Should you create mobile apps for multiple platforms?

Should you create mobile apps for multiple platforms?

Mobile app platformsWouldn’t it be nice if you could write some code (HTML5, Python, Ruby, etc.), send it off to application stratosphere, and have your app work magically across all platforms? That’d be great. Unfortunately, however, that’s not how the mobile world goes round. And the question I posed in the title, should you create mobile apps for multiple platforms, is less relevant than how it can be done.

One of the greatest obstacles for developing mobile apps is simply the amount of smartphones on the market; Android, iOS, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, etc. – all with different platforms and different app requirements. While the iPhone app store may be the most robust, Android is not far behind. Not to mention what happens when you throw tablets into the mix. When I first got by iPad, I downloaded my iPhone games only to find that I was looking at an iPhone sized screen on an iPad…less than ideal!

There are a couple different approaches that are currently accepted while the little elves work on their “magic-all-device-inclusive-app-creator” (I’m guessing the elves live in Silicon Valley and are working with HTML5).

  1. Provide a “driver” for each phone that provides access to scripting languages like JavaScript, Ruby and Python. This allows the developer to write a app script once in the desired language (along with HTML and CSS) and run it on all phones that have the “driver”.
  2. Write the app in one language and have it “translated” to the languages supported by other mobile devices. A tool would then take care of translating the app while the developer would cross his fingers that not too many bugs will arise in the process.

The Pros and Cons

There are pros and cons to both options that I listed above. The main advantages are obviously speed to market and easier app maintenance. In addition, you can ensure a uniform look and feel across devices, support for a flexible layout and use of known technologies.

The main disadvantage, besides not yet supporting all platforms, is that you are restricted by what the driver or translator can handle. There is an added issue of performance (as I hinted above in point 2) that the code will likely not be optimized for every phone it’s translated to harming the users experience.

So to answer my question, should you create mobile apps for multiple platforms? Absolutely. How? That’s up to you, at least as long as our little HTML5 elves are still cooped up in their workshop.

iPhone vs Android: The Ultimate Smack Down

iPhone vs Android: The Ultimate Smack Down

iPhone VS AndroidYou want your business to go mobile. You want to create an app that will be found on smartphones across the planet (or at least in the pockets of all your clients). To keep up with the speed of business these days, it’s not really a question of if you should release a mobile app but rather when. So now that you’re ready to take the plunge you need to decide: iPhone or Android. And so without further ado, here is the WWE Smack Down of Smart Phones!

Why go Android?

Did you know that Android actually has a bigger market share than iPhones? True story. And when it comes to hardware, the iPhone just can’t compete. Apple is the only company producing iOS. Android, alternatively, is being manufactured by major firms such as Samsung, LG, and Motorola. That basically means that software and hardware choices and upgrades are a dime a dozen with Android devices.  Apple only has the iPhone and, let’s be honest, it’s usually jail-broken anyways!

Another big plus for the Android is the screen. It’s not limited to the iPhone’s 4-inch screen. And let’s not forget Google’s plethora of built-in apps that we’ve all come to know and love (Google Maps, Google Earth, Gmail, etc.).

The Android battery probably won’t score a TKO but neither will the iPhone’s so it’s hardly a key factor in your decision.

Why choose the iPhone?

While the Android market hosts about 800,000 apps, Apple have already passed the 1 million mark in their app store! And as Apple is pretty strict with their app guidelines, you can also expect higher quality and standards from iOS apps.

And I know that I said Android comes with the advantage of multiple manufacturers but this also works in the iPhone’s favor. Once iOS has been updated, you will be prompted for further releases and be guaranteed the most up-to-date operating system. Android developers alternatively are not always in a rush to stay updated with Google’s latest operating system.

When it comes to games, iPhone takes the cake (and eats it too). It really is the “Ultimate Gaming Device”!

Who Wins the Smack Down?

That really depends on you. There are major pluses with both Android and iPhone. If you’re app is entertainment oriented, the iPhone may be the best choice. If you’re looking to create something that enables productivity, perhaps Android is the way to go. Do you have tons of money and/or resources? Make both!

5 Ways to Generate Revenue from your Mobile App

5 Ways to Generate Revenue from your Mobile App

generate revenueWhen I first entered the world of mobile applications, my biggest question was how these companies can make money from a free app. Where does the revenue come from? I’ve learned a lot since then and decided to help others who were like me at the beginning and couldn’t answer this question. So without further ado, here are 5 Ways to Generate Revenue from your Mobile App.

