#best practices


10 min

7 Essential Wow Features for Mobile Apps in 2024

The main trends in mobile app development that actually matter to business

Anna Baida

UX Designer

Ellen Snesar

Content Manager

December 4, 2023

To make their mobile apps truly stand out, companies need to go beyond basics. Essential functionality, like a cart and a payment engine in an m-commerce app, is a bare minimum for a user-friendly experience. However, to capture users' attention and become an industry trendsetter, innovative features are critical.

In this article, you’ll find seven wow features and trends in mobile development that are gaining traction and will dominate the industry in 2024. Most importantly, we’ll highlight why businesses should take them into account and explain how to embrace these trends and thrive in a crowded market.

#1. AI-powered search gets users to more relevant products

Why AI-powered search matters

A search based on artificial intelligence (AI) is a game-changer when it comes to helping customers make purchase decisions. It goes beyond traditional methods by understanding the context of user searches. Instead of solely relying on keywords, AI-powered search algorithms can understand the intent behind user queries. This allows for more accurate and relevant search results.

Understanding customers’ intent helps when they are unsure of the exact item they need but can describe the occasion. For example, a customer might be looking for something to wear to a party. In this case, a search query “what to wear to a summer party outside” would be more relevant than a “party dress.” If the app can address this specific query, the customer will feel heard and find what she needs faster.

How companies implement AI-powered search

To implement an improved search, companies either partner with the organizations that provide large language models (LLM) or develop their own models. Instacart followed the first path and partnered with the AI research laboratory OpenAI. The result is an AI-powered search tool called Ask Instacart. The tool assists customers with grocery shopping questions, like “what to cook for dinner” or “products for weight loss.”

Yelp has taken another approach and developed its own AI model. In 2023, the company released an update, enabling the app to better understand the search intent. This advancement allows Yelp to show information from reviews in snippets that appear alongside business listings in the search results.

For instance, when users search for “pancakes” on Yelp, they not only see a list of restaurants but also discover review highlights related to pancakes beneath each entry. Or, if users need to find a place to sunbathe but not necessarily at a beach, they can search for “sunbathe,” and Yelp will show all the relevant places where it’s possible to soak up the sun.

These are just two examples of many—as AI continues to advance, its usage becomes more widespread. As a result, businesses won’t be able to ignore it and will need to embrace AI-powered technologies ‌to stay competitive.

#2. Mini apps expand mobile apps’ functionality

Why mini apps matter

Expanding the app’s functionality beyond the main product has become one of the software development trends. Online clothing stores add chats with personal stylists to their apps, while home improvement stores provide their mobile users with AR measurement tools. To add a new service, a company may create a completely new app, but a better approach is to add a mini app to its existing m-commerce application.

A mini app is a small program that operates within the main app. It functions like a regular application but without the need to install it separately. This makes it convenient for customers because they can access extra features without having to download a new app.

Mini apps benefit the company that owns the main mobile application. They help keep users engaged and active for a longer time. As a result, users have more opportunities to explore and potentially make purchases from both the main services and additional offerings.

How companies build mini apps

There are two ways a company can benefit from mini apps—it can build its own super app with ancillary services, or join an existing super app and create a mini app inside it.

The first approach means that a company adds new services to the existing mobile app. For example, here’s how we helped a European neo-bank build a financial super app IZI. At its core, IZI is a mobile banking service, but it offers much more than money management—users can buy movie tickets, plan trips, book restaurants, and find beauty salons nearby without leaving IZI.

Another approach is to join a partner company’s digital ecosystem and add a mini app to the third-party super app. Big platforms provide software development kits (SDK) and guides on how to build a mini app—some examples include WeChat, Rappi, and Rakuten.

This option might be better for smaller businesses that don’t have enough resources to create a standalone application.

