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State of Mobile App Design | On AR, PWAs, and the camera

On My Mind
State of Mobile App Design | On AR, PWAs, and the camera
By Martin Wiesemborski • Issue #5 • View online
Yesterday, I published a new article about the current state of mobile app design in 2019 - after all it’s already half-way over.
You can read the full version here, but in this newsletter I will focus on the main takeaways.

Focus on the lower-third
Phones are getting bigger year after year, but our thumbs are not - leading to ‘reachability’ issues. The solution is to move important interactions like the navigation and buttons to the bottom of the screen. While this is nothing new and was already pointed out by Luke Wroblewski in 2015, there is no way around this lower-third focus in 2019.
As a result, Tab Bars are now the common navigation pattern which is great because they are always visible, thereby allowing for easy navigation and clear guidance. Tab bars are now also endorsed by Apple’s iOS Human Interface Guidelines as well as Google’s Material Design (called Bottom Navigation).
As mentioned earlier it’s not only the navigation that moved to the bottom of the screen but important buttons and call to actions as well.
Main interactions at the bottom of the screen
Main interactions at the bottom of the screen
With this new focus on reachability, new patterns emerge: bottom sheets and backdrops.
Originated from the action sheet pattern, they are a great way to keep the user in context but let him focus on the main task at hand at the same time. This is achieved by putting a second layer over the main layer that is also able to grow, shrink and display all sorts of content.
Bottom sheets and backdrops are great for checkout processes, additional information or quick settings.
Action sheet, bottom sheet, backdrop
Action sheet, bottom sheet, backdrop
Visual trends
When announcing the second iteration of Material Design - often called Material Theme - Google acknowledged the over-use of and reliance on shadows and reduced them by a fair amount. They also began using a lot more whitespace to help with visual hierarchy and structure. You can see the same in iOS, with Apple’s usage of reduced headers that consist of nothing more than a headline and a lot of whitespace.
What else? Ah yes, everything is round now.
Color is still a thing in app design, but its usage has changed. Gone are the background-colors for headers, say hello to colorful bubbles and buttons. 
I just hope we‘re peak gradients. #gradientsarethenewblack
So colorful, so bubbly
So colorful, so bubbly
Lastly, you should brace yourself for the dark side. Dark Mode coming to Android real soon and Apple will probably announce a system-wide dark mode at WWDC as well.
Blurring the line between mobile web and native
With more and more powerful mobile web browsers and frameworks like Progressive Web App (PWA), the gap between mobile web and native applications is shrinking. By blurring the line, it’s harder for the average user to distinguish between web and native. Which is a good thing, because why should there be different UX patterns between these two ‘platforms’?
Although many PWAs are still ‘light‘ versions of apps, e.g. Twitter Light, aimed at users in developing countries where mobile data is not given, everyone profits from fast load times, easy to maintain code and independence from app stores.
Google adds new features to PWAs at an impressive pace, with push notifications, offline data storage, integrated payment solutions and more now available. Recently, they even announced PWAs for desktop. Apple is slowly but steadily enabling PWAs features with Safari updates on iOS, paving the way for real cross-platform development. And with a potential anti-monopoly lawsuit against the App Store, they might increase their efforts and speed up the process.
7 Excellent Progressive Web Apps
Powerful camera use cases.
In the fin-tech wold, it has become the standard to use video ident to set up a new bank account. What could only be done face-to-face in e.g. the post office (at least in Germany), is now possible from your living room in a matter of minutes.
Talking of banking: Apps like Deliveroo and Apple Pay started using the camera to scan your credit card, removing the painstaking process of manually entering in every character.
Making use of the camera to provide assistance to the user is nothing new. Apps like Amazon and momox allowed you to find products by scanning their bar code for some time now. Snapchat Codes make it easy to share your contact with others and was even adopted by Spotify to quickly share songs (although I’m not sure how successful of a feature it has become).
However, with advances in image detection, more sensors, and on-device machine learning, it is now possible to use the camera in creative and very useful ways (and yes, also for fun Snapchat filter turning you into a baby version of yourself). Google Lens is getting more and more powerful and allows you to identify most objects just by pointing at them. Similarly, Pinterest is working intensely on ways to find exactly the sneaker you took a picture of.
Last year, Google showed us the future of navigation with the introduction of augmented reality in Google Maps. I always thought it was only me who is unable to find the right direction, but it turns out I’m not alone, which makes me very happy. One year later, Google is finally launching the feature on Pixel devices and the technology behind it is truly impressive. No wonder they encountered many roadblocks along the way (pun intended).
Which leads us to Augmented Reality.
Just last week, Nike introduced a new version of its app. The goal is to find you the perfect-sized sneaker, not too small and not too big. Something a person in the shop would usually do for you, but in the age of online shopping, they are nowhere to be found.
Meanwhile, Apple and Google are hard at work to ship updates to their AR frameworks and you can expect new announcements very soon at Apple’s developer conference WWDC on June 3–7. Both of these frameworks (ARKit and ARCore) allow developers to make use of the power of augmented reality and built-in tools for measurement, tracking and more.
IKEA landed a big hit last year with a new app that lets you virtually put the new sofa in your living room and I think we will see many more clever use cases coming in the next months and years.
Say Hej to IKEA Place
Say Hej to IKEA Place
Trends come and pass by, but beneath colorful bubbles and large headlines more fundamental things are changing. A system-wide Dark Mode might have a bigger impact than currently anticipated. New and improved frameworks for AR, machine-learning and cross-platform applications open up new possibilities to create great experiences.
Full article: 
State of mobile app design 2019 – UX Collective
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Martin Wiesemborski

I'm a freelance UX strategist. Think of this newsletter as everything that is on my mind (hence the name): New and emerging tech and design trends, tools and ideas that I stumble upon and think are worth talking about.

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