Author Archives: Hussain Fakhruddin

14+1 Top Mobile App Development Trends For 2018

Every day, around 1560 new apps are added to the Apple App Store. If you think that this is a remarkably high figure – sample this: the buzz in the Android marketplace is even higher, with just a shade under 3400 applications being added in a day. The worldwide mobile app development market is set to grow by a whopping 14.5% in the 2016-2022 time period, with cumulative downloads (of free applications) going beyond 253 billion by the end of this year. New and innovative tools, methodologies and practices are being followed by third-party developers, in their bid to make their apps successful. Over here, we will do a roundup of the most important app development trends for 2018:

  1. Rise of ‘intelligent’ apps

    In 2017 Q1, as many as 34 acquisitions of artificial intelligence (AI) startups went through. Biggies from the tech world – from Google and Baidu, to Apple and Intel – are taking over new and exciting AI startups, and the focus is shifting towards making mobile applications that have advanced ‘machine learning’ capabilities. Put in another way, developers are placing an increased emphasis on delivering completely customized app-usage experience to people, based on the preferences of the latter. For m-commerce and shopping apps, the focus is on creating user-friendly conversational commerce environments – with the help of AI-powered chatbots. As the volume of big data continues to spiral, special algorithms are being created to analyze the available labeled datasets – to come up with in-depth insights. From general business and marketing, to to surveillance, predictions, maintenance and recommendations – new-age apps with AI and ML are set to find more and more interesting use cases in 2018 and beyond.

  2. Android Instant Apps to pick up pace

    An August 2017 report revealed that Android Instant Apps (released in May) have already been installed in more than 500 million devices worldwide. Going forward, they are likely to play an increasingly important role in the app development ecosystem. Instant apps enable users to check out all the main features of an application, without having to install it (the experience is similar to loading a webpage). As a result, they give a serious boost to app-engagement levels – primarily since compatible Android apps become universally accessible. The compatibility of Android Instant Apps extends backwards till Jellybean. Over the next few quarters, the adoption stats of Instant Apps should witness accelerated growth.

  3. Cloud computing and edge computing on the rise

    No one wants to use apps that place too much pressure on the internal memory of devices. By 2014, mobile cloud traffic had increased to 81% – and cloud-based applications will make up around 90% of the total mobile traffic volume by the end of 2019 (the 2015-2020 CAGR will hover around the 61% mark). The presence of cloud support and robust API integration from the backend (mBaaS) have made it possible for sophisticated mobile apps to seamlessly store and access data from the cloud (as and when required), while ensuring data safety and integrity. In addition, the steady rise of cloud computing for app development is also doing away with much of the risk-factors associated with BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) practices in many enterprises. Apart from storing data and browsing the web, cloud services are being used by apps for things like social networking, media (audio/video) streaming and online gaming. Edge computing is also coming to the fore, for enhancing the performance of cloud systems.

  4. Swift for iOS developers

    In March 2017, Apple’s Swift broke into the list of top ten programming language on the TIOBE Popularity Index for the first time (interestingly, its popularity has stalled somewhat since then, with Swift occupying the 16th spot in October). Swift 4.0 (launched in September), with its host of new features, like multi-line string literals, faster encoding/decoding (through the ‘Codable’ protocol), more efficient dictionaries and one-sided ranges – should give a timely boost to the popularity and usage rate of the language among iOS developers worldwide. Objective-C is not going to become history any time in the foreseeable future, but Swift will definitely be the ‘future’ as far as Apple app development is concerned.

Note: Just like Swift in the Apple ecosystem, Kotlin is rapidly gaining popularity for Android development. This article offers a more detailed study).

  1. Importance of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

    Accelerated Mobile Pages are going to be key for increasing the retention rates, and getting more value from web applications. Since the initial announcement of the open-source project by Google (in collaboration with Twitter), AMPs have grown in a big way – with more than 900000 web domains having started to publish AMPs by May this year. The technology has been instrumental in speeding up web page loading on mobile devices, and has also reduced bounce rates of web applications significantly. The enhanced searchability (with mobile search index and mobile search carousel) is yet another big benefit of AMPs, as are the boosts to total visitor counts, the improved click-through rates (CTRs) and more effective visitor analysis. With AMPs (which are, in essence, stripped down HTML pages), web app developers are being able to create both websites as well as web apps in a more agile manner.