#3. Apps for VR/AR devices expand users’ capabilities

Why apps for VR/AR devices matter

The introduction of Apple's visionOS for the Vision Pro AR headset is a huge milestone for developers. This release is expected to inspire a wave of app development that will show the full potential of this new platform. The main reason for this is that forward-looking companies are likely to try and surprise their customers with the new experience.

Apple refers to the new coding area as “spatial computing,” drawing parallels to the earlier advancements in personal and mobile computing brought by the PC and iPhone. In this new concept, users’ work environment is projected in front of them, floating in space. This will require apps adapted to the new environment.

How companies will develop apps for VR/AR devices

According to Apple, development for visionOS is not that different from other Apple platforms. It’s based on the existing APIs that have been around for a while—Swift UI, RealityKit, and ARKit. Hence, although visionOS will have its own app store, developers should get familiar with the new platform quickly, given that the software development kit should be available soon.

As for existing iPadOS or iOS apps, they can be brought to the new platform using SwiftUI, according to Apple. This is likely why the company announced the headset at the developer-focused WWDC event and has delayed its release until 2024.

For now, there’s no way to check how easy it is to build visionOS apps. However, there will be a selection of popular apps like Disney+ and Microsoft Teams available on Vision Pro from day one. As time goes on, more companies are likely to join this trend, and we'll have a clearer understanding of its direction.

#4. Passkeys provide hassle-free access to services

Why passkeys matter

Tech giants say that passkeys are the beginning of the end of passwords. The reason for such a bold statement is that passkeys are a safer and easier way to sign in to apps and websites. Instead of remembering passwords, users hit one button and authenticate with fingerprints or facial recognition. That’s it—no need to enter a password or even a username.

For businesses, it means that their users get access to the app or website on a new device faster and, as a result, make purchases faster. For example, sometimes a user starts an order on a website and needs to complete the purchase in a mobile app. With a passkey, it will take them a few seconds to sign in on a new device, without a struggle to remember the password.

Some users even create new accounts because they don’t remember the password from the old one. According to Instacart, this annoying account duplication was a problem for the company, but introducing passkeys solved it.

How companies implement hassle-free access with passkeys

Companies can add a passkey sign-in option to mobile apps on iOS and Android by using Apple’s and Google’s frameworks. Both tech giants have included a passkey section in their developer guides to encourage passkey adoption.

This has already brought results—Kayak and Instacart report that thanks to Apple’s underlying framework, implementing passkey functionality was “relatively smooth.”

Passkeys are cryptographic keys used for secure access. They consist of a public key registered with the service and a private key stored securely on a user’s device.

This public-private setup allows identity verification without the need for a password.

Here is how passkey technology works. Users start by adding a passkey to their account settings. If it’s an iPhone, they will be asked to choose a passkey from their iCloud Keychain—Apple’s password manager.

Next time when a user tries to sign in to their account on another device, they’ll have the option to use a passkey. The sign-in will happen when they push the button “Continue” and use their fingerprint or face to authenticate.

Passkeys are expected to become widely used because they are more convenient and secure than passwords. Users save time and don't have to worry about their credentials being stolen. For companies, the biggest benefit of the passkeys is that they make it easier for new users to start using services. The faster the sign-in process, the quicker users make purchases.

#5. Personalized user interface strengthens the connection between users and devices

Why personalized user interface matters

Personalization has been among mobile app design trends for a long time, yet we see new forms of it appearing every year. One of them is a gender-inflected user interface—UI that is adapted to the user’s gender. Gender-inflected UI matters because a third of the world’s population speaks languages that use grammatical gender, and their devices should reflect that.

For example, “you are subscribed” in Spanish sounds different depending on gender—“estás suscrito” and “estás suscrita.” Some apps default to masculine grammatical gender, which can be offensive for non-male users. Another option to solve the problem is to rephrase the sentence, but it can be time-consuming to find the right words. Thus, the problem persists.

A UI with language that correctly reflects the user's grammatical gender can improve user engagement and provide a more personalized and natural-sounding user experience.