Offer a Freemium

Often, companies will offer two versions of the same app, free (lite) and premium. The lite version of the app will have just enough to hook the user but will leave out some key features. Essentially, you draw in the user with a free app and then prompt him/her to purchase the premium version in order to take advantage of key functionalities.

In-App Upgrades

This concept is most often embraced by game apps. You can download the game for free but have the option to purchase features within to enhance the gaming experience. Zynga’s popular game Words with Friends has embraced this concept by charging to remove ads or to use features to count the remaining tiles.

Enable eCommerce

Give users a platform to purchase things they want. That’s not to say you have to open up a whole store for this purpose. Take a page from apps like Amazon or Ebay. These are free apps that enable transactions to drive revenue. There is currently a trend for free apps that offer a core utility of driving revenue through eCommerce.

Build a Base

This option takes more time and effort but certainly pays off. Some companies nurture a growing base of loyal app users with free apps with the long term goal of monetizing that base with other paid apps, content, or commerce down the line. This route only works, however, if you have a consistent brand and happy users.

Ad Revenue

This is the most obvious method of generating revenue. You can define revenues based on the click-through rate (CTR) or number of impressions (Cost per Million – CPM). Ad companies such as AdWhirl even claim that you can make between $400 and $5000 per day. Just make sure that the ads are not so obnoxious that they harm the user experience and scare off your users.

How to Successfully Outsource Mobile App Development

How to Successfully Outsource Mobile App Development

Outsourcing mobile app developmentIn my previous blog, I talked about the pros and cons of in-house app development vs outsourcing. So, say you’ve opted to outsource. You like that it’s cheaper and doesn’t require you to give up your best developers for the job. Now, the only question is how to outsource the development successfully so that you get what you want at a price that fits.

So without further ado, here are the 3 tips I can offer to guarantee successful outsourcing of your mobile app.

  • Selecting the right mobile app developer

Likely, your decision to outsource development stemmed from a need to reduce costs. Just remember, you get what you pay for! That’s not to say you have to go with the most expensive bid, but you should also be wary of the cheapest bid. To help figure out how much you should be budgeting for this task, try this simple equation.

(Selling price  X  Expected number of downloads)  +  download revenues  =  break even dev cost

Choose a developer that can do a quality job at the right price.

  • Provide clear specifications

You lose some control by outsourcing so it’s crucial to be as precise as possible. The developer will do exactly what is asked so make sure you fully understand the scope of the project you’re outsourcing. Simply put, make sure the developer can answer the following questions:

  1. What is your app supposed to do?
  2. What is your app supposed to look like?
  3. Who are the target audience?

The clearer your specifications, the less likely you’ll be to spend extra money on reiterations.

  • Don’t forget the NDA

Sign a non-disclosure agreement with your developer to ensure your app remains confidential and secure. All developers working on your project should sign on the dotted line.

Have you outsourced mobile app development? What has your experience been? Let us know in the comment section below!

Mobile App Development – Outsource or In-House?

Mobile App Development – Outsource or In-House?Mobile App Development – Outsource or In-House?

Outsourcing vs In-House SolutionsMobile technology has advanced leaps and bounds since its inception. I got my first mobile phone at the age of 16 and its app abilities were limited to an alarm clock and the ever-popular snake game. I spent hours playing that game! Now app stores are overflowing with applications to boost productivity, keep you socially connected, and give you games to soak up any spare time.

While many of the apps on my phone are for personal use, I have a basic expectation from companies that provide professional services. I’ll think twice before creating an account at a bank that hasn’t gone mobile yet. If I want to monitor the success of a marketing campaign or post a blog, I want to be able to do all of this from my mobile phone while I’m running to a meeting. What’s my point with all this? Basically, it’s that I’m not alone. If businesses want to keep up with their clients, they must go mobile!

So now that you’ve opted to go mobile, you need to decide if you’ll develop the app in-house or outsource. To help you make that decision, I’ve highlighted the pros and cons of each option with the help of the folks over at appschopper.com and DMI.

Advantages of in-house app development

  • Transparent control over the development process
  • Choice of developers that know what you want at an agreeable cost
  • Full control over the project
  • Options over technologies used

Disadvantages of in-house app development

  • High starting costs to establish infrastructure
  • Excessive fees in order to obtain all necessary licenses and certificates for software, tools, and code
  • Additional cost of bringing in external consultants if developers get stuck

Advantages of Outsourcing

  • Reduced time-to-market as resources can start instantly
  • Fixed cost for specific scope and delivery reduces risk
  • Specialized mobile developers leverage experience and resources
  • Frees company to focus on core business objectives

Disadvantages of Outsourcing

  • Loss of control and intellectual capital over services
  • Dependency on another company for something that could be core to your business
  • Small changes become more expensive and complicated
  • Increase in cost per hour

While only you can decide what is best for your organization, I hope that this article helped shed some light on how to make this important decision.

