Developer Quality vs Cost

Being at the receiving end of enquiries for iOS and Android development has made me realise how many people and companies don’t really know what they are getting into. Some haven’t a clue, not even a hunch, how much effort is involved. Most see a set of screens as something simple. They don’t realise the complexity of what goes on underneath and the consequent communication with other systems and platforms. They don’t realise there are ‘quick and dirty’ ways of doing things and slower and more future proof ways of implementing things, both of which are valid depending on the business context. They don’t think about edge error scenarios, user experience, measuring through analytics and other things like localisation and even the complexities of time. In some cases, there’s no thought as to whether the project is technically feasible.

Ordinarily, this isn’t a problem because many of these things are taken care of by the developer. However, these types of people/companies also tend to not know how to choose a developer. All they think about is cost or daily rates. which gravitates them to developers who don’t know or don’t take care in what they are doing. Not knowing what factors are important and wanting implementation at the lowest cost is obviously a recipe for a failed project.

Web Apps Getting Deeper Integration into Android

Google is Integrating Progressive Web Apps more deeply into Android. This will make web apps 1st class Android citizens in that they will be able to be shown in the app drawer and receive incoming intents.

If you are a long time reader of this site, you will know I am not a great fan of hybrid web apps masquerading as ‘native’ apps. They are usually less secure, have significantly less technical capability, have UI performance problems and don’t tend to use the Android OS look and feel. Allowing web apps into the app drawer is a backward step in my opinion.

Using Persistent Notifications

There’s a new post on the Android developer blog on Engaging users during major events: How The Guardian used innovative notifications. The Guardian newspaper used the new notifications functionality in Android 7.0 Nougat to create a continuously updating notification which was persistent on their lock screen:

Google says:

“Promoting live updates (via the notification) resulted in 103% increase in daily installs during election week. “

I am currently involved in apps using iBeacon and Eddystone Bluetooth beacons. It occurred to me that an interesting partner for persistent notifications is use with beacons. Detection of beacons could drive changes in a notification based on a user’s indoor location. This might be used in visitors spaces such as galleries and museums. It might even be used to direct users along an indoor route.

Learn more about notifications in Android Nougat
Learn more about beacons

App Maintenance Costs and Planning

The BHW Group has recently posted about Mobile App Maintenance Costs. They say people often forget to consider the ongoing maintenance costs of mobile applications. Costs include hosting, monitoring, continued engagement, marketing, app updates, and customer support.

For experience, I think the most significant factor is app updates. For any non-trivial app, it’s almost always the case that once the app is live, it’s the first time stakeholders are able to really think through what they have asked to be created. They suddenly see the limitations, user experience problems and scope for improvements. Then there’s new OS versions. When Apple or Google have major updates to their operating systems, some things sometimes don’t work as well as they did and other times new APIs offer opportunity for improvement. Then there’s devices. On Android AND iOS it’s impossible to test all variants of operating system on all possible devices. There are always bugs to be fixed. Also, as new devices are released, there will be new problems. Hence, any non-trivial app undergoes ongoing maintenance. Then there’s Apple. Their T&C’s continually evolve and what passed review last time might not pass next time. Passing review is a moving target. What people consider as a ‘small change’ can become a larger change due to the need to address some new review issue.

Hence, as the BHW Groups says, you need to consider the ongoing maintenance costs of mobile applications. More specifically, you need to plan human and financial resources. On the human resource side, you need someone who will be around not just to create the app but also to perform longer term updates.

The Keys To Mobile Growth

Flurry has a useful new post by Toby Vogels on the keys to mobile growth. The article emphasises the importance of metrics, minimising churn and personalisation.

For further insights you might like to read my posts on metrics and retention.

One aspect I hadn’t previously come across is to not bombard the user with excessive onboarding:

“Activate first, educate later. This may seem obvious, however, John Egan from Pinterest explained that many apps focus too much on user education in the onboarding process.”

Android Becoming Ever More Pervasive

There’s a thought provoking piece by James Bourne at AppsTechNews on how Mobility investments are moving more towards the business. The article is based on CCS Insight’s enterprise IT buyers survey:

“Enterprises may well balk at the thought of deploying thousands of iPhones to the organisation – McQuire argues that Apple will begin to see its grip on the enterprise mobile market loosened in 2017”

“Banks are pushing ahead with Android and could form a ‘big change’ for the operating system’s overall perception. You’ve [also] got the broader use case for Android, whether that’s field service, rugged, kiosking…these environments where Android is actually quite successful. Those are some of the areas where Apple just doesn’t play.”

I have always seen Android as a much more capable OS. In the past, this has led me to work on widely varying Android projects that use the OS as a self-service kiosk in hotels, an insurance video recording device in cars and a medical instrument used by consultant Optometrists. What with Android Things, the scope of Android projects can only get wider.

Mobile App Use

Flurry has an interesting new post on mobile app usage over the last year.

“overall app usage grew by 11% and time-spent in apps grew by 69%”

Most of the growth was in use of ‘messaging and social’ as well as other areas such as sports, news and shopping that demand that the user return to the app to discover new content.

Thoughts on the iOS and Android Duopoly

CSS Insight has a new article on The iOS and Android Duopoly and asks if there will ever be a third platform:

“Many mobile platforms have come and gone during the past decade, some created by start-ups and others by some of the world’s largest technology companies. Mobile platform projects such as Firefox OS, LiMo, Jolla, Maemo, MeeGo, Tizen, Sailfish, Ubuntu, WebOS and Windows 10 Mobile have had little impact on the market.”

The conclusion is that the chances of a new mobile platform succeeding aren’t good. Instead, it’s the services on top such as artificial assistants that will alter behaviour.

This is good news for mobile developers and those companies creating apps. After two decades of uncertainty, we can now develop for Android and iOS in the knowledge that the two main mobile platforms are not likely to change in the next decade. However, we need to remain alert to new mobile platform APIs provided by the ‘artificial assistants’ as these might increasingly be the chosen way to interact with apps and services.