  2. Security in the spotlight

    Given the concerns over mobile app security in the last few years – the recent Gartner report, showing that 3 out of every 4 applications (on average) do not meet the most basic security standards, comes as a shocker. Users are storing more and more personal, sensitive, confidential data (ranging from financial information, to identification/authentication details) inside apps – and, not surprisingly, the demand for apps with built-in, reliable security features is at an all-time high. In the iOS development system, the gradual shift of developers from Objective-C to Swift is motivated by, among other things, the need for making more secure applications. The growing number of apps which can digitally store users’ cards (bank cards and id cards) further pulls up the importance of all-round app security. In future, apps with suspect security features are bound to fail, even if they have other top-class functionalities.

  3. Augmented Reality in focus

    In 2018, the total number of mobile apps with built-in AR capabilities will cross 1580 million (a further 880 million standalone AR applications will be downloaded). By 2022, the corresponding figures will be 4670 million and 1388 million respectively. No longer is augmented reality limited to games (Pokemon Go immediately comes to mind) and digital entertainment apps. The technology is finding widespread acceptance in engineering, healthcare, real estate, retail and many other industries. AR-based enterprise apps are being used to deliver immersive visual experiences to customers (e.g., 3D product visualization in a shopping app). Virtual reality, on its part, is also growing – both in the mobile game development and business apps domains. Mobile AR will be the biggest contributor in the global AR/VR industry – estimated to reach $108 billion in 2021 – and developers will be integrating the technology in their new apps to make them more unique and of value.

Note: Virtual reality has been added to this year’s macOS High Sierra platform. Gradually, a distinction might emerge – with VR being more used for desktop systems, and AR being the go-to tool for mobile development.

  1. Blockchains on the move

    By the time this year is done and dusted, the value of the global blockchain (the immutable distributed ledger technology that forms the basis of bitcoin (and other cryptocurrency) transactions) market will be just a whisker under $340 million. Come 2024, and the market will shoot up to $7.74 billion – a truly remarkable stat. The increased focus on data security in software applications is pulling up the blockchain adoption figures in different industries – since records added in the underlying ledgers cannot be modified without changing all the previous blocks. This, in turn, makes data manipulation/theft from blockchain technology practically impossible. In 2018 and beyond, blockchains should emerge as important disruptors – not only in the financial domain – but in the overall digital transformation scenario.

  2. IoT for mobile apps

    Ecobee launched its fourth-generation smart thermostat – the ecobee4 – earlier this year. Nest is eyeing an early-2018 release for its smart video doorbell, which will have high-end facial recognition features. With the number of connected devices rising at exponential rates, the onus is on developers to come up with powerful companion apps to control/monitor these smart gadgets and systems. Such apps, when working optimally, can help people get a truly unified internet of things (IoT) experience. Smart technology is making rapid progresses in fields like agriculture, communication, city management (smart city development), infrastructure, data analytics, and myriad other fields. The number of apps for wearable devices is also growing rapidly – with Apple Watch and Android Things finding favour among buyers across the world. IoT will be a ~$662 billion industry by 2021, and the trend of making advanced mobile applications for controlling IoT devices with gain further momentum from next year on.

  3. Implementation of Lazy Loading

    This is going to be a mighty important mobile UX design trend to watch out for in 2018. Instead of overlaying heavy images on web pages that typically slow down the latter’s loading speed – developers have started to turn to the ‘lazy loading method’ – which ensures that all page elements are loaded only when their turn arrives. That, in turn, means people will no longer have to wait for pictures to load, for reading something on a page/screen. As a result, bounce rates are minimized – and probability of lead conversions (for m-commerce applications) gets a boost. Lazy loading has enabled web and mobile developers to seamlessly shift from ‘sluggish stacking’ to ‘languid stacking’ – ensuring better results.

  4. The growth of mobile commerce and mobile payments

    Mobile wallets might not have been the overnight successes many expected – but their adoption stats are starting to pick up pace. Apple Pay, Walmart Pay and Android Pay all showed upward trends this year – with the first emerging as the market leader, with 5.5% adoption in June (Samsung Pay, however, slipped from 4.5% in March to 2.8% in June). With wallet integration, the usage of m-commerce applications is going up rapidly every quarter. In 2018, $96 billion will be transacted digitally through tablets, while transactions of value more than $34 billion will be carried out via smartphones. Integrating ‘AI-powered virtual shopping assistants’ – to bolster the convenience factor of online shoppers – is also something developers are taking an active interest in. In countries like South Korea, Japan, Netherlands and the UK, m-commerce makes up close to 50% of the annual e-commerce volumes. Mobile payments through alternative channels are on the rise.