How Much Does it Cost to Develop a Mobile App?

How Much Does it Cost to Develop a Mobile App?

app costI love this question. It’s somewhat akin to walking into a realtor’s office and asking, ‘how much does it cost to buy a house?’ or visiting a car dealership and inquiring about the cost of a car. Where do you want to buy a house? How many bedrooms? Do you want the luxury SUV or a little sports car? There are some approximate guidelines but the answer to this question is not as clean cut as the question requests. There are just too many variables.

To learn more about mobilizing enterprise applications download our whitepaper here

According to a guest blog on TechCrunch by former CEO of AppVee and AndroidApps, Alex Ahlund, a survey of 96 mobile app developers found that the average cost to develop an app was $6,453.  Another article reports that developing a “small app” can cost $3000 – $8000. More complex apps can cost anywhere from $50,000 to $150,000!

I’m guessing that you are clearing your throat right now to swallow the thought of such an expense. It is a lot of money but let’s break it down. The average app developer in the US charges around $100 an hour. The more complex the app, the more time required to create it which means a higher bill at the end of the day. When you’re developer shopping, you should have a good idea of what you want to create. This may seem like a given but I’ll spell it out just in case. If you want your app to stand apart from the other 500,000 in the app store, you’ll have to consider:

  • Integration with a back-end database
  • Development on multiple platforms (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry)
  • Design and animation
  • Versions (free, paid, something in between)

Do you have an app idea and want to know how much it will cost? Contact the Astegic team to find out what is involved in bringing your idea to life.

To learn more about mobilizing enterprise applications download our whitepaper here

Mobile Applications: The Future of Enterprise

Mobile Applications: The Future of EnterpriseMobile Applications: The Future of Enterprise

enterprise-mobilityDid you know that one in every five phones sold is a smartphone? Sales of smartphones, tablets, and e-readers are rising all the time and have actually passed that of laptops, notebooks, and desktop computers. The world has gone mobile and enterprises are following suit.

It has been reported that 60 billion mobile apps were downloaded in 2012 and this number is expected to increase exponentially with the ever-growing popularity of smartphones and tablets. That being said, decision makers are seeing that these apps can increase productivity, reduce paperwork, and increase revenues in ways that a desktop computer simply can’t. Long story short, it’s time for the enterprise to go mobile!

According to this infographic, companies are adopting and consuming mobile technologies more and more each year. A survey by GigaOm Pro reported that 30% of businesses are using phones more than in the previous year. 43% of business report plans to incorporate more mobile technologies in the future. Let’s take a look at some statistics.

  • Half the devices on corporate networks will be mobile devices by 2015
  • 34% of workers use smartphones for work at least weekly
  • The North American market for mobile office applications is expected to surge to $6.85B in 2015, up from $1.76B in 2010.
  • 60% of employees in the US said data services are more important than voice plans when deploying cellular phones for business use.

reasons_for_using_mobile_appsThat’s all well and good but the bottom line for business is what really matters. Why should an enterprise introduce mobile apps? Businesses that choose to incorporate mobile apps into their operations aim to accomplish several goals but most importantly are productivity and revenue.

Paul Hamerman, in this article from computer weekly, explains perfectly how business apps can enrich business processes in the enterprise. He says:

“With mobile technology drawing so much attention today, the question facing business process professionals is less about where we are today with mobile business applications but rather where we are going. In addition to extending enterprise applications to mobile devices, applications will evolve to encompass end-to-end business processes (for example, procure to pay, talent management and sales to delivery) and a broad range of business users.”

5 Tips for Developing a Mobile App

5 Tips for Developing a Mobile App5 Tips for Developing a Mobile App

Mobile AppsMobile devices are everywhere. As I look around the room right now I see 2 iPads, an iPhone, a Microsoft HTC and a Samsung…and that’s just for 2 people! We’re addicted to our mobile devices and the apps on every device have, for many, become a primary means of consuming information, playing games, and increasing productivity.

While these apps are very popular, from a developer’s standpoint, there are some inherent problems. Not all devices are created the same and there are some basic guidelines you should follow in order to create mobile apps that work! In this article, we’ve highlighted the 5 points you need to keep in mind when developing a mobile app.

