Monthly Archives: November 2015

How Can You Correctly Validate Your App Idea?

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
Hussain Fakhruddin
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It is no longer as easy to hit on a good app idea as it was even 3-4 years ago. Both iTunes as well as Google Play Store has literally hundreds of mobile apps belonging to the same category/genre – and it is nothing short of a challenge to think up a concept that is unique, and has chances to be actually transformed into an application. That’s precisely why it is important to ensure that when you actually get an idea (and hey, it can come to you at any time, at any place, when you are doing anything!), you validate it properly. In other words, you need to thoroughly check whether your idea is indeed viable, and has the legs to be transformed into a successful mobile app. Over here, we guide you on how to validate your app idea:

 

  1. Similar apps will exist – That’s at least very likely. There are 1.6 million apps in Play Store, another 1.5 million at the App Store – and chances are pretty low that your idea (which you probably consider to be really ‘unique’) hasn’t already been thought up, worked upon, and released by mobile app developers. Do not lose heart by this though. Check the apps that are similar to the one you wish to build, list down their features, and go through the user-reviews they have got. Try to find out how you can improve on the existing applications and whether there is a gap that needs to be plugged.
  2. Estimate search volumes – It’s all very well to come across an app idea that seems nice enough to you – but will the general public, the people who use smartphone applications regularly, be interested in it? The only way to get an objective answer to this is by estimating the expected search volume that your app would generate. There are handy tools like Google Keyword Planner, where you can type the nature of your app and/or other words related to your idea. If you find there is enough interest in your concept, hire a good app development company to work on your project. In contrast, if search volumes appear thin, it would be advisable to give that idea a miss and try thinking up another one.
  3. Get the opinions of others – There is no better judge of your app idea than actual people – who are likely to download and use your application. Share the broad details of your concept with people you know and trust (don’t just talk to anyone, for violation of intellectual property rights might be an issue). Attend conferences and seminars organized by local mobile app entrepreneurs, network with developers, and ask whether they feel your idea is indeed working on or not. These people have years of experience in the Android/iPhone app development industry – and they can easily identify a good app idea when they see (or hear!) one. General people, on the other hand, can tell you whether your idea seems interesting enough.
  4. Making apps for a niche market – When you are just starting out, it is always better to make a mobile app that has a broad target audience (a nice roleplaying game, for instance). However, it is neither impossible nor a sacrifice on revenue, if your app idea is designed to cater to a relatively small sector of the overall market (a ‘niche’ market). Medical apps for doctors, counselling apps for lawyers, fitness apps for professional sportsmen – all of these are examples of such ‘niche applications’. What you need to do in such cases is to ensure that your app idea is such that it would indeed bring in focused traffic and generate very high conversion rates. It is certainly possible to make money on mobile apps, even without a huge search volume!
  5. Will your app be ‘good-to-have’ or a ‘must-have’? – Always go for the latter. There is no harm in conceptualizing a fancy app idea – which, when developed and released, will be an interesting inclusion in the app stores. However, analysts and app developers agree that such ‘good-to-have’ apps often fail to motivate general smartphone users to download them. Instead, your idea should be about creating a ‘must-have’ app – an app that would solve a particular, important, regular need of users. People should be convinced that having your app on their personal devices would indeed be handy.
  6. Examine app store trends – This is yet another part of the app idea validation process that you cannot afford to ignore. Check the app store of your country, to find out which are the top ranking apps in terms of downloads as well as revenues. By monitoring the list of top paid apps on a regular basis, you will also get an idea on how to monetize your mobile application. On the other hand, checking the free apps (which, on average, have nearly ten times the download volume as paid apps) will familiarize you with viable methods to include in-app purchase options. If the hot trends in the app store have nothing related to the app idea you have, take the hint, and move on to another concept.

 

Note: Avoid working on apps that become popular all on a sudden, and lose their popularity pretty quickly too. Instead, look for sustained, consistent trends. They will be a better guide for you to decide what app idea you should work on.

 

  1.  Create a Minimum Viable Product – Ideas do not generate profits, actual pieces of software do – and that too, when there exists enough demand for the same. Share your app prototype with a core group of mobile app testers, and then, make it available to actual users. Such a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) must contain the core value, or the most important component, of your app idea. Find out whether the MVP/prototype is indeed able to create a ripple among customers. If yes, you are good to move on to creating a more polished version of the app.
  2. Make use of social networking sites and landing pages for testing – Another easy and effective validation method that many mobile app development professionals recommend. Prepare a website/single landing page dedicated to your app idea, optimize it (hire a digital marketing agency for the purpose, if required), and monitor the number of hits the page is getting. Analyse the user-behaviour (bounce rates, average duration of stay, etc.) as well. These will give you a fair idea about whether people have indeed got hooked to your idea. Similarly, you can use channels like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn groups to create promotional campaigns for your application (yes, even before developers start to work on it). If there is sufficient interest, consider starting a paid Adwords or Facebook ad campaign.
  3. Work on one idea at a time – You have four great app ideas, so why not try validating each of them simultaneously and start working on them? Sounds cool on paper, but doing so would be a folly in reality. It is always advisable to process one app idea at a time. If you try to balance multiple ideas, chances are that you will only skim through them – and not be able/will not have the time to perform in-depth analysis of all the aspects of each idea. And, as we all know, a half-baked app idea is never worth wasting time, money, or effort on. Give your best to one app idea, and move on to another one only when you are done with the first.
  4. Create and upload product development videos – Put them on your landing page, on your social networking channels…anywhere where the target audience can view them. The video should clearly illustrate the rationale behind your app, the core essence of the software, and how it will be developed. Specify the platforms (iOS, Android, Windows, Blackberry, etc.) on which the app will be available. If your app video manages to go viral, that’s a clear pointer that you are on to a winning idea.
  5. Be prompt in executing your idea – Okay, so you are fairly sure that your app idea is a good one – it has the potential to be a success. There would be no point of such findings, if you do not act promptly after this. Instead of procrastinating, look on the web for mobile app companies which would be able to work on your project (don’t worry, a few minutes of search will enable you to find several such companies). Make a shortlist of 4-5 such agencies, request for free app quotes from each of them, and delegate your project to the most suitable app firm.

Note: If you are good in programming with Java or Objective-C/Swift, you can code your app yourself as well. Finding proficient mobile app designers is also a factor.

     12. Write about your app – By now, you must have realized that app idea validation is all (or at least, mostly) about generating awareness about your idea and finding out what others think about it. Creating a blog is a great way to gauge such user-interest levels for free. Publish posts on a regular basis about different aspects of your app idea, and keep a tab on the readership levels and the  comments that readers leave on your blog. In addition, publish press releases and classified advertisements about the features and functionalities of the mobile application you wish to make. You can also collect the email addresses of your blog readers – for more focused app marketing later on.

Be aware of the seasonal trends that result in big spikes in the download-count of certain types of apps (sports apps at the time of major sporting events, shopping apps at the time of holidays, etc.). If your app idea is related to any such event/occasion, validate and release it at the right time.

Once you are satisfied with the viability of your idea, hire a good mobile app development agency to start working on it. If your app idea is good, it should see the light of day (or should we say ‘light of app store’?) soon!

Improving User-Experience: A Guideline For Mobile App Developers

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
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Every day, an average smartphone-user spends more than 2 hours and 40 minutes with his/her mobile device. More tellingly, for nearly 87% of that time (which also comes to more than 2 hours), (s)he uses mobile applications. With the total number of available apps rising rapidly – the combined app count at the App Store and Play Store is in excess of 3.1 million – the onus is firmly on developers to deliver optimal app-using experience to customers. The fact that 1 out of every 4 downloaded apps do not last even one full day on users’ devices is proof enough that most applications come up short on this user-experience count. In what follows, we have outlined some pointers to help mobile app developers in this regard:

 