How companies implement personalized UI

If a part of the app’s audience speaks Spanish, French, or other gender-inflected languages, it makes sense to use Grammatical Inflection API. It means that developers can make the UI user-centric without too much coding. Instead of building the feature from scratch, they use the API to dynamically adapt the app’s language. The API helps the app retrieve gender info from the user’s profile and generate grammatically correct phrases.

The Grammatical Inflection API was introduced at the recent Google I/O conference. On top of that, Google has already provided a guide for developers on its implementation. As a result, we can expect to see more apps tailored to user characteristics shortly.

#6. On-device machine learning improves app usability

Why on-device machine learning matters

Machine learning (ML) opens up possibilities for features powered by AI. In the past, ML primarily ran on servers in the cloud. However, recent advancements allow for processing the data directly on the device within a mobile app. This means that the ML model processes images, text, or audio, directly on the device instead of sending the data to a server.

By leveraging on-device ML, companies will enhance the engagement, personalization, and utility of their iOS and Android apps. For example, a fitness company can use pose recognition in a fitness app to guide users toward proper posture during workouts. And an online store can include more search options in its app, like search by barcode or by image, quickly and easily.

With on-device ML, it’s cheaper and more quick to implement. The new features are responsive, privacy-conscious, and capable of functioning without an internet connection. Hence, the user experience becomes more immersive and tailored.

How companies implement on-device machine learning

To enhance an app with on-device ML, app developers can use APIs for vision, speech, natural language, and sound analysis. Google and Apple both have sets of these APIs. They apply algorithms to perform a variety of tasks on input data—images, text, video, and sound. It means that developers can embed features like text recognition, animal recognition, UI translation, or barcode detection in their apps without any machine learning experience.

With on-device ML, companies can create advanced apps without making big investments. By leveraging the processing power of users' devices, companies can deliver advanced features without relying on external servers. Moreover, using the APIs makes it easier to implement the features, not requiring specific experience from developers.

#7. Modularization helps release robust apps faster

Why modularization matters

App modularization is an approach to app development that involves breaking down a large app into smaller modules, or microservices. Each of these modules handles a specific feature or functionality. Modular architecture is the opposite of monolithic architecture, and the reason why it’s trending is reduced compile time.

When developers build an app, they write the source code and then convert it—or compile it—into a format that can be read by a mobile device.In a monolithic architecture, even if a small change is made to a source code, the entire app needs to be re-compiled. Thus, adding new features to such an app takes too much time. Modular app, however, doesn't require full recompilation.

“In a modular app, developers can make changes only to one module, and only that module needs to be re-compiled. This significantly speeds up app development, updates, and maintenance.”


Project manager at HeyInnovations

From a business perspective, modular architecture means delivering value in a more targeted manner. Each microservice is a specific feature developed, tested, and released separately by different teams. Thus, businesses can quickly respond to user needs and preferences.

For example, if an online store receives many user requests for a VR fitting room, it can add the VR module and release an update quickly. This will show customers that the company cares about their needs and responds to them in no time.

How companies build modular apps

One way to achieve a microservice architecture is by splitting an existing monolithic app into smaller, more manageable microservices. In the second approach, developers design a new app in microservices from the ground up.

When it comes to large apps, they are typically structured in a modular way. If a company is planning to create a large app, it makes sense to make it modular from scratch. For instance, Google has been using modularization to develop its most popular applications such as YouTube, Play Store, and Google News. We have also worked on a modular app project for one of our clients, Sportmaster.

Key takeaways

We've discussed seven mobile application development trends and features that will shape the industry's future:

  • AI-powered tools
  • Mini apps
  • Apps for VR/AR devices
  • Passkeys
  • Personalized UI
  • On-device machine learning
  • Modularization

These features are valuable not just because many development companies use them, but because they offer tangible benefits to the businesses. If you need guidance on how to build a modern and robust mobile app, feel free to reach out to us for assistance.

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