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How 5G Will Affect Your Android And iOS Apps

Mobile apps are already highly popular. However, their popularity may reach a never-before-imagined level once 5G rolls out.

Naturally, this means that the software development business centered around mobile apps will also experience noticeable growth. In this article, I will explain how 5G will affect your Android and iOS apps.

Contents

Mobile apps: “The state of play”
The current generation of mobile phone technology: 4G
What is 5G?
When will 5G be available?
5G phones: The market is already heating up!
How will 5G impact mobile apps?
Wondering how to take the full advantage of 5G for your mobile app?

Mobile apps: “The state of play”

To judge the growing popularity of mobile apps, the following statistics are noteworthy:

  • As of Q3-2018, the number of Android apps in Google Play was 2.1 million. At that point, the number of iOS apps in the Apple app store was 2 million. Read “Mobile app usage – statistics & facts” for these statistics.
  • Mobile phone users increasingly spend more time on mobile apps, than on the mobile Internet. As of 2018, average American adult mobile users spent 2 hours and 35 minutes per day on mobile apps, compared to 26 minutes per day on the mobile Internet. Read “The 2018 mobile app store download statistics report” for more such statistics.

The current generation of mobile phone technology: 4G

As you know, the current mobile phone technology is 4G, i.e., the 4th generation mobile technology. A few quick facts about 4G are as follows:

  • It is a point in the continuum that started with 2G in the 1990s. 2G allowed making digital phone calls and sending texts.
  • The next stage was 3G, which emerged in 2003. 3G allowed web browsing from mobile devices, video calls, download music, download video, etc.
  • 4G works significantly faster than 3G. It offers improved download/upload speed. Voice calls are clearer, moreover, the latency is less.
  • There are 2 variants of 4G.
  • The first one is “Standard 4G” or 4G-LTE.
  • LTE, or “Long Term Evolution” is the path in this continuum, to reach the 4G speed.
  • Theoretically, 4G-LTE offers a download speed of 150 Mbps. Read more about 4G in “What is 4G?”.
  • Actual results vary based on several factors. In any case, it’s much faster than 3G, which offered a theoretical download speed of 42 Mbps.
  • Latency reduces drastically with 4G. While it was 135 milliseconds (ms) with 3G, it’s 75 ms with 4G.
  • The other variant of 4G is “4G-LTE Advanced”.
  • The download speed can be 300 Mbps with “4G-LTE Advanced”, at least theoretically. You can read more about it in “4G vs. LTE: the differences explained”.

What is 5G?

The market expects that the roll-out of 5G, i.e., the fifth generation mobile wireless technology will start this year, i.e., 2019. The following facts will help in understanding the impact of it:

  • This will significantly increase the speed and responsiveness of wireless networks.
  • Some estimates state that the speed of data transmission over a 5G network could reach 20 Gbps. Read more about 5G in “5G”.
  • There are estimates that put the latency to 1 ms or even lower than that!
  • 5G will increase the available bandwidth. The advanced antenna technology will make this possible.
  • As a result of the higher bandwidth availability, the amount of data transmission will increase significantly.
  • As we wait for the large-scale commercial roll-out of 5G, there are divergences among industry-watchers about the speed 5G may ultimately offer. Some expect it to be at least 10-times faster than 4G, whereas others estimate download speeds higher than 10 Gbps! Read more about these diverse estimates in “How fast is 5G?”.

When will 5G be available?

The roll-out schedule of 5G varies widely from country to country. Even within a country, different carriers may have different 5G rollout schedules. Based on the information available at the time of writing, the following are 5G roll-out schedules in a few major economies:

  • US: Verizon is offering 5G broadband Internet services in select American cities since late 2018. They will launch mobile 5G services in 2019. In December 2018, AT&T began offering mobile 5G services in a few American cities. They plan to offer 5G nationwide by 2020. T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular are the other carriers that are working on 5G roll-out. Their roll-out dates are in 2019 and 2020. Read more about this in “When is 5G coming to the US? (Updated for 2019)”.
  • UK: EE, the country’s biggest mobile network plans to roll-out 5G in select cities by the middle of 2019, and expand it further by the end of this year. “Three”, Vodafone, and O2 plan to launch 5G by the end of 2019. Read more about it in “What is 5G and when will it arrive in the UK?”.
  • China: China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom, the three major telecom operators in the country are working on 5G roll-out. The target dates for roll-out vary, however, they are in 2019-20. Read more in “China’s three major telecom operators confirm 5G schedules and 6G in the works”.
  • Japan: Japanese telco KDDI will offer limited 5G services in 2019, while they plan for a larger launch in 2020. Read “Japan’s KDDI to launch limited 5G services in 2019” for more information.
  • Germany: Deutsche Telekom plans to launch commercial 5G operations in Germany by 2020. Read about their plans in “German 5G operations to launch in 2020”.
  • India: BSNL, the state-owned telecom operator in the country plans to launch 5G in 2019-20. Read this Indian media report for more details.

5G phones: The market is already heating up!

Several leading smartphone-makers have already launched their 5G-compatible phones, or they are working on it. Examples are as follows:

  • Samsung Galaxy S10 5G;
  • Huawei Mate X;
  • LG V50 ThinQ;
  • XIAOMI MI MIX 3;
  • ONEPLUS 7;
  • OPPO 5G FLAGSHIP.

Read “Top 5G phones: every 5G phone announced and still to come in 2019” for details. These are Android devices. At the time of writing, it appears that Apple will launch its 5G-compatible iPhone in 2020. Read more about this in “iPhone 5G release date: when will the 5G iPhone come out?”.

How will 5G impact mobile apps?

