Monthly Archives: January 2015

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Mobile App Development: Native or Web?

Web App vs Native Mobile App - a Big Development Decision

Web App vs Native Mobile App – an Important Development Decision

Software Development Times has written an excellent article about one of the important early development decisions which needs to be made when developing a mobile app – should you use native mobile app development tools, or should you present your app functionality using web technology – HTML, CSS and Javascript?

According to SDT:

Native apps maximize performance and user experience

Native development is, on average, the most widely adopted approach. Forrester’s latest Business Technographics Global Developer Survey found that, overall, developers build native apps 38% of the time, hybrid apps 22% of the time, and Web apps 27% of the time. That’s not surprising: Native apps offer a great combination of performance and user experience. And when done right, they deliver a high level of customer satisfaction compared to Web applications, as well as enable superior offline processing and storage capability.

But regardless of these benefits, native apps are a challenge to maintain. Developers we’ve worked with report porting costs of 50% to 70% of the cost of the original app for every new mobile operating system the app needs to run on. Plan to support iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows? That’s an increase in development costs of 150% to 210%.

Web apps minimize costs and improve agility

While developers on average spend more time building native apps, at least 74% spend time building with a Web-based approach. But with native’s advantages in performance and user satisfaction, why would anyone want to use Web technologies?

Unless an unlimited development budget is available, taking a native-only approach exceeds the reach of many development teams. A good rule of thumb is to estimate 20% to 25% in additional porting costs when using Web technologies, significantly less than the cost of an all-native approach.

Web Apps vs Native Apps

Web Apps, at least for some types of apps, offer a cost advantage if you plan to target a large number of mobile platforms (iOS, Android, Blackberry, Microsoft, etc.).

HOWEVER, web apps in my experience present a challenge if you want to create an app which appears to be native – you can spend a lot of time and effort making web buttons look exactly like native buttons, only to have all the rules change next time Apple or Android upgrade their operating system.

In addition, there are many types of app functionality which would perform poorly if implemented using web app technology. For example, if your app presents a long list of database entries, particularly if you want the contents of the database list to update automatically as the user types text into a search field, the inferior performance of web app technology very quickly becomes an issue – if your database contains more than a 50 entries, it is very difficult to make a web app provide acceptable search performance, without developing native mobile app components to augment the search – which kindof defeats the purpose of using web app technology.

In general I advise clients NOT to opt for the web app approach, unless the functionality of their mobile app is simple and not computationally demanding. While the lure of being able to port the bulk of your app to different mobile platforms with minimal changes might seem attractive, in my experience the risk of unsatisfactory mobile app performance, and the difficulty of achieving that vital last 1% of polish to make the web app into a compelling user experience, more than outweighs any benefits.

The Facebook Web App Experience

I’m not alone in my assessment of the significant challenges associated with creating high quality web apps. Facebook chose to redevelop their web app into a native iPhone app, because of the stability and performance issues their team encountered during development of their web app.

Scaling up with HTML5

As mobile usage exploded over the last few years, our priority was to ensure that regardless of device, platform, network, or region, Facebook users had a good experience on their mobile devices. To support thousands of devices and multiple mobile platforms, we leveraged HTML5 to build and distribute Facebook mobile experiences across iOS and other platforms.

By allowing us to write once and ship across multiple platforms, HTML5 has historically allowed us to keep the Facebook mobile experience current and widely available, and has been instrumental in getting us to where we are today. We chose to use HTML5 because not only did it let us leverage much of the same code for iOS, Android, and the mobile web, but it also allowed us to iterate on experiences quickly by launching and testing new features without having to release new versions of our apps.

So while utilizing web technology has allowed us to support more than 500 million people using Facebook on more than 7000 supported devices, we realized that when it comes to platforms like iOS, people expect a fast, reliable experience and our iOS app was falling short. Now that our mobile services had breadth, we wanted depth. So, we rewrote Facebook for iOS from the ground up (I really did open up Xcode and click “New Project”) with a focus on quality and leveraging the advances that have been made in iOS development.

(Re-)Building for speed

One of the biggest advantages we’ve gained from building on native iOS has been the ability to make the app fast. Now, when you scroll through your news feed on the new Facebook for iOS, you’ll notice that it feels much faster than before. One way we have achieved this is by re-balancing where we perform certain tasks. For example, in iOS, the main thread drives the UI and handles touch events, so the more work we do on the main thread, the slower the app feels. Instead, we take care to perform computationally expensive tasks in the background. This means all our networking activity, JSON parsing, NSManagedObject creation, and saving to disk never touches the main thread.

