incorrect characters can expose programs or systems to possible security attacks.
There has been a big focus this year on security for both developers and end users. Encryption is playing a greater role in protecting mobile application data and is becoming the foundation on which mobile devices and their applications are being built upon.
Looking forward to the impact of these mobile application development trends, what could we expect from 2017?
Personally, I believe security will continue to be an important area that will improve and evolve over the next year. There have also been some great leaps in cloud-based infrastructure to allow for greater adoption of the technology. Next year, we could see even the smallest development teams have the opportunity to leverage this at low cost. Virtual reality (VR) is another rising star that has done well on other platforms like gaming consoles this year. Next year, we could see a big push for more VR content specifically designed for mobile devices.