Top 8 iOS app development trends to watch out for

11 min read
May 15, 2023

“Think differently.”

That has long been Apple’s slogan. It’s a mindset that has enabled them to create the most innovative inventions of our time, such as the iPhone and iPad.

Fortunately, that tradition carries on today.

In 2022, Apple spent a record $26.25 billion on R&D, a significant jump from its 2022 budget of $22 billion.

And they’ve churned out plenty of exciting innovations and trends that should excite developers in 2023 and beyond.

Here are eight of them.

Apple Pay integration

Apple Pay is the mobile payment system included as a default in all iOS devices.

While it has been around since 2014, it has seen a rapid increase in popularity, thanks partly to the rise of cashless payments during the pandemic.

By 2023, the number of Apple Pay users is projected to reach 48.7 million, or roughly 17.3% of Americans. And it’s only going to grow from there.

number of Apple Pay users in the US

Source: Oberlo

The main draw of Apple Pay is that it facilitates contactless payments.

In the future, when Apple Pay payment terminals are more widespread, they may even replace physical wallets as the primary holder of a person’s financial instruments like cash and credit cards.

However, they can also speed up the payment process, making them an attractive option for app developers.

Plus, you don’t need to apply with a payment processor or bank to integrate payments into your app.

For example, an e-commerce app user can simply use Apple Pay to checkout their items.

There’s no need to enter the credit card information, nor does the developer need functionality to verify the transaction. Apple Pay does all of that on your behalf.

Apple Pay payment process

Source: Cardknox

Thanks to the ease of making payments, we expect that most iOS apps will eventually adopt Apple Pay as their primary payment processor.

Siri Shortcuts

Siri Shortcuts is a powerful feature that gives Apple’s voice assistant even more capabilities.

Essentially, it lets you instruct Siri to perform specific actions on an app using voice commands.

You can pre-define these steps using the new Shortcuts app, then assign specific phrases for triggering them.

Siri Shortcuts

Source: Apple

As an example, you can set a Siri Shortcut that will automatically share your location, and send it to your chosen contact via SMS.

And you can trigger it by saying the shortcut phrase, such as “Hey Siri! Share location.”

Siri Shortcuts also gives developers new, hands-free ways for their apps to interact with users.

For instance, the smart home app Homey allows Siri Shortcuts to trigger specific flows, which are a series of actions themselves.

You can turn on the lights, bump up the thermostat, and pull down the curtains with a simple phrase like “Hey Siri! I’m home.”

Siri Shortcuts flow

Source: Homey

Another example is the payment app Venmo. The app allows you to use Shortcuts to send a payment, then trigger it via Siri.

For example, you can use this to pay monthly bills with a simple phrase like “Hey Siri! Pay the electricity bill.

The bottom line is that Siri Shortcuts can help apps deliver a more automated and seamless user experience.

Undoubtedly, developers will continue to play around and find creative applications for it.

Wearable apps

Wearable apps have been the rage in recent years since the introduction of the Apple Watch and competing brands like Google’s Fitbit. And the trend shows no signs of slowing down.

As of 2022, Apple commands an impressive 36.1% share of the smartwatch market.

smart watch market share

Source: Headphones Addict

Apple Watch gives app developers access to various metrics about the person, such as their heart rate, oxygen levels, blood pressure, and the number of steps taken.

These can then be used for apps to deliver personalized user experiences.

For example, the Start with Yoga app analyzes your yoga poses as you do them, then logs your performance.

It’s a great alternative to a phone-based app, which could distract you as you’re looking at the poses.

Start with Yoga app

Source: Creative Bloq

But Apple doesn’t stop there.

It’s planning on new sensors to its wearable tech to give apps even more functionality and metrics to measure.

One of these is noninvasive blood glucose monitoring. This technology could potentially allow people with diabetes to watch their sugar levels without having to get a blood sample.

It could then be integrated into a health app to constantly check blood sugar and alert the user if it gets too high.

Apple even plans to go beyond watches and explore other wearable devices too.

Just look at the patent the company filed for a loop-shaped wearable device:

Apple loop-shaped wearable device patent

Source: US Patent Office

Could it be a future iNecklace or iBracelet? Who knows.

But one thing’s for certain—wearable tech will continue to be a big trend, one that iOS developers need to prepare for.

The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the trend of making mundane things, such as fridges, street lights, and vehicles, into smart devices.

You do this by embedding sensors or small devices into the object, thus allowing it to interact with other smart objects or even connect to the Internet.

IoT is a major trend. As of 2021, there were over 10 billion IoT devices at a given time. And this is projected to more than double by 2030.

This is unsurprising, as IoT can innovate almost every industry and niche on the planet.

Internet of THings

Source: Michigan Ross

But probably one of the biggest IoT niches—and one that app developers should be interested in—is that of smart homes.

Apple makes working with smart homes easy with Homekit, a framework that enables app developers to detect and interact with compatible smart devices.

It enables your app, for example, to lower the temperature of a smart thermostat when the room gets hot. And you can do this with only a few lines of code.

Apple has partnered with several manufacturers like Logitech and Philips to ensure HomeKit integration with their smart home devices.

That means that your app can be compatible with a wide range of devices.

Apple HomeKit

Source: Apple

The bottom line is that HomeKit is just the beginning of Apple’s foray into IoT.

Some insiders report that future capabilities of HomeKit could even track people and learn their habits, which opens up new possibilities for automation.

iBeacon technology

iBeacon is Apple’s proprietary technology that uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) transmitters to track compatible devices.

