Mobile the First Platform

mobiforgeMobiForge is reporting that 68% of digital media time is now spent on mobile devices. 50% of digital media time is dedicated to using mobile apps.

As the article says, this is leading to the situation where the smartphone experience might be considered the first and primary platform. However, conversion rates are lower on mobile (3.89% desktop vs 1.43% mobile) which means we have to think harder how to retain mobile users.

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I believe the poorer conversion rate is partly due to the smaller screens and shorter attention spans on mobile. While there’s little that can be done about this, we can add and promote features that allow users to save or share things for later when they are viewing on larger screens or have more time.

Camera and Smartphone Screen Resolutions

counterpointCounterpoint has a recent post on how camera and smartphone screen resolutions have been improving. Mid-price phones now have cameras and screens with resolutions closer to flagship devices. While this might have implications for OEM flagship device sales, it also affects developers.

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We can now develop more sophisticated apps that make practical use of the camera. For example, for many years I have been working on medical diagnosis apps that use image processing. This kind of processing has previously only been possible on the few devices providing high resolution images.

Now that the majority of users have higher-end cameras, lots of self-diagnosis scenarios become possible. Couple this with server-side big data and it opens up a new world of possibilities.

IDC Reporting on Smartphone Shipments

idcIDC has new research on smartphone sales that, similar to Gartner, shows Android share at 85.3% and iOS at 13.9%. More significantly, IDC don’t expect the market share to change much up to 2020.

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I personally don’t think the market shares will change much over that period. However, there could be outside influences such as mobile operating system security scares, Brexit fallout (at least in the UK) or corporate tax politics that could change peoples’ perception or affect pricing and hence purchasing significantly.

Android on Raspberry Pi 3

There’s a thought-provoking post on GeekTillItHurts on how Android 7.0 Nougat can be run on the Raspberry Pi 3. This offers new opportunities for entrepreneurs and developers to implement more single board computer (SBC) embedded type applications.

Using Android on SBCs isn’t new. I have worked on a few such projects that have re-purposed media Android TV devices to do more specialised things. It’s very easy to program Android rather than c++ or c and you get much better productivity. It also allows more complex applications to be implemented quicker. In two cases I ended up doing image processing on SBCs that would have been much more difficult, if not impossible, had I not had Android’s hardware accelerated drawing APIs.

These boards often run ‘headless’ without a UI or with a minimal admin UI. In these cases, you need some central event processing for communication between the various modules. I have found using Green Robot’s EventBus simplifies communication between threads, services and the minimal UI if you have one.

Onboarding and Help

smashingmagazineSome things seem to go into and out of vogue. At the moment onboarding seems to be making a comeback. Onboarding is the inclusion of one or more extra screens to introduce a new user to the app. Smashing magazine has a great discussion and tips on onboarding.

However, my tip is not to go over-board on this. My experience is that most users are impatient and don’t read what’s put in front of them. They try, then question. Hence, also think about how to serve customers when they start to wonder how to do particular things with your app – even if you have already told them in the onboarding. Your support starts with what’s behind a help icon or button.

Gartner Smartphone Market Research

gartner136Gartner has a new press release Top 10 Worldwide Mobile Phone Vendors Increased Sales in Second Quarter of 2016. Gartner says Apple has had three consecutive quarters of slowing demand and now has only 12.9% market share vs 86.2% for Android.

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Probably more interesting for developers is that Windows has only 0.6% and Blackberry 0.1% market share and can probably be considered ‘dead’ with regard to financially viable app development.

Mobile Platforms as Business Tools

Vision Mobile’s latest State of the Developer Nation Q3 2016 report is worth reading. It contains insights generated from 16,500+ developers, from 150 countries across mobile, desktop, cloud, IoT, augmented and virtual reality.

Of interest to mobile developers is that 47% of professional developers now consider Android their primary platform (vs 31% for iOS). Vision mobile says there have been a move away from monetisation via paid downloads, in app purchasing and advertising to apps that are business enablers. They also say there’s a shortage of talent familiar with Apple platforms to fill professional roles.

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My personal view is that the huge Android market share has created pressure on iOS wielding (and hence Android averse) CEOs to take it more seriously. For every iOS-only app there has been the weight of Android end-users asking “Where’s the Android app?”. At last, mobile platforms are being considered as business tools rather than regions.

Smartphone Shipments to Grow 5% in 2016

Canalys has a new press release where they say Smartphone shipments to grow 5% in 2016. This is despite the fact that Apple is expected to see its first annual decline.

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It’s interesting that while most of the growth will be outside established markets, EMEA and North America will still see a slight growth.

We are now in a stable phase where iOS and Android market shares are likely to stay roughly as now. This provides some medium term stability for mobile app developers choosing their mobile platforms.