  • User-interaction is not User-Experience – The two are, unlike what many newbies in the field of app development feel, not synonymous terms. ‘User-Interaction’ refers to the way in which a person uses your application – how (s)he navigates through the screens, exchanges/stores data, performs transactions, and the like. In a nutshell, it is the overall behaviour of the user while operating an app. On the other hand ‘user-experience’ is all about whether a person likes or totally hates using the app – maybe due to poorly-conceived layouts and interfaces, or a laggy nature, or frequent crashes, or…oh well, there can be many problems if the app developer is not careful enough. User-interaction generates a positive or negative influence in the minds of the user, and that translates to user-experience. Monitor the first with a proper app analytics system, and try to improve the latter accordingly.
  • Make your app a quick-performer – According to leading mobile app entrepreneurs across the world, speed is a vital factor in determining the success or doom of an application. The average app-interaction time of users is small (way less than that with desktop apps), and people want to get things done quickly. After all, that is one of the key reasons for downloading any app. If your app takes too long to load, the splash screen remains visible for more than 10-15 seconds, users have to navigate through a truckload of screens – rest assured that the application will be chucked out of most devices pretty soon. Follow the simple three-tap rule – a user should not have to make more than three taps after opening an app, to arrive at the screen (s)he wants to view.
  • Identify your target users, and design accordingly – The role of UI/UX designers, graphic artists and animators in influencing the app-using experience cannot be overemphasized. Any good mobile app agency would place prime importance on first identifying the profile of the audience group a new app would target, and then instruct its creative department to prepare the layouts and designs accordingly. For instance, a personal finance application should have a completely different look and feel from a mobile fitness tracker, which, in turn, should not be anything like an Android or iPhone app for kids. Know your users well, and design keeping their requirements and preferences in mind.
  • Native ads are the way to go – This holds true for both general apps as well as mobile games. Apart from in-app purchases and providing paid subscription options (which, for many apps, is not advisable) – the other popular mobile app monetization strategy is the inclusion of in-app advertisements. Unfortunately, many developers make a mistake by placing invasive ads that hamper user-experience (for gaming apps, such ads can deter proper gameplay). Instead, you should consider including native ads – which are never similarly disruptive. Decide how and where these ads are going to be placed, right at the time when you are chalking out the app layouts. The ads should blend in seamlessly with the application, and not appear as distractions.
  • Be proactive about seeking feedback – If an iOS app developer hopes to create successful apps, (s)he needs to be open to feedback and suggestions. Share the wireframe sketches and mockups with the potential users, and find out whether they have any recommendations or improvement suggestions that can be implemented. For mobile app development agencies, seeking feedback from the clients at every stage is imperative. Even the best mobile app developers can overlook certain stuff – and the opinions and feedback from third-party sources always come in handy.
  • Make optimal use of the screen real estate – Creating an app for a mobile screen is not the same thing as making a desktop application. Once you have identified the platform and the devices that your app will be operable on – prepare the screens in a manner that the total space on the device screens is properly utilized. There should neither be any unnecessary clutter (stay away from cramming in too much of content or images), nor should there remain too much of blank space. In this context, the job of Android developers is more challenging than their iOS counterparts – simply due to the huge array of Android devices currently available in the market. For Apple, it’s only about the iPhone, the iPad, the iPod Touch, and yes, the Watch.
  • Do not try to cut corners – Agile development is something every mobile app company has to follow, while working on new projects. The competition is getting fiercer, and there is a definite need to shorten the app development cycles. However, this should never be done by glossing over the need for implementing top-notch, user-friendly, customized UI/UX designs in an application. Depending on the type of app you are working on, frame an idea about how long it would take to complete, and specify that clearly when you provide free app quotes to clients. If you try to rush through the development, you will almost surely end up making a defective application – one that would satisfy neither the client nor the end-users. Invest as much time on an app as it warrants.
  • Perform A/B testing – We have already talked about the importance of collecting and working on external feedback. Professional Android and iPhone app developers can make things more objective – by creating two (or more) beta designs for an app, showing them to clients as well as a core group of testers, and seeking their opinions on them. Such A/B split testing would provide an objective idea about which app design layout is superior – and developers can proceed with it.
  • Do not design the app you are coding for – Programming and creatives are two entirely separate specializations, in the context of mobile app development (in most other fields too, for that matter). You might be an absolute genius with Xcode and Swift programming (for Android developers, it would be Eclipse and Java) – but when it comes to using Photoshop, or Maya, or SpriteKit, or any other app designing/animation tool, your skills might be just about ho-hum. In general too, there is a common adage that developers do not make good designers, and vice versa. Work in collaboration with a professional graphics team – who would take care of the UI/UX designing, as you concentrate on the coding part. After all, there is a reason why the big mobile app agencies have separate teams of developers and designers.
  • Check the effect on battery performance – Most smartphone users randomly search for stuff at the app stores, and download and install the software they like. In 2015, over 95% of such downloaded apps were uninstalled within one month. A common complaint among app-users is that certain applications cause significant battery drain and/or lead to devices getting overheated. Make sure that your app is not a battery or bandwidth hog, and it does not adversely affect the overall performance of the target devices in any other way. Many people play games or chat on social networking apps (WhatsApp, anyone?) for hours on end – and even such ‘power-users’ should not face any problems.
  • Test your app. Very Thoroughly. – Completing an iPhone app development project without proper testing is pure guesswork – something that iOS developers should stay well away from (the same, of course, goes for those making Android apps as well). Apparently minor bugs, random screen freezes and crashes, unsatisfactory designs, complicated in-app navigation – all of these can wreak havoc on the app-experience of general users. Not only is a problematic app promptly ditched from devices, the affected users, justifiably, spread negative word-of-mouth opinions and reviews about it. Keep such risks at bay, by assigning a certain time for dedicated mobile app testing. The importance of NOT TESTING YOUR OWN APP should be reiterated here. You might be way too much in love with your creation to notice its flaws!
  • Proper software and hardware integration is essential – The mobile app you create should be able to use to the hardware resources of the device(s) it is installed on. Otherwise, the functionality of the application will always remain half-baked, and it won’t take long for a user to find a better alternative. In addition, developers also need to make their apps well-integrated with other native applications on devices. That’s the only way smartphone-owners can be given the holistic mobile-using experience that they often seek. For instance, an image-based app should be able to integrate the camera features of a phone.

 

Providing prompt, reliable customer support – aimed at resolving user-problems and queries as quickly as possible – is yet another important factor for improving the overall user-experience. Mobile app developers also need to provide as many customization options as possible in the software they create. People love using their apps, their way.

 

It all boils down to this…if users are not satisfied with your app, they will not keep using it. It is the responsibility of app-makers to deliver a winning user-experience.

 

iPhone OS 2.0 to iOS 9.2 – The BIG BEAR to MONARCH Journey

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
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In 2007, Romania and Bulgaria became members of the European Union. Microsoft burnt its hands with the disastrous Windows Vista. Gordon Brown became the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

 

And the Apple iPhone was born.

 

Cut to a year forward (July 2008), and Apple Inc. released iPhone OS 2 – codenamed the ‘Big Bear’. That was the point when we full-fledgedly started making apps for the iOS platform. Seven years have passed since, the fourth beta version of iOS 9.2 is out – and it makes us almost nostalgic to look back on our long – and if we can say so ourselves – successful journey as a mobile app company. In today’s discussion, we will compare the iOS version we started off working with, iPhone OS 2.0, with iOS 9 – the version that is codenamed ‘Monarch’:

 

