Is zero application interface the future of mobile?

By Becky Lawlor

The mobile application interface has always been at the heart of how people interact with their mobile devices. From flip phones with push buttons to smartphones that allow users to touch, tap, swipe and scroll, the mobile user interface (MUI) dictates how a user interacts with a device’s apps, features, content and functions.

Recent advancements in technology — including the IoT, artificial intelligence and machine-to-machine learning — are upending today’s current mobile application interface and could make the MUI as we know it completely irrelevant in the future.

Here’s a look at some trends that affect what the MUI of the future looks like:

New ways to control and manage apps

According to The Verge, Apple’s App Store alone has more than 2 million apps. Research from ComScore shows that the average smartphone user spends over half of the time in one app. This data shows that driving users to new apps and increasing app engagement is more challenging than ever. Screens cluttered with unused apps are inefficient and cumbersome to negotiate, and users are going to move toward new technologies, such as voice control and intelligent assistants, to make app access and management simpler and more efficient.


As Siri and Alexa have already demonstrated, users can move away from having to physically interact with the MUI to send and receive information. Instead, knowledge transfer can occur through voice control and communication between machines, sensors and intelligent assistants, freeing up users to be more productive and do other things, such as drive or cook dinner while booking a restaurant reservation or shopping.

Messaging apps increasing in popularity

The use of messaging apps has exploded in the past couple of years. In a recent report by Statista, messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, QQ and WeChat all ranked in the top five of the most popular apps with the most active users. These apps are engaging users not only as an avenue for exchanging messages or photos, but have evolved into diverse ecosystems that allow users to conduct transactions, view content and connect with brands.

As features and services within these messaging apps continue to be built out, their usefulness will expand further, drawing more users away from individual apps that require users to switch between multiple apps for various transactions. Instead, messaging apps will become a platform for all transactions and communication.

Notification as an application interface

Beacons and GPS navigation can now locate where mobile users are. Sensors can communicate directly machine-to-machine. Predictive analytics and artificial intelligence continue to get better at determining a user’s wants and needs, making it easier for brands and apps to know what users want at the moment. With these advancements, notifications can act as the interface itself — alerting users when there is something of interest and allowing them to take action. As this trend continues to advance, there will be less of a need for users to open and interact with apps directly.

What it all means

Technology and humans are constantly evolving to be more productive and efficient — so too is the mobile application interface. As part of this evolution for a more productive interaction between users and devices, users may see the application interface disappear completely as a combination of these trends drives the MUI from a primary point of interaction to a secondary one.

Written By

Becky Lawlor

Technology Writer

Becky Lawlor is a freelance technology writer specializing in mobility, cloud computing, unified communications and collaboration solutions. She develops and writes content that helps technology buyers understand and evaluate technology solutions, modernize their IT infrastructure…

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