Widespread change in 2020 has been a consistently defining feature of what has arguably been one of the most inconsistent years to date. The coronavirus pandemic, greater emphasis on issues of diversity and inclusion, and an upcoming US presidential election are all impacting the ways in which we connect in society. Apps have the unique capacity to enhance a wide range of daily functions as well as to evolve relatively quickly to meet new needs. It should come as no surprise then that novel shifts in app technology have come about in the wake of cultural and societal shifts. Below are some of the ways in which current apps reflect a changing world.
As consumers were challenged to make the most of life under quarantine, health and fitness app downloads increased by 46% globally during the first half of 2020. This surge in popularity has challenged developers to grab market share by creating innovative apps that advance well-being. The new Amazon Halo band and fitness app, for example, was developed this year and is currently available by invitation only. The technology encourages lifestyle change and includes a range of cutting-edge features. Subscribers can determine their body fat percentage by using 3D body scans and gain feedback on their emotional state through voice command technology.
Another app for a fitness device that is scheduled to make waves before the end of 2020 is Apple Fitness+. The service allows Apple Watch owners to stream a wide range of workouts including traditional forms of exercises such as walking and cycling as well as rowing, HIIT, and yoga (among other options). The IoT device’s capacity to incorporate heart rate and calories burned biometrics as well as the service’s inclusion of workouts led by top trainers and head-to-head competition functionality will set the technology apart from its competitors.
The Covid-19 crisis has contributed to a growing comfortability with remote connection. Use of video call apps has increased tremendously following the coronavirus outbreak in many sectors including government and medicine. A recent article outlines some useful video calling apps including the ubiquitous Zoom, but also others with unique features.
One product that has grown in light of a new need to connect while apart is a group video chat app used while playing games with friends called Bunch. The app allows you to “party up with friends over video, and jump into your favorite multiplayer games together.” In mid-March, Bunch wasn’t listed on top app category rankings but now ranks as one of the top social apps.
The current environment also challenges students to find new ways to obtain support from their classmates while learning remotely. This reality contributed to innovations including Spark Study, an app that was developed by a current Pitzer College student. Students can connect to their classmates by adding their class schedules to the app. This streamlining of community formation makes it easier for students to form study groups, ask questions, and find tutoring support.
The world’s largest tech companies are also developing new ways to advance virtual connection. Facebook recently developed a “Watch Together” feature that lets up to 8 users view Facebook Watch videos at the same time. As physical distancing rules become more relaxed but not absolved, the app space will likely continue to see an ongoing expansion of community-based innovations.
Given the contentious election season taking place at the end of 2020, tech companies are finding new ways to influence voter turnout. Security concerns continue to largely obstruct the existence of online voting. Nevertheless, apps will have a greater role in the US presidential election this year. In an effort to get more Americans to the polls and perhaps develop brand purpose, apps including Lyft, Snapchat and Uber have developed new features to encourage users to exercise their right to vote. Snapchat, for example, directly links to a voter registration portal and provides guidance on making a voting plan. Uber and Uber Eats also provide resources on voter registration and Uber plans to provide discounted rides to the polls.
Colorado has decided to expand an app to track mail-in ballots. The app features automatic enrollment for all voters and enables users to track the status of their mailed ballots for the 2020 election.
Many employees found themselves working from home for the first time in 2020. What was initially a short-term solution has turned into a more permanent one as many organizational leaders have since recognized the value of creating greater workplace flexibility. This shift has contributed to the development of new tools and expanded features aimed at supporting employees who wish to remain productive while at home. The SurveyMonkey app for Google Teams recently expanded its features to take into account today’s workforce. The survey software company added socially conscious updates to its app including new diversity, equity, and inclusion templates as well as shared analytics functionality.
Other tech companies are capitalizing on remote work more directly. Meeami Technologies recently announced the release of the deep-learning based noise suppression software ClearConference, which can be paired with major conferencing apps including Zoom, Skype, and Google Meet to suppress over 100 sounds.
Still others are trying to support greater ease and efficiency among those who are working and learning from home. Artful agenda is a scheduling app that syncs with Google Calendar and offers a place for to-do lists and goal-setting. Originally developed in 2019, it has since grown in popularity as both students and remote workers aim to simplify time management and productivity.
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