  5. On-demand applications to become more diversified

    Companies like Uber and Lyft have changed the face of cab services on demand. Slowly but surely, many laundry apps are being released – promising prompt, reliable service. In the next year, we can reasonably expect such on-demand apps to grow further, and more importantly, get diversified to cover more areas – ranging from beauty and skincare services, to emergency/healthcare services. The number of food delivery apps and grocery shopping apps are also expected to rise (there are scopes for qualitative improvements too). People are turning towards mobile apps to quickly avail different types of important services – and the onus lies on third-party developers to analyze such requirements and deliver the solutions.

Note: We have worked on a one-of-its king fuel delivery app for iPhone, named FuelUp. You can read about it here.

     13. Increase in use of cross platform tools

Compatibility with multiple platforms is an absolute must for most consumer or business applications to deliver maximum usability. If a new app is created solely for the iOS (or Android, for that matter) platform, that limits its potential user base. The importance of efficient, agile cross-platform mobile app development is rising – and multi-featured, developer-friendly tools like React Native, PhoneGap, Xamarin and Appcelerator are being used by developers across the globe. Expect this trend to grow even stronger in the next few years, with these cross-platform tools managing to deliver native app experiences to end-users. The overall time-to-market is being reduced (compared to the situation where iOS and Android versions have to be worked on separately), and app businesses are being able to earn greater value on their products.

    14. Proliferation of customized app building platforms

Making a mobile app calls for coding expertise and specialization, right? Well, such apparent barriers to entry are being broken down – with the advent of fully customized and scalable digital app-building platforms. These tools make it easy for practically anyone to make apps (in a matter of minutes) – with their easy ‘drag-and-drop’ options and intuitive controls/features. All that a person has to do is subscribe to such a platform, and then, start to create personalized applications (i.e., most attributes of the app will be added from the backend or dashboard). What’s more, these app-building tools offer insightful data analytics and stats as well. As platforms like Eventify continue to grow in popularity, app-making is indeed becoming mainstream.

  Bonus Trend: Android dominating developer mindshare

In terms of revenues from mobile app (i.e., app monetization), iOS continues to rule the roost – with average (median) monthly revenues of more than $500 per application. Median revenues from Android applications fall in the much more modest $100 – $180 range. However, the situation is just the reverse when it comes to developer mindshare. It has been found that 7 out of every 10 mobile developers target the Android platform first. With many experts predicting that revenues from Play Store will surpass that from the App Store soon, Android is set to consolidate its position as the first-choice platform of developers further.

Intel will be showcasing 5G technology at the 2018 Winter Olympics, and the technology is widely expected to witness never-seen-before adoption rates after commercial launch. By 2018, the world will have 2.53 billion smartphone users – and the demands for new, innovative and more powerful apps will continue to soar. The trends discussed above will dominate app-making activities in the next few quarters…that’s for sure.

Java vs Kotlin: Which Programming Language Is Better For Android Developers?

Java vs Kotlin for Android

 

At this year’s Google I/O, Kotlin – the statically-typed language from JetBrains – became an official language for android (i.e., received the ‘first-class language status’). Initially announced in 2011 and launched in early-2016 – Kotlin is now included in Android Studio 3.0, which was launched last week. In June, Kotlin ranked a perfectly respectable 43rd (on the Tiobe Language Popularity Index) – jumping up from the 80th spot in the previous month. Experts feel that, at this rate, the language can soon break into the list of top-20 languages (in June, Apple’s Swift was at 12th).