  1. The devices – iPhone 3G made its debut with iPhone OS 2.0 – opening up a slew of new, and exciting, opportunities for app developers worldwide. Also running on that iOS version was the older iPhone 2G and the first generation iPod Touch (iPod Touch Gen 2 joined in with the iOS 2.1 update). And what devices do we have with iOS 9? Apart from iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus, there is the sixth-generation iPod Touch, the iPad Mini 4, the hyped-to-the-skies iPad Pro, and the iPad Air 2. As far as backward support goes, iOS 9 can be downloaded and installed on iPhone 4S handsets.
  2. The App Store – By mid-2015, the number of third-party applications in the Apple App Store had gone past the 1,500,000 mark. Reports conducted by iOS app development experts reveal that mobile games, business applications, and educational software are the three most popular categories (in that order). All of these is a far cry from the situation in 2008 – when Apple introduced the App Store with iPhone OS 2.0. General users heaved a sigh of relief at having the App Store on their devices (as well as within iTunes) – and not having to download stuff from buggy external app stores. Distribution of iPhone applications got revolutionized with ‘Big Bear’.
  3. The screen size – Let’s turn our attentions exclusively to the iPhone now. In 2008, the iPhone 3G (a revolutionary ‘finally!’ device at that point in time) had a 3.5” display screen, with what was at that time a mighty impressive 320×480 screen resolution. Things have got literally ‘bigger’ in recent years, with iPhone 6 being the first ‘large-screen’ iPhone, with a 4.7” screen. The display resolution of the device is 750×1334. The comparison is not even close.
  4. The iOS SDK – Another point of interest of professional iPhone app developers was the software development kit (SDK) that iOS 2.0 ‘Big Bear’ came with. 3D game development, for the first time, received some sort of momentum – and in general, iOS applications became more user-friendly, seamless, and well-designed (compared to the apps users had access to earlier) than ever before. Only after the launch of Xcode 3.1 did it become the default IDE for mobile app development for the iOS platform. Its features seem thoroughly inadequate if you (unfairly!) compare with those of Xcode 7 for iOS 9.
  5. iPhone storage space – The good ol’ iPhone 3G, running on iPhone OS 2, had a RAM space of 128 MB – a fairly measly level. The internal memory was 8GB or 16GB. It’s a good thing that the storage space of iPhones have increased in sync with the expansion in activities of mobile app agencies, and the propensity of people to install more and more software on their devices. The iPhone 6S is available in 16GB, 64GB and 128GB models, with a RAM space of 2GB. The only thing that has remained constant is the status of card slots in iPhone 3G and iPhone 6S. Wasn’t present then…isn’t present now!
  6. Cloud service – For all of its innovative features, iOS 2.0 wasn’t without its fair share of disappointments. The cloud-based service MobileMe, which was supposed to be an ideal replacement of .MAC, turned out to be lacking in terms of reliability. The lofty price (the subscription fee was $99/year) kept MobileMe from becoming really popular as well. Apple persisted with the service till June 2012 though – until it was finally replaced by iCloud – a better, more secure, and way more user-friendly feature.
  7. Battery performance – The battery life of the iPhone 6S/6S Plus is still nothing to really write home still – but compared with the performance of the battery of iPhone 3G, it is practically out-of-the-world. The Li-ion battery of the iOS 2.0-powered handset promised 10 hours of talk time and a full day of music play. The 3G-supported talk time has been revved up to 14 hours by the 1715 mAh Li-Po battery. There has been a big difference in the standby times of the ‘Big Bear’ and the ‘Monarch’ iPhones. The former had a standby time of 300 hours (max.), while the latter offers 3G-based standby of 240 hours.
  8. The evolution of iTunes – As iPhone app developers and Apple fans gear up for the stable release of iOS 9.2, iTunes 12.3.1 has already been made available for download. Back in 2008, the latest version of iTunes was iTunes 7.7. The corresponding OS X version was 10.5.4. The oldest version with which iTunes 12.3.1 is compatible with is OS X 10.8.5.
  9. Email – Microsoft Exchange arrived with iOS 2.0 for push email support – and that was big news at the time. The revamped contact search and calendar also came in for praise from software and mobile app developers. It all seems pretty much trifling when compared against the email features of iOS 9 – with the long-press option to add attachments to the body of mails, and the breakthrough multitasking features that make Mail extremely user-friendly.
  10. The ‘iPhone without the iPhone – Or, the iPod Touch. With a high percentage of iPhone applications at the App Store being compatible with the iPod Touch as well, it is worth noting how the device has evolved over the years. The first-gen iPod Touch had (what was at that time good enough) 8GB of storage space, and 22 hours of music-playing feature. While the display screen of the sixth-generation iPod Touch has not increased much (4” vs 3.5”), users can now choose either the 16GB or the 32GB (Blue or Gold) models. Customizing new applications for the latest iPod Touch has emerged a priority for mobile app developers.
  11. Processor – iPhone 3G and iPhone OS 2.0 hark back to the days of the slow (it did not seem so at the time though) ARM 11 412 MHz CPU. Successors of that device have got faster and more efficient – and the iPhone 6S comes with the dual-core Twister 1.84 GHz CPU (along with the cutting-edge Apple A9 chipset). The six-core GPU of the iOS 9 device was also a distant pipe dream in 2008.
  12. Stability vs New features – Those were early days for Apple’s mobile ecosystem, and understandably, iOS 2.0 was armed with a host of new features and enhancements. As general users of iPhone 2G/3G as well as iOS app developers would confirm, the version performed poorly on the stability count though. App crashes, screen freezes and general laggy behaviour were common, and the Cupertino company had to hurriedly come up with the iOS 2.1 update for fixing the bugs (somewhat similar to the problematic iOS 8 and its damage-repairing successor iOS 8.1).
  13. Camera features – iPhone 6S and 6S Plus has fancy features like Live Photos and dual LED flash – things that had not even been conceptualized seven years back. Compared to the 12 MP camera of the latest flagship iPhone, the 2MP snapping tool of iPhone 3G seems decidedly miniscule. The resolution of photos taken with the iPhone was 1600×1200 at the time, as opposed to the sharp 4032×3024 that the new model offers. Users can now capture videos (2160p) and 30fps. The iOS 2.0-powered smartphone neither had video recording capability, nor was there a secondary (selfie) camera. Yep, sounds pretty outdated now!
  14. NFC vs no-NFC – In 2010, Google launched the first-ever smartphone with NFC support, the Nexus S. It took four more years for Apple to catch up with its arch-rival in this field, with 2014’s iPhone 6 being the first iDevice with a NFC chip. Contactless payments via Apple Pay is quickly gaining in popularity, and iOS developers are releasing many new m-commerce apps every quarter. Back in 2008, there was no NFC (of course) on iPhone 3G. It had Bluetooth 2.0 headset support (as opposed to Bluetooth 4.2 in iPhone 6S). Unlike iPhone 6S, the older device had no reversible connector (USB) either.

 

While the differences between iOS 2 ‘Big Bear’ and iOS 9 ‘Monarch’ might seem huge at first – the changes have been, in fact, subtle – introduced over the different versions of the iOS platform. There was a major design overhaul with iOS 7, while other features have been gradually added on by Apple. As the platform has evolved, so have the challenges and required knowledge pool of those who create iPhone applications. The baton of helming WWDC keynotes and iPhone releases have passed on from Steve Jobs to Tim Cook – but new iPhones have not ceased to generate their customary excitements among fans and detractors alike.

 

iOS 10 ‘Fuji’ is up next!

Apple Pencil: How Good Is The New Stylus In Town?

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
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These are exciting times for Apple fans. The long-awaited 12.9” iPad Pro released a few days back – and according to projections, a whopping 2.6 million units of the device will be sold by the end of this year. According to software and app developers, the new offering from Apple will be arresting the slide in iPad sales that we have witnessed over the past few quarters. One of the most interesting accessories that the iPad Pro comes with is a stylus (would Steve Jobs have scoffed at it?) – called Apple Pencil. Let us here take a tour of the good and the not-so-good features of the Apple Pencil:

 