1. Solve a problem

Functionality matters. Whether your app saves time or money, entertains or informs, make sure you are offering something that benefits the user. Perhaps even more important, however, is that you need to create something that hasn’t been seen before.

2. Don’t go feature crazy

It’s easy to get caught up in the momentum of ideas but that’s not always the best for your app. Focus on one thing but do it best. Your app should solve one clear problem. Too many features can just muddle the end product and confuse the potential user.

3. Market, Market, Market!

Just because you get a slot in the coveted app store does not mean you will be immediately overwhelmed with downloads. If you want people to discover your app, you will have to invest in promotion to get the word out.

4. Push Notifications

Notifications aren’t always appropriate but when they are, you should certainly take advantage. Push notifications remind the user of your app and bring them back again and again.

5. Don’t force the mobile version

When a user tries to visit your website on a mobile device, don’t force them into a mobile version. Give users the option to view either version but don’t limit yourself to just one. Screens are getting bigger everyday so a limited mobile version is no longer as necessary as it used to be.

Why should you listen to us? Astegic is the leading provider of custom mobile application development, and consulting services. We have mastered this domain and have extensive experience in developing custom mobile applications for Android, iOS, Windows and Blackberry. Our team brings together deep product design experience, technology expertise and a passion for building world-class mobile apps. That’s why you should listen to us!

Native vs. HTML5 – looked at objectively, the debate is over

Native vs. HTML5 – looked at objectively, the debate is over

Posted by Jonathan Rende on Fri, Apr 12, 2013 @ 04:45 PM

Almost a year ago I wrote a white paper about Native versus HTML5 mobile app development, asking ‘Which option is best?’

Even then, the answer was pretty obvious: look at the question objectively, using a set of clear comparisons, and HTML5 is crushed by native development, even though HTML5 wins on a few points.

Strangely, though, the debate rages on. Just this month, ReadWrite’s Brian S. Hall felt the need to discuss “The Facebook Phone & The Triumph Of Native Apps Over HTML5” as if the issue had yet to be settled.

You could argue that triumph was already clear last August, when Facebook itself abandoned HTML5 for its rebuilt native iOS app. But bloggers and consultants continue debating the question, and customers still ask me about which way they should go.

Why are we still having this debate? My take is that it’s like a religious war, where people aren’t really interested in debating the actual facts. If you do take a serious, evidence-based look at the data that’s available, though, it’s not hard to settle the issue once and for all.

The power of numbers  

A good place to start is with app growth. A recent round up in Information Week  counted 775,000 apps now available in Apple’s App Store and roughly the same number in Google’s Play Store. Add the 135,000 claimed by Microsoft and Blackberry’s 100,000, and you get 1,785,000 native apps in the marketplace.

It’s harder to quantify how many HTML apps are out there. But in a 2012 Appcelerator survey of 3,600+ developers working in both the native and HTML5 space, we found that developers were actively writing roughly 6% of their applications in HTML5. Even if you assume that HTML development has always been as popular as native and then double that figure for a wide margin of error, the total number of HTML5 apps now available still would only just clear 200,000.

Shear volume is on the side of native solutions, then, and I’ve seen no evidence to suggest that that’s shifting. App downloads, meanwhile grew 11% in Q1 2013 over Q4 2012.

 

Nine points of comparison 

But there are plenty of other ways in which native- and HTML-developed apps get compared. In my research, I’ve found nine of points of comparison where it’s possible to make objective calls as to which is superior:

1) Rich user experience (native wins)

85% of mobile professionals in a March, 2013 Compuware survey preferred mobile apps over mobile websites. One of the main reasons was the richer experience users get with native apps. Features like VR, NFC, and passport simply aren’t available in HTML. Where HTML has 30-50 native device capabilities open to it, native developers have access to 6,000-7,000.

2) Performance (native wins)

When it comes to both loading and rendering, whether you have good, weak, or terrible internet access, native is always faster. Click on a calendar event in a native app, for example, and it opens instantly. The time it takes to do the same in an HTML app typically drives people nuts.

3) Monetization for developers (native wins)

Recent numbers from Canalys report that native app developers’ combined income in Q1 2013 was $2.2 billion. In contrast, the monetization available to developers building HTML5 apps is essentially zero. It’s pretty obvious, then, that financially ambitious app owners need a massive incentive to move out of the app store fold.

4) Cross platform development costs (HTML wins, but by less than you’d think)

This is usually seen as a big point in HTML’s favor. The line is that you ‘write once, run anywhere,’ and that’s true, but only up to a point. You certainly have to factor in costs for going native for multiple OSs, although solutions like Appcelerator will help reduce those costs significantly. But they are not zero with HTML5, either, thanks to the next point of comparison: fragmentation.