To give another example, we use Core Text to lay out many of our strings, but layout calculations can quickly become a bottleneck. With our new iOS app, when we download new content, we asynchronously calculate the sizes for all these strings, cache our CTFramesetters (which can be expensive to create), and then use all these calculations later when we present the story into our UITableView.

If you would like advice on whether your proposed iPhone App or Android App is a good fit for being developed as a web app, or whether you should choose the native mobile app development option, please Contact Me

Mulesoft: New Anypoint Mobile App Development Release

Mulesoft Anypoint helps mobile apps  to communicate

Mulesoft Anypoint helps mobile apps to communicate

Mulesoft has released a new version of their Anypoint software. Anypoint facilitates mobile app development by helping developers create apps which connect and interact with other popular systems, such as Salesforce, ServiceNow, SAP, Siebel and many other popular enterprise platforms and services.

As the Press Release indicates, the importance of connectivity is often underrated during mobile app design and development.

Today, consumers demand seamless interactions with the companies they do business with, regardless of the channel, device or location. Mobile and data-driven initiatives represent a potential opportunity to create new sources of competitive advantage; however, IT professionals and businesses are challenged to integrate fragmented legacy, cloud and mobile endpoints to create that advantage, even as the volume and potential value driven by those connections continue to grow exponentially. Anypoint Platform provides a unified platform for connectivity that ensures security and adherence to best practice, while enabling rapid creation of new applications, including mobile, to meet new business demands.

According to Gartner, “Integration is an often-underestimated aspect of mobile application development projects. A notable portion of an overall mobile app project cost — as much as 70% in some cases — can be attributed to integrating the mobile app with established enterprise applications, services and data sources, whether on-premises or in the cloud.”

Business users regularly shift data between different software packages and mobile apps, and different platforms – iPhone App platform, Android App Platform, whatever is convenient. For example, if you are working on a presentation you might want to import graphs from your spreadsheet package, or create a summary using your accounting package, and include the results in your presentation. Conversely, if you are searching for a document, you might want the contents of your presentations and other documents to be available to your search utility.

If you want your business mobile app to attract interest from industry, one of the first questions you have to answer is – how do I get the data out of your app into package X? How do I import data into your app? Anything you can do to integrate your new business app with packages which are familiar to your target audience increases the acceptability of your new business mobile app – increases the chance that your target audience will see your app as an essential component of their software infrastructure.

Even games apps can benefit from interaction. In a lot of ways games are behind the curve when it comes to interaction – there’s growing recognition of the value of interacting with social media, such as Facebook, but the interaction has to date been in many ways quite shallow. Up until now games developers have been fiercely independent, and have attempted to build loyalty to their proprietary offering by keeping it proprietary and separate from other game universes.

But just imagine you could create a favourite character in say World of Warcraft, and import that character into the Lord of the Rings universe, or into say Second Life? How cool would that convergence be?

If you would like to learn more about the options for connecting your business iPhone App or business Android App to other systems, please Contact Me

Master of Mobile Applications Development

Master of App Development - An Exciting Career Option

Master of Mobile App Development – An Exciting Career Option

Interested in learning how to develop iPhone Apps and develop Android Apps?

Charles Sturt University has announced they are now offering a Master of Mobile Applications Development course, for people who are interested in a University level course teaching them everything they need to develop their own mobile apps.

According to the Press Release;

To meet surging demand for mobile applications developers Charles Sturt University has worked with industry to create the Master of Applications Development, a course devoted to the design and maintenance of mobile apps for the Apple IOS, Google Android and Microsoft platforms.

Since the introduction of the first iPhone in 2007 employment in the app development industry has increased rapidly: 9.4 percent of all IT jobs in Australia now relate to the development, maintenance or support of mobile platforms and this figure is expected to grow. A recent report by the Department of Employment predicted up to 50,000 new job openings for software and apps programmers over the next five years.

Students taking Charles Sturt’s Master of Applications Development course will learn how to use sophisticated development frameworks such as Xamarin, PhoneGap and Unity to build cross-platform mobile apps that fill a need in the market. They will also have the opportunity to create a mobile app that they can commercialise.

The new university course will offer the following subjects:

Core subjects

  • TC506 Topics in IT Ethics
  • ITC518 Principles of Programming using C#*
  • ITC539 Mobile Application Development PG
  • ITC571 Emerging Technologies and Innovation**
  • ITE508 Developing Web Applications
  • ITE528 Cross Platform App Development
  • ITE529 Cross Platform Game Development
  • MGI521 Professional Communications

Restricted Electives (Choose 4)

  • ITC504 Interface Useability
  • ITC508 Object Modelling
  • ITC561 Cloud Computing
  • ITE510 SharePoint Application Development
  • ITE517 Developing Applications for Windows Phone and Mobile Devices
  • ITE518 Agile Project Management
  • ITE523 Virtualization
  • MKT501 Marketing Management

What does this mean for the Mobile App Industry?