  1. (Good) Look & Feel – Trust Apple to come up with smart-looking devices and accessories every single time. The white-colored, bluetooth-powered Apple Pencil has a sleek metal band near the back end – close to the charging point. The weight is nicely distributed, with the writing end being slightly lighter than the charging end. Device analysts and iPad software/app developers have opined that holding the Apple Pencil feels almost similar to gripping an actual pencil. An extra tip is provided as well in the box. Provided that the Pencil is not held too close to the writing tip (which can cause the stylus to become unbalanced), using it is an absolute breeze.
  2. (Not-so-good) Cylindrical Shape – The completely cylindrical shape of the Apple Pencil can be a point of inconvenience for the slightly absent-minded user. There are no stands, and the stylus can very easily roll off desks and tables. A clip or a magnetic strip on the body of the Pencil would have helped matters a lot here. As it is, misplacing the Pencil is fairly easy – and that is not something any user would like!
  3. (Good) Recharging – According to reports and reviews from software and mobile app development forums online, ultra-fast recharging is one of the best features of Apple’s new stylus. The overall battery life of Pencil is 12 hours – but a closer look would reveal the excellent recharging features of the device. All that users have to do is plug in the lightning connector to the iPad Pro (yep, no external plug-points/charging stations required) – and it takes all of 6 minutes to get Apple Pencil fully charged (i.e., from 0%). Running short of time? Worry not – within 15 seconds, the stylus gets up to 30 minutes of battery juice.
  4. (Not-so-good) Device compatibility – Apple might expand the compatibility of the Apple Pencil over time – but for the moment, it is usable ONLY with the $799 iPad Pro. This really opens up the opportunity for other existing styluses (from Fifty Three to Wacom) which have multi-device support, to keep the the adoption rate of Apple Pencil at a low level. Yes, the new stylus brings in advanced granularity and takes sensitivity to an all new level – but it should have been usable on at least the iPhone 6S (along with the iPad Pro). There is a section of the global iOS app development community which feels that this is a deliberate ploy on the part of Apple to push the Pencil along with iPad Pro.
  5. (Good) Near-zero latency – Apple Pencil shrugs off a common problem that bugs most other iPhone/iPad styluses – the lag time (or latency) between the time a user starts drawing, and when the same appears on device screens. The signal from Apple Pencil is scanned at the rate of 240-per-second, resulting in outstanding responsiveness of the stylus. Early adopters have also corroborated Apple’s claim that the iPad Pro can indeed distinguish between touches with the Pencil and simple finger touches. There is hardly any lag here, and drawings appear almost instantaneously.
  6. (Not-so-good) That plasticky feel – While it is easy to hold and use Apple Pencil, it is interesting to note that the Cupertino company decided to go with a plastic body of the stylus. This is a move that is in contrast with the dedication with which the company stays away from using plastic in any of its flagship devices (except for the disappointing iPhone 5C). Surely the developers at Apple could have opted for a more sophisticated full-metal body, along with a support clip?
  7. (Good) Workable with third-party applications – In addition to full support for all of the built-in apps in the iPad Pro (which has the iOS 9 OS), Apple’s stylus can be used with third-party apps downloaded from the App Store as well. This, in turn, ensures that users can have a complete app-using experience, while using the ambitious (and not exactly inexpensive!) new tablet. iPad app developers have to make sure that the applications they come up with can be operated with the stylus. Otherwise, it will be an opportunity wasted.
  8. (Not-so-good) The price tag – Apple has always been a maker of premium, high-end products, and Pencil carries on with the tradition. Those who have bought/are planning to buy the iPad Pro will need to shell out a further $99 (or 79 Pounds) to get the Apple Pencil. The point here is, there are several styluses already in the market that offer multi-device support (unlike Pencil’s iPad Pro-only property) that are priced at much lower levels. Apart from hardcore Apple fanboys and girls, it remains to be seen whether the superior functional features of Apple Pencil are able to motivate general users into replacing their existing styluses with the new drawing tool.
  9. (Good) Drawing and adding shades – Apple Pencil comes up trumps when it comes to creative drawing and shading on the iPad screen. As already mentioned above, there is no lag to speak off, and the built-in pressure sensors of the stylus can differentiate between a light brush and a harder press. Thicker, bolder lines can be sketched by pressing down the tip of Apple Pencil on the iPad Pro screen while drawing. Creating a wide range of shading effects is easy too – thanks to the pair of tilt sensors placed near the Pencil’s tip. With help from the Multi-Touch display of the iPad Pro, the sensors can detect the orientation and the angle at which the Pencil is held, and help in creating shades accordingly. It’s just like tilting the good ol’ wooden pencils to create shades on paper.
  10. (Good) A great tool for 3D graphic designers – Mobile animators and app designers have been more than excited over the possibility of making 3D shapes and sketches with the Apple Pencil. Once again, the sensors of the Pencil would be instrumental in helping these creative artists draw the shapes that they want to. Provided that there is someone to hold up the iPad Pro while the designers start to work – there is indeed ample scope to manipulate objects and assets in the 3D space, by carving with the Apple Pencil.
  11. (Good) Using Pencil with the iPad Notes app – The ruler feature is one of the new features of iOS 9, and according to device testers and mobile app development professionals – this feature would perfectly complement the Apple Pencil. Users will be able to draw straight lines without any hitch, since the iPad Pro system can distinguish between touches from the Pencil tip and palm, wrist, finger touches. Apart from sketching and drawing in Notes, users can also make creative doodles with the stylus. There is also a built-in highlighter that helps people keep track of their important tasks.
  12. (Not-so-Good) The overall integration – It’s very early days for the Apple Pencil, and things might change as the newer versions/models of the stylus are launched. For now though, it is not as well integrated with the iPad Pro as the Surface Pen (with Microsoft Surface Pro 3) and the S-Pen (with the Samsung Galaxy Note 5). For instance, the former has a button for quick access to the note-taking app on the Microsoft tablet. The fact that Apple Pencil has to be separately bought (both Surface Pen and S-Pen are free with their companion devices) does not do it any favours either. Over time though, Apple Pencil can certainly become as integrated and compact as any of its rivals.

 

Eight years after the famous ‘Nobody wants a stylus. So let’s not make a stylus’ quip from Steve Jobs, his company has gone ahead with making the Apple Pencil. To put matters into context, that comment was made at the 2007 iPhone keynote, and that moment, styluses were certainly not in favour among most people. Reviews of the Apple Pencil from early users, device analyzers and iPad app developers have been mostly positive so far. There are a few rough edges still, but those should be smoothed out over the next few months.

 

 

15+1 Useful Tips For Mobile Game Developers

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
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With over 10.4% share in total downloads, business apps were the second-most popular category (in terms of downloads) at the Apple App Store in September. Mobile educational apps for kids came in a close third. And which category occupied the top spot? You guessed it…mobile games, and that too with a 22.2% share of the total downloads. App companies are increasingly taking up 2D/3D game development projects, in their bid to cash in on this trend (the collective revenue from mobile gaming apps is set to overtake that from consoles by the end of this year). Here are a few handy guidelines that app developers need to follow, while conceptualizing and creating games:

 

  • Start off with a definite idea – You need to have a proper layout of the type of mobile game you wish to create, before actually getting down to the coding part. Prepare a flowchart – starting off with the nature of the game (action, sports, arcade, etc.), the gameplay involved, and the way in which you wish users to interact with your app. For new developers, it is advisable to kickstart things with a game that is similar to the ones they are familiar with (not an identical clone, of course!). That will provide a good starting point.
  • Build for one platform, port later – The iOS or Android debate is one that you need to tackle at the very outset. Provided that your game is indeed a success, the Google platform offers greater reach – while the potential earning capacity of iOS apps is higher. Also consider the fact that, if you start off with an Android game – you’ll have to customize your software for a much larger set of devices (the fragmentation in the rollout of Android versions can be an issue as well). Ideally, start building an iOS game (iPhone and iPad). There are many tools for porting the game to the Android and/or Windows platform later.
  • Get familiar with the tools and IDEs – Half-baked knowledge of the available game development engines and tools is a recipe for disaster for any developer. If you are an iPhone app developer – learn your way about Xcode and Swift/Objective-C thoroughly first. For Android developers, Java is the language and Android Studio/Eclipse are the IDEs to become proficient in. You will also need to take an early call on whether to make a 2D or a 3D game (the former is, obviously, the correct choice for new developers). Depending on your choice, you will have to learn how to work with popular game engines like Unity and Unreal Development Kit (UDK). There are plenty of resources available for adding polish to your game – make sure you use them well.
  • Consider how most people play games – Any mobile game development agency would emphasize the importance of monitoring in-game analytics. The reason for this is simple – user-experience is the defining factor for the success or failure of any game. Keep in mind that most people play games on their smartphones to pass the time – and the interaction time is generally small. That, in turn, makes it almost mandatory for game developers to provide users with easy options to pause and restart the game (without any of the game data/progress/status being lost). Make sure that your game can be played offline as well. Online multiplayer modes are fun and all that – but you need to cater to the huge audience who play games while commuting in subways and other places, where there is weak or no wifi connectivity.
  • Content trumps over style…everytime – Yes, making a good-looking mobile game is important. But stay away from the pitfall of obsessing too much over the graphic features of your gaming app, and pushing the actual game content to the back-burner. A flashy game can spark off handsome initial download figures – but it is the content of an app that ensure high user-retention levels. In particular, if you are developing a role-playing game, prepare a good back-story first (for other types of games too, you need to specify the goals/targets clearly). Proper content is instrumental in engaging users to any game. Neglect this at your own peril.
  • Have a minimum viable product – This is more important for Android game developers, although those working in the iOS ecosystem might as well take note. The competition level in the international mobile gaming industry is increasing every quarter, and you need to have your application out there at the store as soon as possible. The best way to do this is launch a minimum viable product (MVP) version of your game first, and release updates later. For instance, to ensure that people can play your game in both portrait and landscape mode without a glitch – have a square layout that would fit the screens of most devices. Further customization can be done later.
  • Pay attention to the creatives – At leading mobile app and game development engines, there are separate teams in charge of development and graphic designing. Depending on the level of graphic features and design finesse (and of course the animations) that have to be deployed in a game, in-depth working knowledge of tools like Maya, Photoshop, Spine, SpriteKit (for iOS developers) and Gimp is required. Create assets/characters that users would be able to relate to. Remember Odus the Owl in Candy Crush Saga Dreamworld or the little running guy in Subway Surfers?
  • Never distract users with ads – You can create a couple of games just for the love of it – but at the end of the day, every mobile game developer wishes to earn revenue from their software. In-app advertisements is one of the best ways to do this. If you do implement this app monetization strategy (you probably will have to), do it in a way so that the advertisements do not hamper the actual gameplay. Avoid displaying animated ads on the top or bottom of the main game screen (that would be a disturbance as well as a waste of screen real estate). Consider including video ads that users can see while taking a break from playing (like the way ‘Threes!Free’ does). You can also dedicate one corner of the start screen to ‘ads’ – which, when tapped, will display the ads (again, just like how King does with Candy Crush Saga). If disruptive ads pop up after every few seconds, most people will uninstall your app from your device…soon!