For coding for Android applications, developers need a language that is ‘understandable‘ by the Java Virtual Machine (JVM). The arrival of Kotlin has given coders an alternative to the traditionally used Java language. In what follows, we will do an objective, point-by-point Java vs Kotlin comparison – and try to find out which one has the better properties:

  1. The learning curve

    For switching over from an established language like Java to a new one like Kotlin to be a practically viable proposition, the learning curve for the latter has to be fairly simple (otherwise, the loss of skills and man-hours can be considerable). For experienced Java developers, the Kotlin language brings with it a high degree of familiarity – with things like the coding process for making new classes being nearly identical. Java and Kotlin share a number of syntaxes too, making things easier for developers. In essence, Kotlin can be viewed as an ‘improvement’ on Java, rather than being a full-blown substitute. If a coder is well-versed in Java, that skill and experience will stand him/her in good stead while starting to work with Kotlin.

  2. The issue with NullPointerExceptions

    NullPointerExceptions, also known as ‘The Billion Dollar Mistake’, are a constant source of irritation of Android app developers coding with Java. In case a null value is assigned to any of the object references (in Java, any variable can have null value), this exception is thrown. In Kotlin, this problem is kept out of the equation – thanks to its inherent null-safety feature. Unless specially marked as ‘nullable’, no variable in Kotlin code can hold a null value. Even if you make a mistake and do assign a null value, the code will fail at the time of compilation. In non-trivial pieces of code, looking for the cause(s) of NullPointerExceptions can be problematic and time-consuming. Kotlin offers an easy way out of it.

  3. Kotlin is the ‘modern’ language

    A high percentage of Android app makers worldwide work with Java 7 – simply because all the features of Java 8 are not yet available on the platform. The Android plugin has to be updated to v.3.0.0, and after that, users can play around with a limited subset of Java 8 features in the toolchain (after disabling Jack). Type annotations, lambda expressions, and method references are some of the important Java 8 features available on Android (some Java 8 language APIs are also supported). On the other hand, Kotlin captures the best points of procedural and functional programming (Java is still mostly procedural) – offering the latest tools and resources to the developers. It is easily the more modern, lightweight and well-rounded language, and is, hence, widely regarded as an enhancement over Java.

  4. Interoperability

    The seamless interoperability between Java and Kotlin makes the task of Kotlin beginners that much easier. Within the same project, both Java and Kotlin files can be used – without the risk of any error being thrown. Kotlin libraries can be used in primarily Java projects easily (the reverse is also true). The fact that Java and Kotlin classes can reside simultaneously in the project does away with the need for full project conversion (to Kotlin), or having to start a project from scratch. First-time users of Kotlin can try coding with the new language on a specific part of a project – while keeping the legacy Java codes intact. Later, they can proceed to migrating the Java files to Kotlin (the migration should be one file at a time). There can be the occasional code in Kotlin that is difficult to decipher, although the inherent intuitiveness of the language should give developers some idea in such cases too. Interoperability with Java (extending to advanced Java libraries) is a key factor behind the rising adoption rate of Kotlin.

Note: Scala and Clojure are two other languages that are used to build Android apps. While both are JVM-friendly, none of these two have managed to become very popular (although they were launched before Kotlin).

  1. Community support

    By virtue of being one of the oldest open-source programming languages ever, Java has a huge, and highly active, developer community across the globe. Regular updates are available (although they might not be immediately available for Android), and developers can get a lot of codes and references online. The online support for Kotlin cannot come close to matching that for Java, although the newer language is growing at a rapid clip. At last count, there were 2000+ Kotlin-based projects in Github – marking the remarkable rate at which Kotlin is growing. Even so, the probability of hitting a roadblock while coding for an app, with no support available, can be slightly higher for Kotlin-users. In the Java community, help is always available at hand.

  2. Verbosity

    For carrying out the same function (say, creating a floating action button), the volume of coding required in Java is considerably more than in Kotlin. In general, Kotlin has been designed as a significantly more compact language than Java. With the help of the Kotlin Android Extensions, references can be quickly imported inside Activity files (within Views) – and then, that View can be used in the code as part of the Activity. This, in turn, means that developers do not have re-write the ‘findViewByld’ method for each case. Java does not have this feature – and hence, the amount of boilerplate code included in Java programming is a lot higher than that involved in Kotlin. All that the developer has to do before using the Kotlin extensions is add an additional plugin in the build.gradle file (inside the module). Unlike Java, there is no need for third-party dependency injection tools in Kotlin either.

Note: For coding a simple “Hello World” program in Kotlin, no classes or main method(s) are required. Less verbosity also, of course, lowers the probability of manual coding errors as well.

