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Here's what the future of mobile apps looks like

CAMBRIDGE, MASS. — Without apps, a smartphone is nothing but a piece of metal that can make phone calls. And who even makes phone calls anymore?

Today, you can do everything from order pizza to check your prescription status with a mobile app. But the world of mobility is evolving, and tomorrow’s apps will look much different from today’s. At this week’s summit Mobile: Transforming Life and Business event hosted by the Mass Technology Leadership Council, several panels of mobility experts and app providers discussed how apps will change in the future — and how they’ll change our lives.

Here are a few takeaways from the event:

Apps, apps everywhere

More than 190,000 mobile apps are downloaded every minute worldwide, said keynote speaker Phillip Redman, a senior manager at Accenture Digital. His firm predicts there will be more than 50 billion connected devices by 2020.

With apps and devices both on the rise, we’ll be able to do more than ever. The Internet of Things will allow us to control everything from our ovens to the HVAC systems in our homes, Redman said.

“Your mobile phone is becoming a universal remote control,” he said.

Up next: app integration

What really gives smartphones the edge over PCs? Easy of use, said Michael Davies, the chairman of consulting firm Endeavor Partners and a senior lecturer at MIT.

“It’s not just that smartphones are ubiquitous,” he said. “It’s that they’re so easy to use. How many two-year-olds could use a Windows desktop?”

To streamline mobile devices even further, app developers will start to integrate apps more with one another, opening APIs and connecting apps better with back-end infrastructure. This approach will help us accomplish a single task in fewer strokes, Davies said.

“Rather than just going into an app, it will be about seamlessly transitioning between different apps,” he said.

For example, if you want to go out to dinner, you should be able to find a restaurant on Yelp, reserve a table through Open Table, and request a ride on Uber — all without having to close each app and open the next. Instead, app integration would connect these apps together, leading the user from one task to the next, Davies said.

In the enterprise, this kind of integration would be especially useful for things like creating and sharing content.

UX is king

The success of mobility will always come down to the consumer. In the enterprise, IT needs to deliver apps that consumers would want to use in their daily lives, Davies said.

For that reason, organizations should invest in mobile apps that serve specific purposes and in next-generation mobile app development tools that focus on capturing the best user experiences possible, said Geoff Bock, principal analyst at Bock and Company. The best mobile apps will understand context, such as what we’re trying to accomplish based on where we’re located, he said.

With millions of new apps on the horizon, you can be sure there are plenty of ways to enable mobile workers that IT admins haven’t even thought of yet.

“We’ve barely scratched the surface of solving business problems with mobile,” Bock said.