  Note: You can also make your game a freemium mobile application (i.e., free to download, but with in-app purchase options). Provide users the option to upgrade to the ad-free version of your app, where only these in-app purchases will drive your monetization strategy.

 

  • Gather feedback and do the rework – The more you iterate this, the better. Put together a beta version of your game, and ask people whom you know and can rely upon to test it on their devices. Listen to their feedback very carefully, jot down the suggestions they make, and redesign your game. There is nothing wrong in being told that the beta version of your gaming app has certain flaws (these feedback would stand you in good stead later on). What’s more – you would prefer to hear an honest review of your game from people you know rather than scathing criticisms from final users, right?
  • Release regular updates – Major upgrades can be launched at relatively long intervals (say, six months) – but experts from the domain of iOS and Android game development advise releasing small updates on a more frequent basis. If your game involves levels and challenges – add a few new levels every week. In strategy-based fighting games, add new weapons and characters, or tweak the existing ones. The ‘newness’ about your game should never get lost.
  • Optimize your game for every type of user – Some gamers have all the time in the world, some are really skillful at certain games, while there is a section who are more than willing to spend money for in-game purchases. Your game needs to cater…and cater well…to all of them. For the power-users (who are likely to play for long stretches of time), battery-drain and device overheating are major concerns. Make sure that the your app does not cause any such problems. The high-on-skill users would love having increasingly complicated new challenges and goals in the game. Finally, for the ones who can and will spend should be able to access and purchase every item you decide to include under in-app purchase option.

Note: If you are making a mobile game app for kids, make sure that the children cannot purchase anything on their own. Their parents should be the ones doing such purchases.

 

  • Monitor the analytics – By this time, it should be pretty much clear why mobile app analytics is so important. Find out how, where and for how long people are interacting with your app, the age-group of users among whom your game has found the most favour in, and whether there is any device/OS version on which gamers are facing problems (you need to address such problems immediately). If you see that the downloads are tapering off, release a new update and spread the news. The average shelf-life of gaming applications is on the shorter side – and if the downloads of your game remain low for months, it’s time to move on to making a new mobile game.
  • Promote your game. And then promote some more – All your game ideas, time and resources will go to waste – if people are not ‘aware’ of the existence of your game. Look around online social media channels like Facebook and Google Plus – where mobile app developers regularly post about their games and other applications. In addition to these, you can tweet regularly about the features of your game as well. Make a list of online mobile game review sites, and submit your app at those places (a good review from a creditworthy third-party source can work wonders). Actively seek feedback and recommendations from users. Mobile game developer agencies have their PR departments working overtime at the time of new game releases. The sole purpose of this is building interest about the game among targeted users.
  • Develop games for the love of it – Right from coming up with viable iOS or Android app ideas, to coding, designing and testing a new game – everything seems a drag if you fall out of love with the overall process. You need to be motivated enough to be able to churn out a game that people will actually like playing. Indie developers often create games as a hobby, and mostly work on other app development projects. The same goes for the top mobile app companies. A mobile game is supposed to be fun – and you should be excited…and not bored…about making it.
  • Think future – Apple Watch is out in the wild, and rapidly gaining in popularity. The recent release of watchOS 2 has made it easier than ever for WatchKit app developers to create custom games for the wearable device. Virtual Reality is yet another component that has hardly been used so far in mobile games – but it has the potential to become a key feature of gaming applications in future. Even for the revamped Apple TV, games can be developed for tvOS. Keep yourself updated at all times with the latest mobile technology. That’s the only way a developer can retain his/her success over time.

 

Bonus Tip → Never ever try to cut down on the time required for testing your mobile game, on simulators, devices, and over the cloud. The last thing you want is releasing a buggy app (which will get rejected at the App Store and will generate a negative word-of-mouth publicity among Android users). The final users are not the ones to ‘test’ your device – it’s your responsibility to make your app glitch-free before release.

 

For those only just starting out in the field of mobile game development, here’s a piece of advice: your very first app will probably not be a huge success. There is no reason to be feel too down about such initial hiccups. Find out where and why you went wrong in your first venture, do not repeat the same mistakes, and soon enough…you can come up with a better game application.

 

Creating games for smart devices can be an exciting, and with a bit of luck, financially rewarding profession. Follow the pointers above, and you can be well on your way towards becoming a top game developer!

Swift 2: 15 New Features For iOS Developers

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
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In October, Apple released Swift 2.1 – the latest stable version of the programming language that is fast gaining in popularity among iOS app developers worldwide. Swift 2 builds on the original version of the language, and offers a fair number of additional features and functionalities to aid programmers working with it. The second beta release of Xcode 7.1 has Swift 2.1 bundled with it, and early reviews have been – expectedly – positive. Let us here elaborate a bit on the new features that Swift 2 comes with:

 