To me this is an exciting development. Most mobile app developers are self taught – they just picked up a book on iPhone App Development or Android App Development and started working through it. The fact there is sufficient demand that a major Australian university has decided to offer a specific course shows that the Mobile App Revolution has not even begun to fulfil its full potential. The opportunities are growing – and as with every business growth story, the advantage goes to people who move first, who stay ahead of the herd.

The other interesting feature of the course appears to be a heavy emphasis on Microsoft C# programming language. Although Microsoft has struggled to make inroads into the mobile market, which is currently dominated by Apple iPhone and Google Android, Microsoft are still very much in the game. Microsoft Corporation has a cash mountain, 10s of billions of dollars, available for investment. My guess is they are using some of that cash to encourage the deployment of Microsoft centric mobile app development courses, in the hope of stimulating interest in the Microsoft mobile platform.

If you would like to know more about mobile app development, or perhaps you are attending a mobile app course, and would like some mobile app course tuition, Contact me now.

Claim: Queensland needs a “Silicon Reef”

Palmer United - Raising the stakes in the Australian High Tech Debate

Palmer United – Raising the stakes in the Australian High Tech Debate

The Palmer United Party has upped the stakes in the Queensland State Election, by claiming that the state government should be doing more to “embrace” innovation and startup companies, to help improve the Queensland economy.

According to Startupsmart:

Alan Birrell, who is running for the seat of Townsville, told StartupSmart the LNP’s vision of a four-pillar economy based on agriculture, construction, resources and tourism was missing a crucial fifth pillar: technology.

“We need to add a fifth dimension to our economy and from an innovation base we can put money in the right places and give it to the right people with the right ideas which helps create jobs,” he says.

“I don’t think it’s an easy task, but it is a worthwhile task.”

Birrell says Queensland’s Parliament could do with more entrepreneurial thinkers instead of politicians with a strict ideological view.

“We have far too many politicians who are professional politicians and hence they are very willing to toe the party line rather than be out there with original ideas and concepts,” he says.

As principle of a startup, I’m a little wary of governments intervening too heavily in the market. I don’t have time to navigate the thickets of red tape, to secure a government handout – as Britain has discovered, too much well meaning targeted intervention tends to fill the pockets of organisations which are focussed on milking the system, rather than creating real value.

As The Register reports;

Silicon Roundabout is, essentially, a prank on the media. Let’s see who’s involved. You’ve got what I call faux capitalists – people who want to be thought of as capitalists but are terrified of risk and don’t back ambitious high-risk ventures. You’ve got entrepreneurs who can’t run a business. And you’ve got programmers who can’t program. All looking for each other. Then there’s a vast army of hangers-on: mentors, facilitators. And they all socialise endlessly, instead of doing any work. The socialising is work.

This does not create wealth.

As soon as we start to “un-fetishise” this myth of two guys in a garage, and start to think more seriously about, say, payment platforms or credit systems that make buying stuff nice and easy, as easy as real life, then we’ll create markets. You won’t get this from Shoreditch.

The measures which would really help in my opinion are cost reductions. The great thing about reducing costs is you don’t have to do any bureaucrat chasing to secure the benefit, you just have to get your head down and run your business.

For example, Tax is high in Australia, compared to other Asian startup centres such as Hong Kong and Singapore. This puts startups in Australia at a critical disadvantage during the early years, when they aren’t really making much money, but are paying what they make to the government.

The high cost of Electricity is an issue (Australia has one of the highest electricity rates in the Western World) if you are running a lot of high tech electronic equipment – especially if you also need to run an air conditioner, to keep it all from overheating.

The high cost of fuel is also a critical issue. While fuel has come down in price recently, a substantial cut to government taxes on fuel would make a significant difference to business activity. Even in this high tech age, I spend a lot of my time driving to conferences to network and meet potential clients.

It remains to be seen whether anything concrete will come of well meaning by often misguided attempts to create a better environment for startups and innovators – but at least politicians are thinking about it, and appear to recognise that fostering business is a priority for kickstarting domestic economic growth.

Mobile App Revenue Model – Paid or Advertised?

The rise of App Advertising Revenue

The rise of Mobile App Advertising Revenue

Business Insider Australia has published a story about the rise of mobile app install advertisements, popup advertisements which encourage users to install other mobile apps.

According to Business Insider Australia, install advertisements are popular because it is easy to calculate the return on investment.