  1. Checked Exceptions

    Java has checked exceptions (i.e., Android developers have to catch and declare the exceptions), while Kotlin does away with them. There are many programmers who prefer having these checked exceptions – since they can make the code more robust and effective, by putting a definite emphasis on error recovery. However, in lengthy pieces of code, the many Java try/catch blocks can make things cluttered. From that standpoint, the absence of checked exceptions in this language can be viewed as an advantage. Opinions are divided in this regard – and it all boils down to what individual programmers are more comfortable working with. The overall codebase of Kotlin is more idiomatic than Java.

  2. Increased size of .apk

    Not a major point of concern for small apps – but if the Android application you are working on has a large size, this can be a factor. Professional developers have confirmed that the Kotlin Standard Library increases the average size of .apk files by 800 KB – 1 MB. In Java, there is no such increase in the runtime sizes of .apk files. In select cases, this increased file size can cause issues (end users might consider this while downloading apps that are already ‘heavy’). The relative lack of complex Kotlin examples available online is also holding the language back somewhat. Java has the edge in this context, and Kotlin has plenty of scopes for refinement.

Note: With the plugin available in Android SDK 3.0, Kotlin (Java) files can be converted to Java (Kotlin).

  1. Complete support for Kotlin in Android Studio

    The Android Studio IDE (integrated development environment) offers holistic support for the Kotlin language, ensuring that Android developers can easily make the switch from Java to the newer language. After installing and setting up the Kotlin plugin in Android Studio, configuring a new project is typically a matter of minutes – while there should not be any problems with initial readability and code compilation either. Right from code navigation and code completion, to refactoring, debugging and unit testing – Android Studio offers full support for all important activities in Kotlin. Converting complete source files written in Java to Kotlin is also a breeze. Developers, of course, have to ensure that there are no code losses and/or data corruption during such conversions. Incidentally, both Intellij (the base of Android Studio) and Kotlin have been created by JetBrains.

  2. Implicit widening conversions and that question of stability

    Java offers built-in support for implicit widening conversions with numbers. This keeps things straightforward. While coding in Kotlin though, Android developers have to go through the whole hog of performing similar conversions explicitly (implicit conversions are not supported) – every time a Byte value has to be assigned to an Int variable. In the Java framework, the smaller data types are converted to larger types under the hood – which is both quicker and simpler. Add to that the considerable mindshare that Java still enjoys (there is a certain feel of stability while using an old, ‘tried-and-tested’ language) – and it becomes pretty much apparent that the popularity of Java is not going to drop off drastically anytime soon.

  3. Higher-order functions and data classes

    With the arrival of Java 8, support was finally extended for lambdas. However, as already mentioned earlier, all its features are not available to Android developers – who generally have to work with Java 6 or Java 7. In Kotlin, things are a lot more developer-friendly – with variables able to store functions for use later on. Lambdas, which are created by passing functions as expressions without declaring it (implicitly or explicitly) are supported in Kotlin, along with other higher-order functions (functions taken as parameters), like callback functions. Since Java does not support these, developers have to create a new interface and implement it separately (in Kotlin, there is only a handful of parameter functions). The conciseness of Kotlin becomes apparent while handling data classes. Unlike Java, where large volumes of boilerplate code has to be written for the different classes which only contain data, Kotlin allows users to perform the same function – simply by adding a keyword (‘data’) inside the class definition. Instead of having to create new fields and constructors for data storage (in Java), all ‘getters/setters’ are auto-generated by the compiler (in Kotlin).

  4. No extra garbage collection

    A common bone of concern among many Android app developers working with Java is the extra garbage collection – which often renders the code less than optimally efficient. The problem gets particularly pronounced in instances of lengthy programs. Kotlin comes across as a better alternative – removing such problematic garbage collection (the garbage collector, of course, depends on the runtime, and not on the underlying programming language per se). What’s more – there are several XML-related pain points in Java, which can be removed in Kotlin – thanks to the Kotlin source file named Anko Library.

Note: The extension functions of Kotlin help in creating clean, easy-to-understand APIs.