  1. Protocol Orientation – Unlike what was the case with Swift 1, protocols are no longer like interfaces in the new version of the language. Instead, those coding for iOS apps can now include default implementations for calling methods and properties. The ‘protocol extension’ feature of Swift 2 allows this – and it makes the function chains inside a program a whole lot more compact and scannable. Nearly all ‘Foundation’ objects are compatible with the new ‘CustomStringConvertible’ protocol (which has replaced ‘Printable’). Developers can now either apply a general implementation across types, or extend their programs with custom code snippets.
  2. Targeting the ‘right’ OS versions – Every new version of the iOS SDK comes with a host of new APIs. At times, it becomes a problem for software and mobile app developers to write out code that would be properly executable on the OS version(s) for which an application is being built (compatibility with older OS versions was an issue, in particular). Swift 2 makes this all too easy – thanks to the error notifications generated by its compiler whenever certain APIs or other resource is not compatible with the OS version a developer is targeting. In essence, this makes creating apps for the relatively older iOS versions safer, simpler, and error-free. The #available block is a big help for coders while targeting specific OS versions.
  3. Using the ‘guard’ – ‘guard’ is a new keyword that comes in handy when iPhone programmers are putting conditional checks at the start of methods in their programs. At first glance, using the ‘guard’ keyword might seem rather similar to writing the ‘if’ statement – but a closer look would highlight the differences. For one thing, using the new keyword ensures that whenever the conditions are not fulfilled, the code stops executing. Also, it can be used to unwrap optionals – with the advantage that the optionals can be reused in any other section of the code block (a departure from the ‘if’ statement here). iOS app development experts also agree that the ‘guard’ keyword has a role in making the overall program shorter and more concise.
  4. Try-Throw-Catch for error handling – Swift 1 (and its iterations) had a lot going for it – but the language had one major shortcoming. There was no reliable error handling method in it, and software/app developers had to go the whole hog of passing methods that are likely to generate errors with the NSError object. Swift 2, on the other hand, has a stable exception-based model in place for error handling purposes. At the start of the method call, a ‘try’ keyword needs to be added, while errors/bugs are actually identified with the ‘do-catch’ statement. In a nutshell, whenever a throwing method is invoked, programmers only have to put the ‘try’ keyword before it. Simple enough, right?
  5. Playgrounds get smarter – Features like Quick Look and Timeline Assistant (the latter is particularly useful for previewing SpriteKit animations and other complex UI views) make working with ‘Playgrounds’ an absolute breeze with Swift 2. Since results of code lines are viewable real-time, debugging and mobile app testing become quicker and easier too. Xcode 7 also supports usage of rich text in comments, along with links and images. From lists to graphics (including values) – the revamped Playgrounds add a nice interactive feel to coding with Swift 2.
  6. Swift 2 is set to become open-source – ‘By the end of 2015’ was the deadline that Apple gave at this year’s WWDC, for making the updated version of Swift open-source. Some weeks back, Chris Lattner, the creator of the LLVM project, confirmed this. The open-source version of Swift will have comprehensive Linux support, along with the built-in standard library and the code safety options. The prospect of working with Swift 2 on multiple platforms is something every software and mobile app development expert is looking forward to. It remains to be seen when the big news actually arrives.
  7. Swift 2 is more swift – The initial version of Swift was, on average, about three times faster than Objective-C – and Swift 2 is makes things a lot, well, swift-er. Programmers no longer have to use optionals frequently, since the annotated APIs can no longer return the ‘null’ value. In addition to this ‘nullability annotation’ feature in Objective-C, the language also has a new generics system that ensures that detailed information about codes written in Swift 2 can be preserved with ease. As mentioned many times already, Swift has access to all Objective-C APIs, and Apple is endeavoring to make the two languages more interoperable.
  8. Viewing headers in Swift 2 – The absence of headers in Swift posed one significant challenge for programmers and iPhone app developers. In a lengthy code, there was no provision of viewing all the functions that had been used – except for, of course, manually parsing through the entire code. Swift 2 in Xcode 7 does away with this issue – thanks to the synthesized header files that are generated automatically. This method quickly goes through the entire program and generates virtual header files – to help coders view all the exposed functions and methods. Now, it’s about getting the best of both worlds – no need to update header files (everything is stored in the .swift file), and the option to inspect function calls with synthesized headers.
  9. Println() gives way to Print() – Yet another developer-friendly feature of Swift 2 is the new ‘print()’ method – which has replaced the ‘println()’ of Swift 1. In addition to using the method to writing stuff in the output view, outputs can now be generated with a newline as well. For that, iOS developers have to tweak the value of the ‘appendNewline’ parameter to ‘true’. The functionalities of println() and print() have been combined together in Swift 2.
  10. Migrating to Swift 2 – Moving up from Swift 1 (or Swift 1.2, for that matter) to Swift 2 is fairly simple for Apple developers. The new version of the language has an in-built Swift 1-to-2 migrator – which allows coders to keep their programs updated with the latest standards and the new set of syntaxes. With the help of the migrator, developers can even access the new error-handling methods that are a major highlight of the Swift 2 language.
  11. Real-time mutability warnings – Errors happen while coding for software and mobile apps. One such common error is declaring something as a ‘variable’ when it should ideally be declared as a ‘constant’ (people working with Swift prefer ‘constants’ over ‘variables’ anyway). In Swift 2, whenever a variable that cannot be changed is declared, a ‘mutability warning’ is generated. The Xcode 7 IDE can actually ‘understand’ how variables are declared and whether they need to be changed.
  12. Using the ‘defer’ – Another new keyword that is instrumental in cleaning up Swift codes and making them more readable and customized. Just as ‘guard’ prevents code from executing when condition(s) are not met, ‘defer’ allows a code block to be executed, even in the presence of errors. This execution takes place before the method ends (i.e., the code included in the ‘finally’ clause). In practice, as soon as error messages are thrown by the ‘doStuff‘ function, the method exits and the ‘defer’ code is invoked.
  13. Improvements in code syntaxes – We have already talked about the ‘guard’ and ‘defer’ keywords in detail. Swift 2 brings in lots of other syntax improvements as well – right from extended pattern matching (for ‘for’ loops and ‘if’ clauses), to the unified keyword naming standards. The ‘repeat-while’ loop has replaced the old ‘do-while’ loop. The ‘repeat’ keyword also has a role to play in streamlining the control flow of codes written in the new version of Apple’s language.
  14. Whole Module Optimization in Swift 2 – For detailed analysis of all the source code included in a module, Xcode 7 has a new ‘Whole Module Optimization’ feature for Swift 2 users. This additional optimization level not only reduces chances of errors remaining undetected, but also boosts up code compilation speeds. iOS developers have also received the option of writing Markdown inside comments. The focus is clearly on making Swift more usable than before.
  15. if-case to support Switch statements – Swift developers are already familiar with the ‘switch’ statements that can be used for pattern and range matchings. In the newly released version, ‘if case’ can also be used (in addition to ‘switch’) for both the types of matchings. Temporary bindings can be created in ‘if-case’ too, just like in switch statements. Using ‘if-case’ in program tuples is pretty much straightforward.

 

In Swift 2, enums can now be directly printed on the console. The consensus among iOS app developers is that the new language goes a long way in improving the existing Cocoa frameworks as well as the coding methods for software and mobile applications. Craig Federighi had said that Apple was ‘stepping on the gas this year with Swift 2’ – and the statement nicely sums up the range of new features that the programming language now has.

Development Of Mobile Applications In Denmark: Key Trends & Figures

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
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Among the Nordic countries, Denmark would rank only below Sweden, in terms of smartphone usage among people. According to a survey conducted in the second quarter of 2015, nearly 78% of the population in Denmark owned one or more smartphone(s), with a further 21% people having tablets (the corresponding figures were 82% and 18% in Sweden for the same time period). In what follows, we will highlight certain important facts and figures that are pertinent to the development of mobile applications in Denmark:

 

  1. iOS apps rule the roost – Till the end of 2014, it was a close fight. In 2015, iOS has pulled ahead though, and currently has over 61% of the smart device market share in the country. This is a jump of around 12% over the market share figure in 2014 Q4. iOS’ gain has been Android’s loss (not surprisingly) here – with Google’s mobile platform losing around the same 12% of the market share. It can be easily concluded that iPhone apps in Denmark are more popular than Android (or any other OS, for that matter) applications.
  2. Mobile is the preferred medium for accessing the web – Approximately 81% of the total number of internet-users in Denmark owns a smart device (phone and/or tablet). A recent study conducted by IAB Denmark also revealed that most of these people used their handsets to log on to the World Wide Web on a regular basis. The usage of mobile internet has jumped by more than 7% in the last six months or so, and is expected to grow further in future. Mobile app developers in Denmark, as a result, need to focus on making apps with seamless internet-integration options.
  3. M-Commerce is a fast-growing segment – And this explains the popularity of mobile shopping apps in Denmark (this trend is present in Sweden and Finland as well). 4 out of every 10 people who purchase things via their smart devices use shopping apps to do so – while a measly 25% use their mobile browsers for the same purpose. With Apple Pay proving to be a success and Android Pay (with Android 6.0 Marshmallow) holding early promise, m-commerce has every potential to show further growth over the next couple of years.
  4. It’s all Apple in DenmarkWith a market share of around 46%, the Apple iPhone is the runaway leader in the mobile market in Denmark (as stated above, the overall market share of Apple is in excess of 61%). Samsung, with a 21% share, comes a distant second – with other Android vendors like HTC, LG and Sony lagging well behind. The success of iPhone 6 helped iPhone sales to surge ahead of that of Android for the first time in 2015 Q1. The iPhone 6S/6S Plus phone-phablet pair are off to a strong start – and it won’t be surprising if Apple manages to open up a bigger lead over Android soon enough.
  5. The attention span – Another piece of good news for the iPhone app developers in Denmark is the growing average timespan of app-usage by the average users. Every month, Danish people spend a remarkably high 30+ hours with mobile applications of various types. It is always a challenge to make apps that are engaging enough – and it sure seems like that the developers in the country have risen well to the challenge. The high interest among Danish people about apps have helped matters along as well.
  6. Replacement behaviour trumps adoption behaviour – This, in fact, has led many app development experts in Denmark to infer that the smartphone market in the nation is nearing saturation levels. A market research (involving 384000 users of smartphones in Denmark) revealed a remarkable stat this year – over 16% of the respondents were looking to replace their old phones with new models. This, in turn, means that there is no dearth of early adopters of new flagship phones (iPhones or the latest Android devices) in the country. The onus is on developers to custom their apps for all the latest devices. If this is not done, a significant section of the target audience might be lost.
  7. People notice in-app ads – Among the popular mobile app monetization methods, placing in-app advertisements is probably the most effective for users in Denmark. Such ads are noticed by over 85% of mobile app users (a more-than-satisfactory stat for the advertisers), and often help in generating business leads and actual sales. Developers have certainly noticed this trend – and at present, nearly 90% of all mobile ad impressions take place within apps. Advertisements on mobile browsers have a sub-10% share.
  8. Leadership position in the mobile health market segment – For developers searching for new iOS or Android application ideas in Denmark, health & hygiene would be a good pick. The country occupies the top position in Europe in the mobile health (mHealth) market segment, with Finland, Spain and Netherlands taking up the 2nd, 3rd and 4th spots respectively. The ranking is attributed on the basis of 6 important parameters – and it has been seen that the Denmark is the most popular country for developers of mobile health apps. Interestingly though, the same report also showed that UK, and not Denmark, has the best market conditions for the mHealth app development industry.
  9. Mobile search has a big impact – In Denmark, businesses need to be have a strong mobile presence – there are no two ways about it. The effectiveness of mobile search activities vindicate this – with nearly 3 out of every 4 such searches invariably being followed by store visits (virtual or brick-or-mortar). More significantly, app developers in Denmark have noted that a whopping 55% of all mobile searches lead to purchases – and that too, within one hour of the searches. Overall, nearly 30% of searches lead up to an actual purchase – a significant figure in itself.
  10. Shopping apps are popular among all age groupsUsers in the age group of 18-24 are, expectedly, the biggest users of Android or iPhone shopping apps in Denmark. However, the trend has caught on with the senior people as well – with app usage for shopping showing big growth among people in the 45-54 and 55-64 age ranges. In comparison, growth of mobile shopping among users in the 15-24 age group has remained fairly static.
  11. Mobile purchase of services is growing in a big waySince 2013, there has been over 51% growth in the purchase of different types of services via mobile devices. Among them, music-streaming and video-streaming services have garnered maximum popularity – giving the iOS and Android developers in Denmark a clear idea of the type of services they can offer to targeted customers via their applications.
  12. Weekend evenings are the time when mobile interactions are the highest – Several mobile app analytics studies in Denmark have confirmed that people are most likely to perform interactions with mobile apps (including taking actions on basis of in-app ads) on weekends, and within the 5pm-9pm time window. During the development of mobile applications in Denmark and setting up advertising campaigns for them – this figure has to be factored in by developers. Interestingly, there is hardly any mobile action observed (on average) before noon. For mobile advertisers, Saturday is the most productive day of the week.
  13. iPads are still popular – And so are iPad apps in Denmark. In early-2015, the device share of Apple iPad in the country was estimated at around 8.9% – well over the 3% (approx.) share that the Samsung flagship devices had. This makes it imperative for mobile app companies in Denmark to create customized versions of their apps for the iPad too. The new iPad Pro is likely to give tablet sales in Denmark a further thrust – and iPad apps might become even more in demand.

