Activation of The Physical Web

physicalwebSomething happened last week that should have got more press. Google started to rollout support for the Physical Web in the release version of Chrome. Up to now, the Physical Web has been a bit of sideline activity for Google. It was previously only available to those few people who took an interest and downloaded the beta version of Chrome, a standalone app or the the relatively few people using Chrome on iOS.

The Physical Web is similar to a QR codes in that it provides web addresses. Instead, the web address comes from a Bluetooth beacon that’s typically up to 50m away but this can reach up to 200m with some beacons. Chrome can now scan for these beacons and prompt the user, via notifications, whether they want to open the URL. What’s more, Google has said they will be prompting users to enable the Physical Web when they walk by a beacon for the first time. This should build awareness.

Some people are asking if we might be entering a post app World. I don’t think so. There are barriers to entry, the largest being you need Bluetooth and Location on in the first place. Even if it were to ignite the mass-market’s imagination, I am sure there will be group of people ready to spoil the party with spammy URLs and URLs leading to sites with malware. Also, Google is still rolling it out and it will be two weeks before we all have Physical Web enabled Chrome browsers. Meanwhile, there’s a workaround if you want to be an early adopter.

However, I do see a large potential for use of the Physical Web in more controlled situations where the user purposely enables and uses it in a proactive situation – much like using QR codes now but with much better ease of use. So, lots of places and things could become Physical Web enabled and users could actively choose to seek the URL for more information.

If you want to experiment with the Physical Web, BeaconZone, which I have an involvement in, currently has a choice of 16 Eddystone beacons.

Porting iOS to Android

Occasionally, I see patterns in enquiries for mobile development. At the moment there seems to be a significant increase in the number of companies looking to port apps from iOS to Android. I am not sure why. All I can think is that Android might have reached a tipping point where only having an iOS version of an app isn’t acceptable (to end users) any more.

Ironically, in the last few months my development efforts have been moving in the other direction. My last two projects were porting Android apps to iOS. However, this week I am back on Android and porting an app from iOS. Whatever way you look at it, it’s looking that mobile developers ideally need to be proficient in both platforms.

If you are looking to port from iOS to Android, my notes might help you to start thinking about the issues.

App Porting Tools

slashgearOccasionally companies pre-announce porting tools and I wonder how such tools will ever be possible. One such tool was MyAppConverter that I came across in late 2014 when I thought their aims were impressive and hugely ambitious. However, I didn’t think what they were trying to achieve was possible in a reasonable time and/or with a reasonable team size.

It was with this in mind as I read, via SlashGear, about Microsoft cancelling Astoria for Android, another over-ambitious porting tool. It seem like Microsoft finally realised the scope of what they promised and instead decided to focus on (buy) Xamarin that partially solves the problem from the ‘creation’ rather than ‘created’ end.

Re-visiting MyAppConverter, it appears they now only solve part of the problem and you have to ask them for a quote to manually convert the parts that can’t be automated. App converters are the silver bullet that doesn’t really exist.

Mobile Market Research

I continue to occasionally update my mobile market research site. Latest additions include…

  • Worldwide Smartphone Sales Grew 9.7 Percent in Fourth Quarter of 2015
  • One in Five Tablets Sold in 4Q15 Was a Detachable
  • Winners and Losers in the Global App Economy
  • Microsoft loses out in mobility as shipments fall 9% in 2015

Please visit the site for tables, charts and links.

Malware and Leaky Apps

nowsecureNowSecure has a useful new 2016 Mobile Security Report (pdf) based on their analysis of over 400,000 apps. They found that 24.7 percent of mobile apps include at least one high risk security flaw. 82 percent of Android devices are vulnerable to at least one of 25 OS flaws. iOS had the most vulnerabilities in 2015 at 375 that’s nearly three times more than Android, which had 130.

appsecurityissues

NowSecure conclude that leaky apps that store or transmit sensitive personal and corporate data in an insecure manner are of far greater concern than malware.

App Revenues to Increase… and Why it Probably Doesn’t Matter

GSMAThe GSMA is reporting that App Annie says “Global app store gross revenue will hit $51 billion this year and exceed $101 billion in 2020”. Revenue from the Play Store will exceed that from the iOS App Store by 2017.

I believe app developers shouldn’t get overly excited about revenue or projected changes in revenue. This only considers paid apps or apps offering in-app purchases. A very large slice of app development and return on investment (ROI) doesn’t come from people paying for apps but from free apps supporting paid products and services.

Messaging Replacing Apps?

Visionmobile has an interesting post Look Ma, No Apps, Just Messages where it’s said that there will be a move from apps to messaging. The “transition to a conversational paradigm” will be driven by Facebook.

I first read about this idea in UK Wired magazine but I am not so sure this will be the case. I see messaging apps are much like web (html) apps and notifications vs apps in that the limitations are such that they can’t be all things to all companies.

Take just one example. I have been on apps for iBeacons. How will these integrate? Will the messaging apps detect beacons? Probably not. However, assuming they will, where will the rules lie of what to trigger on and what to show? Facebook or some other messaging platform provider can’t extend this far to be flexible enough. This is just one such example. Think about GPS, SMS, using the phonebook, sharing data, branding and analytics. How will these be integrated in custom ways? Then there’s availability, security, data privacy and service longetivity. As someone recently said to me, “if you don’t own it, you don’t control it”.

I can’t yet see messaging platforms replacing apps even with Facebook pushing in that direction.

Winners and Losers in the Global App Economy

cariboudigitalCaribou Digital has new free research on the Winners and Losers in the Global App Economy (pdf). The report looks into who is making apps, who is making the money and in what markets by examining the top ranked apps across 37 national markets.

flowofapptrade

While the Internet and the app stores might appear to provide a level playing field for app developers, the report shows that app development and consumption is skewed towards the largest and richest economies. 95% of the estimated industry value is being captured by just the top 10 producing countries. The 19 lower-income countries earn an estimated 1% of global app economy revenues.

One of the main problems is that Google prohibits developers in many low-income countries from selling on the Play Store. It’s also more difficult than you might expect to successfully design and develop products for foreign consumers and markets.

top10countriesformobiledevelopers

It’s interesting that my home country, the United Kingdom ranks third in the World for developers producing the top apps. However, not all of the talent here is home grown. I have been aware for some time that an increasing number of people have moved to the UK or are trying to move to the UK to do app development.