Significantly higher download/upload speed, much lower latency, and wider availability of bandwidth with 5G will change mobile apps. I will now explain the impact areas, as follows:

1. AR, VR, and MR

Various industries already use “Augmented Reality” (AR), “Virtual Reality” (VR), and “Mixed Reality”. 5G will bring a comprehensive change to this landscape. The following points are relevant here:

  • Entertainment, manufacturing, etc. industries currently use these components in their mobile apps that run on 4G networks.
  • By their very nature, AR/VR/MR requires a lot of data processing. This congests the current 4G networks.
  • The load on the network increases when these apps involve communication among people from different geographies.
  • 5G will make it much easier to experience AR/VR/MR on mobile apps. Read about this in “5G is a game changer for AR, VR, and MR”.

If you are a software engineer developing an Android app or an iOS app, you should consider learning AR/VR/MR development. These areas will receive higher focus with the emergence of 5G.

2. Video streaming

5G will have a noticeable impact on video streaming. Consider the following, to understand this impact better:

  • Video streaming on mobile apps is already very popular. At the end of 2018, video accounted for 60% of all mobile Internet traffic.
  • However, quite a bit of this uses the low-definition format 360p or standard-definition format 480p.
  • Mobile video consumers choose such formats so that they can stick to their mobile data plans.
  • Content providers and communication services providers impose restrictions on video formats.
  • These constraints are due to the existing mobile wireless technology generation.
  • The higher speed and lower latency of 5G will change that. Market-watchers estimate that video will make up 74% of mobile Internet traffic in 2024, as consumers increasingly switch to 5G. Read more about this in “5G will make online video streaming soar, says Ericsson report”.
  • 4k and 8k video streaming without buffering and latency will soon be a reality with 5G. In Japan, NTT DoCoMo and NEC recently streamed 8k ultra-HD live video footage of a steam locomotive. During their test, they also streamed 4k content to the mobiles of the passengers. Read more about this experiment in “Live video streaming over 5G in 8K 3D VR”.

Entrepreneurs can use more HD video content in their mobile apps, thanks to 5G! If you are a programmer, you should acquire video streaming app development skills. Demand for such apps will soon grow.

3. IoT

“Internet of Things” (IoT) is an area where 5G will have a far-reaching impact. Consider the following points to better appreciate this impact:

  • IoT involves communication between connected devices over the Internet. The technology has a massive potential across many sectors. A few examples are smart cities, healthcare, oil & gas, automotive, utilities, connected cars, weather monitoring, supply chain, etc. Read “IoT use cases” for more examples.
  • Experts estimate that there will be 20.4 billion IoT devices by 2020. Businesses are expected to invest $15 trillion in IoT between 2017-2025. Read more about these statistics in “5 IoT statistics you need to know in 2019”.
  • There is a very interesting aspect to IoT. The more connected devices there are, the higher will be the benefit to society. After all, if a smart city plans to implement a state-of-the-art emergency response system with the help of IoT, the city administrators would like to get real-time data from as many points as possible. This requires connecting as many IoT devices as possible.
  • However, the current generation of wireless technology inherently limits this. The bandwidth constraints wouldn’t allow connecting a very large number of devices.
  • Furthermore, the speed and latency constraints would limit the real-time processing of the data from these devices.
  • 5G offers significantly higher bandwidth. This will allow connecting more IoT devices to the network. This drastically increases the scale at which IoT can be used.
  • Higher speed and lower latency will then enable real-time processing of the data these devices emit.

Read “How 5G is critical to delivering IoT at scale” to know more about this. IoT is already a niche skill. If you are a software developer, consider acquiring this skill since it’s going to see even higher demand!

4. Location accuracy

5G enables tracking locations at a significantly higher level of accuracy than 4G. The accuracy of positioning with 4G is within 10-500 meters range. 5G enables location accuracy within 1 meter! Read “5G, cellular’s next step brings new positioning capabilities” to know how 5G is able to achieve this.

5. Gaming

Gaming is already very popular, however, 5G will likely make gaming even more popular! Consider the following points, to appreciate this better:

  • AR/VR, video streaming, positioning, etc. are important aspects of gaming. 5G significantly improves all of these.
  • Gaming requires a very large amount of data transmission. There are often very long-running fixes, patches, and upgrades. High speed, low-latency 5G networks will help here significantly.

Read more about this in “Gaming with 5G”. Gaming entrepreneurs and developers can expect high demand for mobile gaming apps when 5G rolls out widely.

6. Ads

Many mobile users currently don’t like ads. Well, intrusive banner ads aren’t always very attractive! Ads in mobile apps will change significantly with the advent of 5G. The following points are relevant in this context:

  • Network speed constraints currently limit the ability of advertisers to send interesting ads. With 5G, they will be able to send video ads, AR ads, etc. to consumers.
  • VR ads will become more popular, and they can replace pop-up ads and pre-roll videos that aren’t exactly popular with users!
  • IoT, implemented at a larger scale will provide more data about consumers to advertisers. This will enable advertisers to send better-targeted ads.
  • 5G allows better pinpointing of location. This will enable advertisers to find more context-sensitive data about consumers. The result will be better-targeted ads.

Read more about this in “5G is coming and will change digital advertising in more ways than you think”. For entrepreneurs, the change in how ads are delivered to mobile users will be very significant.

Wondering how to take the full advantage of 5G for your mobile app?

Higher speed, lower latency, and higher bandwidth certainly make 5G more advantageous for mobile app users. However, delivering the right mobile user experience involves much more than the latest generation of mobile wireless technology. From the project inception to publishing in the Apple or Android app store, developing a mobile app involves plenty of development and project management work. Consider getting professional help. Read our guide “How to find the best software development company?” before engaging a software development partner.