 

It has been projected by research analysts and mobile application developers that Denmark is set to become the country with the highest smartphone penetration figure by 2017. With the Danish people increasingly taking to mobile shopping, m-payments, and trying out new apps in general – there is immense potential for developers in this market. Mobile apps for business are growing in importance too (last year, nearly 40% of all purchases via smart devices were canceled since the websites of the concerned vendors were not mobile-optimized). For mobile app startups, Denmark (like Sweden) is a lucrative market – all that they have to do is understand the tastes, needs and behaviour trends of users, and create apps accordingly.

Why Should An iOS App Not Be A Clone Of Its Android Version?

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
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Most successful mobile applications are available on both the iOS and the Google Android platforms. However, a close look at the respective versions would reveal subtle differences between the different versions of the same app. While simply cloning an iOS app for the Android platform (or the other way round) might appear to be a no-brainer at first, developers confirm that doing so is a big mistake. Here are some reasons why alternate versions of a mobile app should not be exactly similar to each other:

 

  1. Increase in expenses and delays – Contrary to what might appear at first, simply copying the code for an app, initially made for one platform, for another platform, would involve unnecessary delays. The reason for this is simple: every mobile app development platform has its own set of APIs – which makes the task of fitting the same code for multiple platforms complicated, and often, impossible. As the app development cycle increases, expenses would rise too – and no client or developer would like that either.
  2. Different tools and resources need to be used – Making an iOS app is requires a developer to know the intricacies of an entirely different set of programming languages, tools and frameworks, than when (s)he is developing an Android app. For the former, it’s all about Cocos2d-x, Xcode 7, Objective-C and Swift 2, while the latter requires in-depth knowledge of Eclipse, Java, Android Studio, and the like. Using different tools and languages to come up with the exact same app is mighty difficult. There will (and should) be certain differences.
  3. Greater customization required for Android – At one level, it is simply not possible to make the clone of an iPhone app for the Android platform. Apart from the Google Nexus phones, hardly any other device has the plain-vanilla Android software, with vendors doing their own tweaks. This, in turn, means that Android app developers have to customize their apps to ensure that they retain their proper usability on all handsets. Apple’s tightly knit ecosystem makes things easier for iOS developers in this regard – there are no third-party vendors to worry about.
  4. Need to follow design guidelines of platforms – Google has a set of design guidelines for Android, Apple has a set for iOS – and the two are not the same. User-preferences and expectations are put under the spotlight at the time of drawing up these guidelines, along with the likely context of use of any app (e.g. when is a person likely to pull up a news app on his/her iPhone?). The UI/UX developers and graphic designers at any mobile app company have to adhere by these guidelines, while creating the designs and layouts for either platform. If the iOS and the Android versions of an app are absolutely identical, the design guidelines of one of the platforms (or maybe both) must have been violated.
  5. Different profiles of users – Studies conducted by experts from the domain of mobile app and game development have found iPhone owners to be, on average, slightly younger and significantly more affluent than their Android counterparts. That, however, is not all. iPhone users also rank higher in terms of app-engagement (right from news and social media apps, to mobile shopping applications). With its considerably higher market share, Android promises greater reach for developers – an entirely different proposition. At the time of deciding on app monetization strategies, these differences have to be kept in mind by developers.
  6. The market share vs revenue debate – Before writing a single line of code, an app developer has to be very clear about his/her stand regarding this. The iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus might be off to a fast start, but the overall share of iOS in the mobile market has dwindled to 38.58% (October 2015) – while Android’s share stands at a happy 53.54% (a rise of over 6% since the start of the year). On the revenue front though, it’s an entirely different story – with iOS users about 4 times more likely to spend on in-app purchases than owners of Android devices. The success story of iOS in China has also bolstered the revenue figures for developers from Apple App Store to about 70% higher than that from Google Play Store. An app customized for iOS 8/iOS 9 has potentially higher earning potential, while an Android application is likely to have much higher outreach. Unless an app has different versions optimized for the two platforms, it won’t perform as intended on at least one of the two platforms.
  7. Use of simulators during testing – Yet another factor that indicates that the app development process for iOS and Android cannot be exactly similar. While iPhone app developers can easily rely on the available device simulators available in Xcode, the Android emulators are, by common consensus, not as reliable. As a result, testing on actual devices (beta testing) becomes more important for Android apps. The schedule and stages of testing iOS and Android apps have to be, hence, different. Incidentally, the Android platform is also prone to more malware attack (the prime reason for this is its overwhelmingly large market share) than Apple iOS.
  8. Developer profiles and preferences vary – An Apple Developer, who has worked with OS X and iOS and has probably started making WatchKit apps too might have little or no interest in developing for the Android platform. On the other hand, Google developers might have similar biases, although Android development involves greater use of cross-platform app-making tools and resources. Asking either of the two groups of mobile app developers to clone their apps for a platform they are not interested/do not have relevant experience in would be a folly.
  9. Good native apps cannot be made with cross-platform tools – Native applications (for either iOS or Android) rank very high in terms of both stability and scalability. Using a cross-platform tool to churn out identical versions of the same app for both the platforms is likely to compromise these factors – as well as have an adverse effect on the user-experience (according to most Android and iPhone app developers, this is THE most important factor). Instead of unnecessarily leaning on the various cross platform SDKs, more attention should be placed on platform-specific development rules and design guidelines, while making native apps.
  10. Access to core features of the platforms – With the arrival of iOS 9 and Android 6.0 Marshmallow, one thing has become fairly clear – Android app development professionals will have far greater access to the core features of the platform (probably compromising on the user-privacy factor to some extent) than those making apps for iOS devices. This opens up certain opportunities for Android developers that Apple does not yet allow to its developers.
  11. App rotations have to be handled differently – When an iPhone or an iPad is rotated, the app rotation is mostly managed by the platform – with developers having to include minor additions in the code for the purpose. Conversely, when an app is rotated on an Android device, one set of stack views is terminated, and a fresh set has to be created. It should be pretty clear for even new app developers that a clone of iOS app will not rotate optimally on an Android-powered handset.
  12. User-navigation on devices – For all its move towards greater customization, the dedicated hardware ‘Home’ button remains a signature feature of iOS handsets. Navigation is a lot more customized on Android phones, thanks to the series of device buttons that facilitate browsing through installed and default apps. The fingerprint authentication system (a new arrival on the latest Android version) setup and architecture also varies across iOS and Android devices. The way in which apps are accessed and used are different, why should developers be bothered about churning out the EXACT SAME software?
  13. Device loyalty is higher among Apple device owners – Around 8 out of every 10 iPhone owners at present had older iPhone models. Surveys have revealed that device satisfaction among iPhone-users hover around the 65% mark – quite a bit higher than the 50% (approximate) figure among Android-users. This factor, in turn, sheds light on the greater app branding opportunities available to an Apple app developer. If the different versions of an app are mere clones, this opportunity is lost. Apple itself is well-aware of the user-loyalty factor, and its very first Android app (launched in mid-September) was ‘Move to iOS’.
  14. Using the latest features of the OS-es – An iOS developer essentially builds for the iPhone and the iPad – and (s)he can use the latest features, plugins and other developer resources of the newest iteration of the OS. Things are not that simple in the Android ecosystem, due to the extreme fragmentation in the rollout of the latest platform versions. Android 6.0 has arrived with an impressive array of new APIs for developers – but there’s no certainty over when the different vendors and devices will receive the update. Hence, it is not always possible for Android app makers to take full advantage of the latest resources of the platform.