New and exclusive data from BI Intelligence finds that US mobile app-install ad revenue will top $US4.6 billion this year and grow to $US6.8 billion by the end of 2019, increasing by a compound annual growth rate of 14% from 2014. We believe mobile app install ads accounted for about 30% of mobile ad revenue last year.

The published revenue figures conclusively demonstrate that advertising is a serious option for monetising mobile apps, especially mobile app install advertisements.

Free apps definitely get more installs – convincing someone to click a button is much easier than convincing someone to spend some cash.

Both models have their advantages – for example, if your target audience is a specialist market, if your mobile app will be very useful to a small number of people, then it makes more sense to charge and upfront fee for your mobile app – generating revenue from advertising requires a large audience.

However, if your target audience is the general public, especially if you are competing with free mobile apps, there is a strong case for adopting an advertising model. It is difficult to convince people to pay for your iPhone app or Android app, if a competitor offers a very similar service for free, even if your app provides more features.

Then of course there is the Freemium model – a free app with optional feature upgrades which can be purchased. My advice, if you are building a Freemium mobile app, is make sure the user can perform all the basic functions of the app without paying. If you give users the impression you are being “greedy”, by asking for money every time they click a button, this can be a major turnoff, and can lead to users leaving negative reviews in App Store or Google Play Store.

If you would like to discuss the monetisation options for an iPhone app or Android App which you are developing, please Contact me for more information.

iOS App Development – More Revenue than Hollywood

Apps vs Holly - the rapid growth of mobile app development.

iOS App Development vs Hollywood – the rapid growth of mobile app development.

Last year, software development – iOS app development – generated 14.3 billion dollars, more revenue than Hollywood.

According to ReadWrite:

As analyst Horace Dediu pointed out on his Asymco blog, iOS apps drew in more bucks last year than the movie business. Earlier this month, Apple announced iPhone and iPad developers raked in as much as $10 billion in 2014. Tack on the 30% or so that Apple itself made on top, and the roughly $14.3 billion exceeds the $10 billion or so Hollywood made at the U.S. box office.

Its not just the numbers which are astounding, its the meteoric pace at which mobile app development has overtaken the movie business which has shocked observers. As the graph above shows, just 2 years ago the app business was half the size of today. The rapid growth trend shows no sign of slowing down.

The interesting question in my mind is – just how long will Hollywood stay in the movie business, given that the skills required for mobile app development and movie production overlap in so many ways?

Will we see a slow “brain drain”, as the best Hollywood film engineers are tempted by the fabulous rewards of mobile app development? Or will we see a great convergence, as Hollywood and mobile app developers join forces to ensure that every movie has an app, or apps become more movie like? Or movies become more app like?

What is clear is there is still potential to make a lot of money developing Android apps and developing iPhone apps. And, just as it is in Hollywood, its not always the big production houses which take the prize – there is plenty of room for newcomers to make their mark, and cash in on the multi-billion dollar mobile app development market.

Police Concerns – Google Mobile App for Drivers

Police ahead! - Waze Mobile App Display

Police ahead! – Waze App Display

US Sheriffs are campaigning for Google to switch off a feature of their Android app for drivers, which displays the location of police officers on their driving map.

According to The Guardian:

Waze, which Google purchased for $966m in 2013, is a combination of GPS navigation and social networking. Fifty million users in 200 countries turn to the free service for real-time traffic guidance and warnings about nearby congestion, car accidents, speed traps or traffic cameras, construction zones, potholes, stalled vehicles or unsafe weather conditions.

To Sergio Kopelev, a reserve deputy sheriff in southern California, Waze is also a stalking app for law enforcement.

There are no known connections between any attack on police and Waze, but law enforcers such as Kopelev are concerned it’s only a matter of time. They are seeking support among other law enforcement trade groups to pressure Google to disable the police-reporting function. The emerging policy debate places Google again at the center of an ongoing global debate about public safety, consumer rights and privacy.

Waze users mark police presence on maps without much distinction other than “visible” or “hidden”. Users see a police icon, but it’s not immediately clear whether police are there for a speed trap, a sobriety check or a lunch break. The police generally are operating in public spaces.

The Waze mobile app controversy highlights the radical impact mobile apps are having on our lives. Avoiding speed cameras is obviously a very attractive feature for drivers – if nothing else, it helps highlight dangerous stretches of road where they should pay particular care, assuming that speed cameras have been installed with a view to improving public safety. But as the recent deliberate murder of police officers demonstrates, an app which potentially assists deranged individuals to perpetrate crimes is obviously a serious concern.