5) Fragmentation challenges (a wash)

If it’s a challenge to develop apps for multiple platforms (and for different versions of those platforms), even with Appcelerator’s help, it’s not the case that developers writing for the mobile web are writing simply for one HTML5. There are at least 15 mobile browsers in existence, each available in different versions and each supporting different levels of HTML. So there’s a fragmentation challenge with both. On this measure, the two are pretty much a wash.

6) Availability of programming expertise (HTML wins)

There’s no debate here. There are millions of HTML developers out there who will look at HTML5 and say, ‘eureka, I can now develop mobile apps.’ Objective-C, meanwhile, and to some degree Java, are much harder to learn, and people who know them are harder to find and cost more to hire. Again, solutions like Appcelerator’s address this by using JavaScript, a language that pretty much every web developer knows well, but the overall comparison still favors HTML5.

7) Immediate updates & distribution control (HTML wins)

Mobile is all about constantly innovating. Because they don’t sit on the device, HTML5 apps can be instantly updated. In contrast, having to go an app store for an update remains a barrier to offering the best, most up-to-date experience. A win, then, for HTML.

8) Timely access to new OS innovations (native wins big)

Apple and Google offer, on average, 1-3 updates a year that offer major new capabilities. When they are making so much money from their app businesses (see #3 above), they have every incentive to coral those new capabilities within their native OSs and zero incentive to offer them in HTML. Meanwhile, it takes years for the HTML consortium to ratify new standards. At the rate at which device manufacturers are innovating, there’s no way that the HTML consortium can move swiftly enough to compete.

9) Security (native wins big)

People are increasingly worried about security, especially as mobile moves ever further into the enterprise and, frankly, there is no way that anyone could say that HTML is more secure than a native app. Native clearly wins thanks to:

– the security of the source code of itself; browser source code is open for all to see, and to then work around.

– the security of data at rest on the device; on a native app, it’s completely secure. In HTML, the browser is typically not secure and as a result exposes the data it’s accessing within its caches.

– the security of data in transit; when using HTML, you are pretty much restricted to using SSL. VPNs are just too slow. With native apps, you can also run VPNs and other encrypted solutions, without ruining performance.

– URL security vulnerabilities; these are unique to web applications and beloved by hackers. Native apps simply don’t have them, so hackers can’t get into native apps in the same way.

From my perspective, that last set of comparisons are the final nail in the HTML5 coffin. It’s clear that from a security perspective, native is the only way to go.

Overall, it’s a strong 5 to 3 win for native development, with one comparison a wash. The icing on the cake is the shear number of native apps now out there and the low current developer interest in building on HTML5.

Looked at objectively, then, the world has already spoken on native versus HTML5, and it’s bizarre that some people seem to be confused about this still.

At Appcelerator we continue to support developers however they want to build their apps and we believe that HTML will continue to have value in niche areas. But we also believe that success and innovation is built on a solid grasp of the facts; and here they indicate a strong advantage for native development, and have done for a while.

Given the evidence, it makes you wonder: why are we even debating this any more?

Jonathan Rende is the VP of Products at Appcelerator.

Who can unify my communications?

Who can unify my communications?

Posted by Perry Nalevka

As I start writing this blog post I find myself surrounded with devices – Smartphone, Tablet, laptop, TV and a desk phone.  This provides me with great flexibility in the way I can communicate and get my work done but I can’t help but notice that the user experience needs much improvement to allow a smoother transition between screens.

Vendors are doing a good job of making services available on multiple devices but need to spend more time and effort in the fine details. It’s great that when someone sends me a message I can receive it on all of my devices, but do I really have to see the notification in three different places AFTER I have read the message. Isn’t it a little strange when I’m chatting with someone on my iPad to receive the notifications about it on my laptop & smart phone? Shouldn’t it be easier to see all of your conversations with someone in one place.

The idea of unified communications has been around for a long time now, but it hasn’t kept up with the times. When all of the communications was clearly contained “inside the network” this was easier to control and manage but now that much of the communication is happening on top of the network and intelligence has moved into the client the problem got more complex.

It’s clearly time for some innovation here. In the short term vendors will need to respond by ensuring that their service is available in every device and through strategic partnerships and service integrations but ultimately there needs to be some true unification. The question is, will this come from one of the many software startups or will it be enabled in the network (and in which one). In short who will unify my communication?