“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” This quote by Alan Kay perfectly sums up the transformative impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on mobile app development. Just as the steam engine and electricity fundamentally reshaped manufacturing and infrastructure in the past, AI promises to completely overhaul how mobile apps are built, tested and improved.
Mobile apps have become deeply entrenched in our daily lives, with over 204 billion apps downloaded globally in 2019 alone. Be it ride-hailing, social media, e-commerce or gaming, our smartphones have become the remote control for our lives. Fueling this app economy is a thriving community of over 15 million software developers worldwide.
However, building successful mobile apps remains complex, requiring extensive coding, debugging, testing and updating. This is where AI has stepped in, automating repetitive coding tasks, optimizing performance, and enabling next-generation user experiences.
Let’s dive deeper into the key ways AI is revolutionizing mobile app development:
Speeding Up Development Cycles
One of the biggest promises of AI is dramatically accelerating mobile app development cycles. Creating feature-rich mobile apps typically takes thousands of man-hours. AI techniques like machine learning, natural language processing and computer vision can automate some of the more monotonous coding tasks.
For example, using AI training data, companies like Anthropic are developing AI assistants like Claude that can generate code based on simple descriptions provided by developers. Take backend web services, where developers must write boilerplate code to connect the app to cloud servers and databases. Claude simply needs a few notes explaining the app architecture and it can automatically generate the backend code.
This automation of coding frees up developers to focus more on complex programming and innovation. Apps no longer have to be built from scratch, as AI handles the grunt work. Extrapolating from the current pace of progress, some estimates point to AI writing as much as 90% of all code within the next 20 years. The bottom line is that AI will enable developers to crank out mobile apps much faster.
Boosting App Performance
In addition to raw speed, AI also promises huge leaps in mobile app performance. The more lines of code an app has, the more prone it is to errors, bugs and crashes. Debugging takes up an inordinate amount of a developer’s time. AI techniques like deep learning allow apps to detect bugs in their own code and fix them automatically. Apps built with AI are also better optimized, reducing latency, improving processing efficiency and consuming less memory.
As just one example, Uber was able to boost its rider app speeds by 10% and cut data usage by 5% using AI-powered performance improvements. Machine learning further enables mobile apps to continuously improve their performance based on real-world user usage data. Apps leverage user feedback loops to identify performance bottlenecks. Just like people, mobile apps will keep getting smarter over time thanks to AI.
Enabling Cutting-Edge Features
The versatility of AI algorithms means that mobile apps can now understand user needs and preferences at a deeper level. Using natural language processing (NLP), apps can comprehend text and voice data to chat with users or respond to complex commands. Computer vision lets apps analyze images, videos and sensor inputs to recognize objects, faces and gestures. Apps can offer personalized recommendations by crunching user behavior data using predictive analytics.
Many popular apps like TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram now boast features powered by AI. For instance, smartphone keyboards leverage AI to enable autocorrect and predictive text that improves typing speed and accuracy. Ride-hailing apps predict arrival times, recommend nearby restaurants, and optimize routes using AI and ML. The scope of what mobile apps can achieve is expanding tremendously thanks to AI.
Mobile apps typically undergo extensive alpha and beta testing phases before release. QA engineers must methodically test all possible user paths and input combinations to catch bugs before launch. Manually testing apps across multiple devices with different OS versions is extremely tedious. AI automation can hugely accelerate testing by proactively detecting software defects that engineers might miss.
AI test automation tools like Functionize can simulate thousands of realistic user journeys through an app to uncover crashes. ML algorithms cluster and classify various bugs to prioritize those that must be fixed first. Bots can also automatically write test scripts without human involvement. With AI support, mobile apps enter the market with higher quality and reliability.
Now that we’ve looked at the broad benefits of AI in mobile app development, let’s examine some more specific use cases:
Intelligent Chatbots and Virtual Assistants
One of the most ubiquitous AI use cases is chatbots and virtual assistants. Apps like Starbucks and Domino’s leverage chatbots to take customer orders or respond to queries. Using NLP and machine learning, these bots understand natural language text and voice data to carry out conversations. Users get quick resolutions to their issues without having to wait for a human agent.
In the e-commerce space, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri allow shoppers to simply speak out their purchase order. Ride-sharing apps like Uber incorporate virtual assistants to book rides, get price estimates, and track drivers. Chatbots streamline interactions between users and mobile apps while offering personalized recommendations.
Smarter Image and Video Analysis
Computer vision is fast emerging as a key AI capability for mobile apps. Using deep learning trained on millions of images, apps can now understand the visual world. Food apps like Calorie Mama offer portion size and calorie estimation by analyzing images of meals. Photo editing apps leverage AI to apply complex filters and effects to enhance selfies and other pictures.
Video streaming apps use computer vision for various tasks like creating shareable clips of footage and surfacing thumbnails. Real-time vision processing also enables features like face filters and body tracking effects popularized by apps like Snapchat and Instagram. Going forward, on-device vision APIs will enable developers to easily infuse apps with image intelligence.
Predictive Analytics and Recommendation Engines
Understanding user behavior patterns allows mobile apps to deliver a far more personalized experience. Using predictive analytics and machine learning, apps can study usage data to forecast user needs and surface relevant suggestions. For example, shopping apps push notifications for discounted products based on an individual’s purchase history and product searches.
Media streaming apps like Netflix analyze viewing habits to recommend new movies and shows to match a user’s taste. Similarly, apps like Spotify create curated playlists based on an individual’s favorites music genres and artists. Incorporating predictive analytics leverages data to customize apps for each user, boosting engagement.
Smarter Marketing and User Acquisition
Ever-rising user acquisition costs are one of the biggest challenges facing mobile app developers today. AI is stepping in to optimize every facet of marketing and growth. When apps are listed on app stores, AI algorithms help maximize rankings and visibility for relevant search terms. User feedback is continuously analyzed to identify highest-converting app store screenshots and descriptions.
Once users install an app, AI crunches behavioral metrics to target users with personalized push notifications and in-app messages driving retention. AI chatbots also engage users to nudge them towards specific actions like subscriptions. Automated marketing powered by AI allows developers to intelligently acquire quality users within desired budget constraints.
Enhanced Fraud Detection
Unfortunately, criminals are very adept at finding new ways to cheat mobile apps using stolen identities, phishing attacks, and fraudulent transactions. AI algorithms excel at detecting patterns amidst massive volumes of data. By analyzing factors like geolocation, user profiles, and past transactions, apps can use AI to build robust fraud detection capabilities.
Signs of bots and fake accounts scamming apps for rewards points or coupons can also be identified using machine learning techniques. Cybersecurity is a constant arms race between fraudsters and developers. AI provides the tools to thwart security threats before they cause damage.
As this article illustrates, we are still in the early phases of tapping into the full potential of AI in mobile app development. Much like electricity led to fundamental social and economic shifts during the 19th century, AI will profoundly reshape the app landscape in the coming decade. Developers need to start embracing ML, neural networks, NLP and other AI techniques.
User expectations are also rising rapidly, with everyone demanding more intelligent apps perfectly tailored to their needs. The app development teams integrating AI most comprehensively will have a decided competitive edge. Consumers will flock to apps that understand them like a friend and enhance their lives.
We can expect AI to become as essential for building mobile apps as electricity is for powering our homes and offices. The revenues generated by AI-first apps will snowball as usage and popularity accelerates. Much like the steam engine and telegraph accelerated progress in a bygone era, AI will unleash wave after wave of innovation. The future of mobile app development has never looked brighter and more transformative. The only question is how developers will harness the power of AI to invent that future today.