It was only about a decade ago that smartphone technology came onto the scene, and now nearly everyone has one in their reach. That’s partially due to the fact that many corresponding technologies have also evolved at a fast pace. Smartphone companies must work diligently to take advantage of the many new features these developments make possible.

Augmented reality, for example, has already substantially expanded the theoretical capabilities of mobile devices. AR allows developers to create apps that would not have been viable just a few years ago by overlaying a virtual world on top of the real one displayed on your phone’s screen. Experts predict the augmented reality industry to reach $50 billion in revenue by 2021. This success is largely spurred by the belief in its potential, which begins with how it is harnessed and utilized on smartphone devices.

We are also starting to see examples of businesses leveraging AR to solve common problems in their industry.For example, Amikasa’s AR app for iOS that allows users to place the company’s furniture in their homes. By placing the animated furniture into the real-life setting, customers can accurately view the product before they buy, thereby reducing the amount of returns that plagues  many retail businesses.

In healthcare, Orca Health’s EyeDecide app lets patients and medical professionals diagnose common eye conditions. Thus, considering about 50 percent of adults in the U.S. have limited literacy when it comes to healthcare, this app is making self-diagnosis more simple, easy, and accessible.

The Opportunities:

Major tech companies are also adding fuel to the AR revolution fire. First,  with the release of iOS 11, Apple provided developers with ARKit. This is a set of tools that makes it easier to build AR products for Apple devices. Then, Google was quick to follow suit, releasing ARCore, which serves the same purpose for Android apps. In both instances, developers are reaping huge benefits. These programs bypass the need for proprietary creation tools, depth sensors, and other additional technologies often needed to develop and launch AR apps.

In other words, millions of mobile devices are already capable of running AR products. Therefore, AR developers need to understand what the next generation of smartphones will be able to do. Additionally, they need to know how they can create ideal apps for them. Already, examples of ARKit and ARCore apps range from amusing ones like having a virtual tourist guide  to ARKit’s Human Anatomy Atlas 2018 for healthcare professionals, medical students, and other interested parties.

AR developers - iPhone

Working Examples of AR Apps

In retail, IKEA has experimented with an app – IKEA Place – that lets users superimpose virtual images of furniture or fixtures onto their surroundings. This way, they have a better sense of how a certain item will look in their home.

Shoe brand Converse offers a similar functionality for users in that their Sampler app lets users visualize how their shoes will look on them . By placing the shoe over the person’s foot via the smartphone’s camera, customers can virtually see how the shoe looks before purchase, leading to greater customer satisfaction, brand engagement, and diminished product returns.

AR apps’ applications in more serious circumstances are emerging, too. For example, Touch Surgery has evolved from a mobile simulation to a fully-fledged AR app. Touch Surgery is a training platform for medical professionals. Therefore, it not only guides them as they learn, but can also assist during the surgical procedure.

The Challenges

Clearly, AR has the potential to revolutionize what we use smartphones and other mobile devices for. So, why hasn’t the technology exploded in popularity? Right now, it’s mainly due to hardware limitations. Because AR is fairly new, most mobile devices aren’t built specifically for its products. Now that Apple and Google have provided developers with the tools they need to create AR apps, it’s clear that both companies plan to upgrade the hardware of their future devices. Google expects “hundreds of millions”of Android devices will deploy AR in the coming year.

That means developers shouldn’t impose strict limits on their plans. While many consumers may not have access to AR-friendly hardware now, they will in the near future. For example, Apple plans to release upgraded iPhone X’s in 2018. Developers should therefore enthusiastically explore the possibilities of this technology.

They should also consider how AR will expand the usefulness of devices like wearable headsets. As these devices become sleeker and more efficient, they could eventually render smartphones obsolete. With Apple expected to launch their first AR headset in 2020, the future looks bright for wearables to proliferate at even greater rate than AR-enabled smartphones. As Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg says, “ Think about how many of the things around us don't actually need to be physical… Instead of a $500 TV sitting in front of us, what's to keep us from one day having it be a $1 app?”

Conclusion

That being said, while the death of the smartphone may be inevitable, it won’t arrive anytime soon. What will arrive is the smartphone that’s built specifically to support AR products. Developers interested in keeping up with the evolution of smartphone technology should begin exploring what they can do with it now.

In the future, AR technology will evolve in its applications for both users and businesses. We can expect to see major advancements for it particularly for marketers. It is termed a “trillion-dollar opportunity” for advertisers, which means we can expect it to greatly impact the daily lives of consumers. Finally, look out for AR’s expanded use in healthcare, manufacturing, and across other fields as advancements influence employee training, medical procedures, and much, much more