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Mobile apps are a unique species

Dec 17 2012, 00:32 IST
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SummaryThere’s no denying that smartphones and tablets have changed the way we find and install the applications we use, and what we expect from them.

Keith Budge

There’s no denying that smartphones and tablets have changed the way we find and install the applications we use, and what we expect from them. Added to this is the increasing desire to use these devices for work purposes, driving a need for enterprise applications.

Previously we have only relied on our phones for calls, texts and maybe emails—but with the rapid adoption of smartphones, apps have taken over and developers are looking to provide the richest experience possible. This is also being driven by the fact that mobility provides a good entry point to cloud and SaaS delivered applications.

Mobility is still very nascent, but the space is evolving rapidly. This is having a tremendous impact on how we run our lives and our businesses. According to a recent InformationWeek study, only a quarter (26%) of business technology decision makers don’t have custom applications or have plans on developing them, and the vast majority are evaluating at least one mobile operating system for use within the business and/or for developing custom mobile applications. As a result of these factors, the majority of modern application development is taking a ‘mobile first’ approach. This is bringing a new interface paradigm—driven by these smaller devices and touch screens.

Mobile devices and the ubiquitous connectivity they enable, brings a whole new level of remote working for employees and a range of ‘self-service’ opportunities for customers and users. This includes activities like checking the status of an order, buying tickets or updating details—all of which traditionally needed a phone call or visit to a branch office—thereby saving operational costs, while boosting customer service.

Compared to desktops and laptops, smartphones are limited in terms of processing power and screen size, but are also packed with a lot more sensors such as touchscreens, GPS, accelerometers, cameras, Bluetooth and NFC —all of which can be leveraged by smart applications. This can help offset some of the limitations of mobile by offering a range of smart interface possibilities as well as adding levels of context and capability that desktop applications can’t match.

From a developer perspective, this explosion of smart devices has created some incredibly complex challenges, mainly due to the number of different platforms and devices around. Not only do developers considering native mobile applications have to consider developing for iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone, they also have to consider the variety of different form factors of today’s smartphones and

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