March 1, 2013
It is well known that the sale of mobile devices has exceeded the sale of desktop computers and laptops for a few years running. Add to that the declining cost of mobile devices, which results in greater accessibility for the consumer.
These two facts have not only led to the current high number of sales for mobile applications, but also directly leads to the growing need for app development.
According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), there will be 76.9 billion global downloads of mobile apps by next year at a value of $35 billion, according to sourced mobiThinking.
As a point of reference, 300,000-plus mobile apps were downloaded 10.9 billion times in 2010. With the continued high demand for mobile apps, marketers, retailers and developers in 2013 will be faced with many challenges and opportunities, mostly associated with new devices or new versions of existing devices.
All about size
It is likely we will continue to see mobile phone manufactures increase the diagonal size of their phones.
As a result, developers will need to adapt existing apps to fit the new screen sizes, while addressing optimum performance within the new format.
The good news is that these larger screens are becoming more informative, which translates into less clicks or touches from the consumer to access their apps and, therefore, less tweaks needed by developers.
Rise of new platforms
An important event in the world of mobile app development was the recent Windows Surface launch.
This is a significant step towards the adaptation of desktop apps for mobile operating systems, both in terms of the availability of the tablet as a full desktop operating system and the ability to use a desktop operating system for devices with a touchscreen.
The main challenge with this device is that there are two versions of the operating system: Microsoft Surface Pro and Windows RT Microsoft Surface. With two operating systems, two more versions of any given app must be developed.
Speaking in HTML5
In terms of new technology, the introductions of Mobile HTML5 and Near Field Communication (NFC) are the most important developments for the mobile app industry.
Becoming popular after the “death” of Microsoft Silverlight, Mobile HTML5 has gained ground in numerous ways.
Most devices already support Mobile HTML5, there are no significant competitors since the abolition of Silverlight, and the high level of performance from current mobile devices allows for taking full advantage of this language.
HTML5 is also the most obvious way to create a universal app that supports various mobile operating systems.
This is not to say “native” apps will disappear, as they are a mainstay of connecting users to a particular mobile platform. Despite this fact, understanding HTML5 is a must for mobile app developers.
NFC is a relatively new word in the world of mobile devices that refers to the ability to exchange data between devices at a distance of approximately four inches.
Current leading mobile OS Android devices, such as the Samsung Galaxy S III and Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD, already have the NFC-chip built-in and the next generation of Apple’s iPhone may likely include the chip.
The quick deployment of NFC technology means new opportunities for mobile interaction with various other devices and, as a result, the emergence of new and improved services, such as one-time ticket authorization and faster bar code/QR code recognition.
With these advancements, developers will have new challenges with existing payment systems and creating separate niche-oriented apps for miscellaneous services and goods.
In addition, this technology can be used in services and devices for personal identification by the owner of the mobile device and, therefore, involves the development of customized apps for data services.
Currently, there is no protection from a third party in the implementation of NFC standards, which means a careful approach to security must be taken with measures such as the use of cryptographic algorithms. This implies an increase in the time and effort for app development.
New Year, new devices
In 2013, we will probably see two new devices that will present a number of challenges to mobile app developers.
The first one, Project Glass from Google, introduces augmented reality glasses that display data through a Bluetooth connection with the mobile device.
This again presents the need to reformat apps to work with a new size and technology. It also means there will need to be many more apps created, from navigation to displaying text messages.
Also, apps will need to be developed with a sense for the limitations of Bluetooth technology, most specifically minimizing traffic because of the low data exchange rate.
The second new device is the long awaited Ubuntu Phone.
With this new OS, the challenges for developers are obvious: a new market segment of mobile devices and a new operating system.
There will be opportunities to use existing technologies for developing Ubuntu apps because the whole idea of Ubuntu – to create a mobile operating system – will not be completely separated from the desktop version, but will be an extension of it.
What is all the hype?
Gartner’s Hype Cycle neatly represents the maturity and adoption of apps and technologies.
Among those noted in 2012 are HTML5 and NFC. Both surrounding the peak of inflated expectations, it is still unsure how far these technologies will progress over the next five to 10 years.
Will the other technologies noted provide the most feasible and efficient methods of adapting and creating mobile apps? Only time, and successful apps, will tell.