In practice, this allows apps to offer location-based services and features.

This is great for businesses. A Factual survey showed that location-based marketing increased sales for 90% of users, plus an 84% improvement in engagement.

And iBeacon is one of the leading ways to implement that.

Here’s an overview of how it works:

how iBeacon works

Source: Moko Blue

While released in 2014, iBeacon is still a hot trend for iOS developers.

The beacon market is currently valued at $9.6 billion and could hit $110 billion in 2032.

Experts predict that beacons, combined with the rise of IoT, will continue to impact even more areas of life and give richer app experiences.

One of the clearest applications of iBeacon is with retail apps.

For instance, Macy’s used iBeacon to send relevant information to shoppers in real time based on their purchase history and where they were in the store.

Similarly, you can also use iBeacon-powered apps to find specific items in a store.

They can also be used to welcome people when they attend an event or watch a game in a stadium.

A companion app can transmit digital ticket information to the beacon, directing the person to their seat number.

There are still a hundred use cases for iBeacon, from healthcare to public safety. It’s something that iOS developers should continue exploring.

Cloud integration

iCloud, Apple’s proprietary cloud storage platform, has been a fixture for a while. However, recent developments should make app developers take notice.

For a long time, iCloud has been a platform that benefits users more. It’s a way for them to back up their photos, documents, and other data in the cloud.

But with the popularity of the service as a platform and cloud infrastructures, iCloud could eventually dominate cloud-based app infrastructures.

cloud-based app infrastructure

Source: Intellisoft

Currently, Apple provides CloudKit, a powerful framework for managing cloud-based apps.

It allows developers to arrange apps in containers, ensuring privacy while providing efficient syncing and sharing.

Indeed, syncing data between apps and a remote server is one of the best reasons to use iCloud. Plus, it’s compatible with Core Data, so you can easily implement CloudKit syncing in your iOS app.

Core Data store CloudKit sync

Source: Apple

The current hurdle for Apple is that Amazon AWS and Google Drive dominate cloud-based services.

It’ll be interesting to see what features iCloud will have in the future to stand a fighting chance.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence

Thanks to the exploding popularity of AI chatbots like ChatGPT and Google Bard, machine learning and AI have seen a resurgence lately.

Not many developers know this, but Apple has its own artificial intelligence framework—Core ML.

Core ML allows you to build and train an AI model for various tasks, such as spotting specific objects in a photo or categorizing items based on a set of criteria.

The ML library lets you automate these tasks without writing the code for them.

Moreover, Core ML uses four key libraries, each corresponding to the AI tasks they’re capable of.

For example, the Speech component converts audio into text, which you can feed into the Natural Language component for processing.

The data is then fed directly into your app.

Here’s what it looks like:

Core ML frameworks and functionalities

Source: Apple

Here’s a cool little app experiment that uses Core ML to allow an app to identify car brand logos.

Using CreatML, the developer made a training model for the app. He then fed various sample logos as training data, which helped the ML model fine-tune its predictions.

The result is an app that could magically do this:

CoreML iOS logo detector app

Source: Muralidharan Kathiresan

Of course, the tasks that Core ML can do are still limited compared to, say, ChatGPT. That’s because the latter has a bigger training data pool.

But it’s highly possible that Apple will ramp up AI investments, especially with the recent pressure from AI chatbots.

Augmented reality and virtual reality

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology have been around for at least the last decade and have only grown in popularity.

AR games like Pokemon Go and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite are a testament to that.

Pokemon Go

Source: The Conversation

This ability to seamlessly combine the real and digital worlds is now easily accessible to iOS developers thanks to Apple’s RealityKit framework.

The library contains everything you need to implement AR, including custom systems, shaders, and object occlusion using the iPhone’s LIDAR scanner.

But one of the best tools is the Object Capture API. It allows developers to turn a series of photos into a 3D object you can use in your AR app.

Thus, you don’t need to hire a 3D artist to create your assets.

Apple augmented reality kit

Source: Apple

AR technology can also be used in apps beyond games. One of the most popular is interior design.

For example, apps like IKEA Place allow you to place virtual furniture in your home. It lets you see how that furniture fits your space before buying it.

Other similar apps include Wayfair and iScape.

IKEA Place app

Source: Design Rush

So, what’s the future of AR and VR for Apple?

Well, Apple is rumored to be preparing to launch its touted mixed-reality headset this year to compete directly with VR manufacturers like Meta and Microsoft.

It looks like it’s only a matter of time before iOS apps fully enter VR territory.

Which trend should you get into?

We hope this article has got you excited about the possibilities in store for iOS app developers.

Of course, if you want to get into these trends, you need an experienced mobile app developer to implement them.

That’s where DECODE comes in.

We’ve created over a dozen successful apps, many using the same trends in this article, including an app that controls artificial sunlight.

I believe that makes the perfect fit for your next project.

Interested? Contact us today, and let’s talk!

Written by

Toni Vujevic

React Native Team Lead

Skilled in React Native, iOS and backend, Toni has a demonstrated knowledge of the information technology and services industry, with plenty of hands-on experience to back it up. He’s also an experienced Cloud engineer in Amazon Web Services (AWS), passionate about leveraging cloud technologies to improve the agility and efficiency of businesses. One of Toni’s most special traits is his talent for online shopping. In fact, our delivery guy is convinced that ‘Toni Vujević’ is a pseudonym for all DECODErs.

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