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4 Exciting Mobile App Trends to Watch in 2023 And Beyond

From the growing popularity and widespread adoption of AR tools to redefining expectations around monetization, many changes are afoot in the mobile apps space.

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Some fifteen years in the making, the mobile app economy has become an essential contributor to global GDP and a true force to be reckoned with for both technologists and advertisers alike. More than $320,000 flowed through app stores every minute of 2021, an increase of nearly 20% from the year earlier. In addition, consumers are downloading more than 435,000 apps per minute — a truly astonishing figure — according to Data.ai, and things don't seem to be slowing down.

Given all the buzz, what should you be watching if you're set on capturing the hearts and minds of consumers, who are already spending a third of their waking hours consuming app content in an increasingly mobile-first world? Here is my list of top emerging mobile app trends as I take stock of 2022 and look ahead to the new year:

1. Augmented Reality looks set to continue its meteoric rise

Maybe it's because the reality of the state of the world is so grim, or because seeing a dystopian world we live in through colored lenses has always held a certain appeal, but for whatever reason, augmented reality (AR) is becoming more and more popular. An increasing number of apps are launching new AR-based features. Even IKEA has started leveraging AR technology to allow shoppers to virtually "try on" furniture, using 3D models of their homes within the IKEA Place app, before making a purchase.

Back in September, an iOS 16 release saw the cutout feature being added to iPhone photos, where people can take the subject of a photo out of an image and place that subject — be it a person or a particularly scenic tree or whatever else — in different backgrounds.

Video background editing and even face-swapping tech are also growing in dominance, with these technologies becoming more advanced and easier to use as we're quickly moving away from the days of blurry backgrounds and superimposed people in TikToks. Popular meme communities are taking full advantage of AR-enabled face-swapping tools to facilitate quick, easy and fun meme editing. Various video editing apps have also hit the market, allowing people to use AR to place animated 3D models on their surroundings — something businesses can use to create fun and appealing videos of their products.

Thanks to the winning combination of accessibility for fast-improving AR technology and users' creative potential, we will likely see almost studio-quality content coming from lesser-known sources shortly. The democratization of content creation is well underway, and new developments on the AR front are likely to further this trend.

Related: 6 Emerging Niche Applications to Boost Productivity and Efficiency

2. Consumers are finding new ways to monetize their app-based activities

The idea of making extra cash is not new, but the cost-of-living crisis keenly felt across geographic and generational divides, and the rise of social networking is providing additional incentives for gamers, content creators and app users of all stripes to find new ways to monetize their activities.

Meta's Instagram rolled out its 'subscription' features in August 2022 for creators to monetize exclusive content, and we're likely to see more mobile apps attempt this to help users make money as compensation for their creative efforts. In the memes niche, Yepp launched earlier this year and began offering to share its advertising revenues with its users for consuming and creating memes content within the app. Given the current economic situation, I would not be surprised if this revenue-share model gains popularity in the coming months.

We will also likely see more ecommerce or peer-to-peer sales being rolled into social media apps as digital marketing evolves - so people may buy more clothing, artwork and other goods and services outside of established ecommerce platforms like Facebook Marketplace, Etsy or Depop, which were specifically set up with buying and selling (and not content creation) in mind.

3. Users are becoming an integral part of the mobile development process

With beta testing, app developers and companies are becoming increasingly focused on growing communities as there is a growing realization that a more diverse range of voices is essential for feedback and product tweaking.

User-driven innovation has long been the holy grail for tech companies trying to guess the next big thing on the horizon. Increasingly, management and marketing gurus have been trying to map out what firms can purposefully do to generate consumer innovation efforts.

I am betting that we will start to see more users and customers being brought in at the early stages of the app development process, resulting in products that are increasingly made by the people and for the people.

Related: 4 Creative Side Hustles That Fight Inflation and Earn Extra Cash

4. Mobile wallets and rewards are set to get bigger and better, both for customers and for the planet

The 2021 Mobile Wallet report claims that usage will increase by 74% from 2021 to 2025, reaching 4.8 billion mobile wallets by the end of 2025 — as comfort, security and responsiveness grow in importance for users while faith in traditional banks and financial systems erodes amid worrying and uncertainty-inducing financial headlines.

We are already seeing consumers growing more careful with their finances, so 2023 might bring a renewed surge in wallets and apps that offer greater benefits and rewards to win over customers (just not crypto exchanges!).

In this environment of budget consciousness, we are also likely to see more social and ESG-focused apps. These apps will likely inspire consumers to save or spend less while also benefiting their communities by promoting the greater social and environmental good. This trend of socially conscious, waste-reducing, economically and environmentally sound initiatives within app models will likely continue its upward trajectory in 2023 and beyond.

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