 

iOS apps need to have tighter security features than Android applications (security is one of the USPs of Apple). Until the time Android Pay becomes as popular as Apple Pay, mobile payments will remain more frequent via iPhones. The app approval process is also more rigid at the App Store than at the Play Store. App developers need to respect the differences between the two platforms, and customize versions of their apps accordingly. Simply making an app for one platform and releasing a clone for the other is never going to be a successful strategy.

 

 

iOS 9 vs Android 6.0 Marshmallow: The Big Fight Continues

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
Hussain Fakhruddin
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Thanks to the immense initial popularity of the iPhone 6S/6S Plus, the adoption rate of iOS 9 is pushing 60%, all within less than a month of its launch. According to an official release, this is easily the quickest adoption rate among new mobile platform versions. Google, on its part, has also been active – releasing the big rival of the new Apple platform, Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Many mobile software and app developers feel that the two platforms are increasing getting similar to each other. In today’s discussion, we will do a roundup of the iOS 9 vs Android 6.0 Marshmallow debate – and try to find which of the two has the edge:

 

  1. The security factor – High-end privacy and security have always been a hallmark of the Apple iOS platform. With iOS 9, user-security has received further boosts – with information stored with Siri (the digital assistant) not being linked to Apple or any other third-party sources in any way. This, in turn, practically rules out any chance of unauthorized access of personal data. The Android 6.0 platform has been armed with hardware encryption features as well, to protect user-data. There remains some doubt over its functionality across the huge range of Android devices that are currently available. iOS 9 would win this round by a whisker.
  2. The availability factor23.5%. That was the adoption rate of Android 5.0 Lollipop after the first week of October 2015. Over the years, there has always been a cloud of uncertainty over when and how updated Android versions would become available to different versions – and Marshmallow is going to be no different. Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X were the two handsets it debuted on, and the version will be gradually rolled out to other devices (Samsung, HTC and Sony are the ones likely to get it first – although no specific date has been specified). iOS 9, on the other hand, presents no such uncertainty. It was launched on the new iPhone 6S/6S Plus – and has taken all of three days to overtake the adoption rate of Android Lollipop.
  3. Compatibility with older devices – Professional device analysts and Apple app developers have confirmed that the iOS 9 platform extends back-end compatibility till the iPhone 4S (which hit the markets way back in October 2011). Android Marshmallow is not likely to be available on handsets that are more than a couple of years old (and that’s also an optimistic view). This factor can be countered by saying that not all Android-users are interested in getting the new update – but that number is small, and support for older devices is always an advantage.
  4. Personalization options – From iOS 8, Apple has been making major strides in providing users a more customized mobile experience – but Android still rules the personalization game by a distance. Right from swapping the positions of the default home screen apps, to adding a calendar view – all of these are easily possible on Android 6.0 devices (and not on the latest iPhones, although widgets can now be moved to the Notification Center). The greater customization features of Android phones has another implication as well – Android app developers get greater access of the core features of the platform than their iOS counterparts.
  5. The design factor – Not much to choose between iOS 9 and Android 6.0 Marshmallow – unless we move over to the tablet views that they offer. General users as well as iPhone app development experts agree that the ‘Slide Over’ and the ‘Split View’ features of iOS 9 give it a distinct edge over its competitor. Otherwise, Google’s Material Design appears almost similar to the layout of iOS 9 phones, with the card-based stylization of the Android platform putting it at par with the smart elegance of the new iPhone screens. Neither Apple nor Google has tweaked the visual features of their latest mobile platforms in a big way – and that, for better or for worse, shows.
  6. Siri vs Google Now – For some time now, Google Now has had the edge over Siri – in terms of accuracy and reliability (of course, Siri has the humor factor going for it, and for in-app information, it is excellent). Both the mobile digital assistants, in their latest iterations, are focusing on contextual information providing, via data mining. The ‘Proactive’ feature of Siri helps it ‘understand’ what the user is viewing onscreen, and interpret queries accordingly. If anything, the new Google Now On Tap does this even better – both for gathering information from the web as well as from the device. It also cuts down on the number of taps users have to make. Those who make mobile apps feel that the revamped Google Now offers more access within Android apps, than the new Siri does for iOS 9 applications. Apple’s new digital assistant is a smart baby, but Google Now still leads the way.
  7. Mobile payments and Cloud support – It’s a tie between the two platforms regarding cloud-based functionality and secure mobile payment support. Both of them has near-field communication (NFC), with Apple Pay and Android Pay each having a long line-up of leading retailers that have pledged support for them. iCloud Drive on iOS 9 and Google Drive on Android 6.0 Marshmallow are pretty much the same in terms of usability too (the former, like Google Drive, now has a separate app for browsing documents stored in devices). Android did get NFC earlier and had the better cloud support earlier – but now there isn’t much to pick between the two.
  8. Collaboration with third-party gadgetsEasy on Android 6.0, close to impossible on iOS 9. The extensive cloud support of Google makes it easy for even iPhone users to download and install its apps (something that would please Google and make Apple frown). Extending tasks from Android handsets to Chrome is also a breeze. Many iPhone app developers feel that with iOS 9, Apple could have given users the option to simultaneously use iPhone/iPad with external hardware (i.e., those not in the Apple ecosystem). The Cupertino company does not quite give users full freedom yet – this side of the fence is still mostly proprietary.
  9. Native applications on the two platforms – Much like the availability of the platforms themselves, updates on native iOS apps are a lot more certain than on Android applications. The stock applications on iPhones/iPads get updated as and when new versions of the iOS platform are released – while there is no such correlation between Android versions and updates on native Android apps. On the flipside though, for users wishing to perform iOS 9 jailbreak – the regular upgrade of native apps might emerge as a problem.
  10. Maps and Photos – Android Marshmallow should be ranked a notch higher than Apple iOS 9 on this count. There is a lot to be said in favour of the revamped iCloud Photo Library, but the general consensus is that, it still has some catching up to do, to match the built-in Photos app of Android 6.0 (which, incidentally, is available on both the platforms). Regarding maps, it is again the same story – with Apple Maps, with its extensive public transit information, improving significantly but still not being as reliable as Google Maps. Tim Cook and his men have an opening for further improvement here.
  11. The move towards oneness – The way things are going, it won’t be a surprise if the entire iOS vs Android debate becomes redundant after a few years. Previews of iOS 9 and Android Marshmallow have confirmed the belief of mobile app developers worldwide that the two platforms have grown a strong resemblance (visually and feature-wise) with each other. For instance, the new Apple platform has makeshift ‘Back’ button as well as a battery saving mode – things that Android already had (the ‘Doze’ feature on Marshmallow is particularly handy). It’s not that iOS is the only one striving to become like Android though – the latter has picked up app permissions architecture and fingerprint recognition support from Apple. Telling apart the two platforms is going to be increasingly difficult in future…that’s pretty much certain!
  12. For developers: iOS or Android? – Professionals from most leading mobile app companies release iOS and Android versions of their new applications simultaneously. This trend will remain with the latest versions of respective platforms (although Android developers will get greater integrated access to systems, than what iPhone developers will get). However, for startups – iOS will stay as the preferred version – simply due to the complexity involved in coding for the vast range of Android devices. iOS app developers have to optimize apps for iPhone, iPad and maybe Apple Watch – Android coders have a much larger array of vendors and devices to consider.

 

It has been two weeks since the release of iOS 9.1, which irons out many of the initial bugs that the initial release had (like poor screen responsiveness and unreliable wifi connectivity). It is pretty much clear that iOS and Android have borrowed features from each other to become smarter, more efficient and user-friendly. The big problem with Android is the fragmentation of roll out of the new platforms – if and when that gets sorted out, the fight will become all the more close.

 

iOS 9 or Android 6.0 Marshmallow – which of the two do you feel will be more successful?