Mobile app trends to watch in 2023

As we look ahead to 2023, Damien Murphy, Solutions Architecture Manager at Bitrise, hosted a panel of industry experts from Dyson, eBay, and more, to discuss the mobile trends to watch in 2023. From shift-left security to ChatGPT and beyond, learn about the top mobile app trends in 2023.

In recent years, the focus of mobile development has shifted towards mobile app development, with a growing emphasis on Mobile DevOps and continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD). However, with the adoption of new technologies — such as serverless and microservices — the boundaries of Mobile DevOps automation are extending beyond mobile CI/CD pipelines. This has led to the emergence of new practices such as DevSecOps, the shift-left approach, and even better: Mobile DevOps automation

So what can we expect from the mobile app development industry in 2023? As we look ahead to 2023, Damien Murphy, Solutions Architect at Bitrise, hosted a 2023 Mobile Predictions Webinar with Jane McKay (Senior Software Engineering Manager at Dyson), Scott Campagna (Mobile Development and Delivery Expert), and Wyatt Webb (Director of Native Platform Engineering at eBay). Here are the key trends that will shape the way we build and deploy mobile apps in 2023.

The rise in shift-left security and DevSecOps

One of the biggest trends we're likely to see in 2023 is the notion of "shifting left" in security and data protection. This refers to the idea of incorporating security and data protection measures earlier in the development process, rather than waiting until the end. 

This is becoming increasingly important as mobile apps collect and store more sensitive user data. To achieve this, many companies are turning to DevSecOps, which combines the principles of DevOps with security best practices.

“We wanted to shift everything left so we didn’t have defects at the end that were expensive to fix,” says Jane McKay.

DevSecOps presents a balancing act between speedy releases and secure development practices. When shifting left, you need to consider what will unnecessarily “bloat” your app development processes. Mobile teams need to think about what to shift forward to optimize your build pipelines with actionable insights and metrics while streamlining development practices.

During the 2023 Mobile Predictions Webinar, we asked over 180 participants to answer questions about upcoming mobile trends:

Which of these do you use for pull request automation today?

What's something you'd *like* to shift left and don't know how to?

The rising costs of native app development

Cross-platform development is expected to become more popular in the coming years as a way to combat the rising costs of native mobile app development. “There aren’t enough native app developers,” says Damien Murphy. And given that keeping senior native app developers often comes with a steep price tag, hybrid development is expected to rise as a cost-effective way to develop mobile apps.

As budgets get cut and businesses look to optimize costs, businesses are turning to cross-platform development because it is quicker to develop and the cost of managing hybrid developers is more cost-effective (as opposed to specialized Android or iOS developers).

“With companies trying to cut costs, [it can be] more effective to use a cheaper solution that uses skill sets that are more readily available, as opposed to trying to get the more specialized skills you need for mobile development. [But] as a result, it means that you can’t quite do as much. You don’t get access to all the bells and whistles that come with the OS when you’re working with more of a hybrid solution,” says Scott Campagna.

However, hybrid development isn’t a perfect solution to minimize costs either so it’s important to weigh the total costs of having a single codebase as opposed to multiple. Even when working with a cross-platform development platform like Flutter or Ionic, you still need to hire specialized developers to get the most out of the tool.

It also has other downsides. For example, when you’re developing cross-platform and a new SDK is released, you often have to wait for your hybrid tool to update. And, native app development often provides a better user experience because you are developing specifically for that platform.

“CI really plays a part in [combatting the rising costs of native app development], so we are really looking to see how we can keep those [senior] developers — that we have to pay a lot of money for — in flow so they’re producing real quality work. And one of the ways we do that is by optimizing our CI.”

During the 2023 Mobile Predictions Webinar, we asked:

How do you build your apps?

The rise of Mobile DevOps engineers

A Mobile DevOps Engineer has a specialized skill set that DevOps engineers do not have. So, in 2023, we will likely see increasing demands for Mobile DevOps engineers that specialize in mobile app development. 

When looking at Mobile DevOps engineering resumés, Jane McKay says that looking for mobile-specific engineers is like looking for a unicorn. She looks for mobile-specific skills like “provisioning profile knowledge”, “Xcode experience”, “Gradle knowledge”, and “DevOps experience” instead. 

For that reason, businesses tend to hire engineers and train them with mobile-specific skills. However, “you become a victim to your own success,” as Jane advises. As your app grows, it becomes harder to manage mobile app development without specialized Mobile DevOps engineers.

During the 2023 Mobile Predictions Webinar, we asked:

Do you have a platform engineer or platform engineering team dedicated to Mobile DevOps at your company?

The rise of AI tools into Mobile DevOps pipelines: AIOps

Another key mobile trend is the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to optimize mobile IT operations. This is known as AIOps, and it involves using AI and ML to automate tasks such as log management, performance metrics, and event correlation. AIOps can reduce operational costs, improve service quality, and increase agility in IT operations. Additionally, we will see more use of AI testing and codeless testing tools in the coming years.

However, when it comes to testing mobile apps, you need to find a balance between cost savings, test quality, and test quantity. Testing unnecessarily can slow down build times. As Wyatt Web advises, “don’t test things [you] are confident in. Don’t write tests for things you don’t think will break.”

One trending use case of AI in Mobile DevOps is the use of tools in mobile pipelines. When using AI tools like ChatGPT or Stable Diffusion to assist in building mobile apps, mobile teams can reduce repetitive tasks to spend time on innovation. Instead of having to do menial work to write a piece of code that already exists, mobile engineers could ask ChatGPT to help write it. By doing so, you can also remove tasks that are not enjoyable to developers, which improves the overall developer experience.

At Dyson, the mobile team is experimenting to see if machine learning and AI can help predict release risk levels. By feeding historical release data into an AI model, the Dyson team is experimenting to see if they can learn from that data to improve future releases and hotfixes. As Jane McKay explains they are using AI to ask themselves, “Can we flag releases that could be risky? Can we use machine learning to help us predict defects before we find them ourselves?”

During the 2023 Mobile Predictions Webinar, we asked:

Have you used AI or ML to help with Mobile DevOps?

The rising use of continuous delivery and release orchestration to improve release cycles

Continuous Delivery and Release Orchestration is another important trend in mobile app development. Release management practices help developers quickly build, test, and deploy new mobile apps while ensuring the utmost quality and reliability. Automation of deployment and testing processes will also become increasingly important to reduce costs, improve reliability, and increase the speed of releases.

The rise in cloud-based infrastructure and Apple silicon Macs to automate iOS tests

Another trend we're likely to see in 2023 is the adoption of cloud-native app development and cloud-based infrastructure for mobile developers. With the release of the Apple silicon M1, M1 MAX, M2 Pro, and M2 Max chips, we can expect to see more and more iOS apps being built and deployed on cloud-based infrastructure. This will enable faster and more efficient app development, as well as better testing, scalability, and performance.

“We moved away from Appium tests and now use Bitrise and XCUI tests,” says Jane McKay.

The future of mobile app development looks bright. It’s a fast-paced, growing industry with new technologies and trends constantly emerging. As we move into 2023, we can expect to see more companies shifting-left in security, adopting M1 Macs, hiring Mobile DevOps engineers, and testing AI tools in mobile pipelines. By staying ahead of these trends, companies can build better, faster, and more secure mobile apps.

Watch the 2023 Predictions webinar on-demand now.

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