I don’t know what the right tradeoff is between liberty and safety, though I tend towards the liberty side of the debate. Regardless of police concerns, the threat they have highlighted is hypothetical. There is no evidence anyone has actually used Waze to facilitate a violent crime.

One thing is clear – the original creators of the Waze Android App made 966 million dollars. At the time the app was purchased by Google, nobody had any concerns about possible malicious use of Waze Mobile App features.

In my opinion, the lesson is, if you are evaluating what features to include in your app, do what due diligence you can, with the information available – but nobody can predict every possibility.

Shapr raises $3 million for Business Mobile App

Shapr app

Sharp announces it has raised $3 million of investor finance

New York / Paris based startup Shapr has raised $3 million funding to help them develop a new business networking mobile app. They plan to build both iPhone App and Android app versions of their product.

According to Techcrunch;

… the idea for Shapr came to him [Ludovic Huraux] early last year because, as an entrepreneur, he loved to get connected with other people. “I was frustrated because now, [getting connected with others] is very random,” he says. Meanwhile, on LinkedIn, users are often connected to a number of people, some of whom they don’t know that well or haven’t kept up with in years, making it more difficult for online introductions to work as well as those that take place in the real world.

Although Shapr currently bases their service on the LinkedIn social network, Shapr extends LinkedIn functionality, by allowing users to select up to 50 contacts with whom they have a close connection. The idea is to provide an enhanced version of LinkedIn contacts, by encouraging mobile app users to select people with whom they have maintained strong connections, rather than just providing links to everyone in their network, with no qualification based on how up to date that link might be.

Shapr also sees one of their strengths as being mobile centric – designed from the ground up as a mobile app, rather than being retrofitted to iPhone App and Android App platforms after initially being developed as a desktop system.

… unlike business networking giant LinkedIn, Shapr’s software is mobile-first, with apps for both iOS and Android devices that allow users to select a subset of their contacts who they really know and endorse, and then share those contacts with others in their network.

The Shapr announcement is firm evidence that there is ongoing strong investor interest in networking apps. While it might seem sometimes that billion dollar companies like Facebook own the world, the truth is all social networking businesses are one innovation away from losing their crown to an ambitious newcomer.

If you have an idea for a networking app, or would like some help preparing a proposal to attract investor support for your mobile app idea, please contact me now.

How to hire a mobile app developer

How to hire a developer to build an app for your small business

How to hire a developer to build an app for your small business

Lifehacker has published a great article about how to hire a mobile app developer, and how and when you should do so.

The two most important points they make, in my opinion:

Australians are in love with mobile phones and mobile apps. In that context, it can seem like developing a mobile app for your business is an essential step. With online sales in Australia topping $246 billion in 2012-2013 (according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics) and more than 76 per cent of Australians accessing online services via their mobile phone (according to the Australian Communications and Media Authority), some sort of mobile strategy seems essential. However, careful planning is required to make sure you can get value from your investment.

A slice of a $246 billion dollar pie is an attractive proposition – but maximising your return on investment on an app, as with any endeavour, requires careful planning and preparation.

Make sure you really need (and can afford) an app

Make sure you can answer the most basic question: Why does my business need a mobile app? If the only answer is “Because I think it would be cool”, that’s not sufficient justification. If the main answer is “because everyone else is building one”, you also need to think carefully. While it’s true that if everyone else in your sector has an app and you don’t you might look sluggish, it’s also true that there may be more effective ways of differentiating yourself from rivals.

My most successful clients know exactly why they want an app, have a clear idea of what they want to achieve, and they know how they plan to market their app.

I cannot overemphasise the importance of having a marketing plan. Very occasionally, an app will shoot up the charts with no marketing whatsoever, but this is rare. Even legendary apps like Angry Birds got their start through vigorous marketing.

I strongly recommend if you are thinking of commissioning an iPhone app or Android App that you read the Lifehacker article. Once you have read the Lifehacker article, contact me if you have any questions, or would like to discuss your mobile app requirements.

Unrealistic Boobs – a mobile app animation failure

The Guardian has a fascinating writeup of the way mobile app and desktop app games developers neglect the boobs of animated characters. We’ve all heard the Lara Croft story – how an accidental slip of the mouse created a female hero of truly heroic frontal proportions. But its one thing to give your female character a generous endowment – its quite another to make their endowment behave in a lifelike manner.

Consider the following:

I mean, you can see what the mobile game developer *attempted* to do – but its not really working, is it? The boobs bounce around quite independently of the movement of the character, making them look like they are demonically possessed.

The article is well worth a read, it has other examples of hilarious slip-ups in the boob animation department. Its certainly an eye opener, and a cautionary tale when it comes to your own animation content.