    13. First-class delegation in Kotlin

Also known as ‘implicit delegation’, this is a unique feature that gives Kotlin a further boost. Operations can be delegated by received objects to other ‘delegate’ objects (helper objects) – which means that the language itself follows the ‘delegation over inheritance’ rule of thumb. Code duplication (say, on the setters and getters of different properties) can be avoided with the delegated ‘properties’ of Kotlin – while multiple inheritance is also made possible. In addition, Kotlin also renders the task of type-checking before casting objects (in certain cases) unnecessary. The smart casts of Kotlin ensure that objects that are already checked with the ‘is’ operator do not have to be casted again inside statements. In other words, the redundancy in casting gets removed.

     14. Speed of compilation

Java is still the ‘faster’ language – with tests revealing that it has, on average, ~13% faster compilation speeds (with Gradle) than Kotlin (14.2 seconds vs 16.6 seconds). However, this difference of speeds is only for full bields. Since mobile app developers generally keep compiling codes after making certain changes – the more important parameter over here is the incremental speed of compiling (version 1.0.2 of Kotlin has incremental building). Now, the speed advantage of Java more or less disappears, with Kotlin either being at par, or even just a bit faster, for partial builds with incremental compilation. Summing up, Java performs ‘clean builds’ more quickly – but the two languages are similar (Kotlin might even have a slight advantage) in case of partial builds.

     15. The advantage of having ‘coroutines’

Android is a single-thread platform. In case this main thread is interrupted in any way (say, due to an intensive network I/O operation) – the UI of the app is likely to freeze, till the operation is completed. To avoid this problem, Java makes it necessary for developers to create background thread(s). This has a potentially serious downside – in the form of problems/confusions while managing multiple threads. Kotlin offers the smarter solution through coroutines. Executions can be suspended while performing the intensive operation, and resumed later – and the main thread does not get blocked at any point (the execution is generally restarted on a separate thread). Putting it in another way, Kotlin allows the creation of non-interrupting asynchronous codes, with coroutines being an important utility feature for developers.

Already, many Java libraries have started to provide Kotlin extensions (RxKotlin is a classic example). This, expectedly, is pulling up the usability of Kotlin. The language is further boosted by the built-in support for all important Java libraries and frameworks. It is still advisable for newbie Android developers to learn Java first, and then attempt the switch to Kotlin (type aliases and immutability are two more USPs). The former scores over Kotlin on a couple of factors (the huge community support is perhaps the biggest) – but Kotlin is closing in, and it does offer a fair few advantages over Java.

Which programming language do you prefer? Let us know in comments!

 

 

Rise Of Artificial Intelligence In Enterprise – An Analysis

 

Latest trends of AI in enterprise

 

For all the hype and buzz around it, the actual adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) has not really taken off in the enterprise domain yet. A Forrester report at the start of this year revealed that a lowly 12% of the included tech executives had started using AI tools and systems full-fledgedly. However, the immense opportunities of AI solutions are not lost on business entrepreneurs – with 6 out of every 10 enterprises (in a study involving 235 business professionals) stating that they will start using AI technologies by the end of 2018. The mounting interest in AI is also reflected by the fact that revenues from enterprise applications powered by the technology will jump to more than $31 billion in 2025 – growing at a CAGR of ~63% (in 2016, the corresponding revenue figure was $359 million). In today’s discussion, we take a look at how artificial intelligence is shaping enterprise applications and paving the way for valuable innovations:

  1. Increasing awareness and greater mindshare

    In a recent PwC survey in the United States, around 73% prominent business leaders opined that artificial intelligence will be the biggest game-changer – something that delivers significant competitive advantage – in the foreseeable future. Nearly 40% of the respondents are looking out for suitable identification and designing solutions for enterprise AI deployment – while a large group of businesses are currently carrying out various types of AI-related researches. In a separate study (with 146 respondents), it was found that ~80% entrepreneurs are prepared to make significant investments on AI technologies in 2018 (a large number of ‘Proofs-of-Concept’ are being evaluated; many of them are already live). A measly 3% of all enterprises are not yet aware of the concept of artificial intelligence – although there are several companies (22%) which do not have the budget/financial means to integrate AI systems in business IT.

  2. AI technologies in action

    While most discussions revolve around how AI is revolutionizing the world – it is not a technology per se. Instead, think of it as an ‘umbrella layer’ or a ‘horizontal enabling layer’, which contains a large number of cutting-edge technologies. These include machine learning and deep learning, natural language processing (NLP) and natural language generation, decision management systems, biometrics tools, text analytics, robotics process automation, software and hardware platforms (for both ML and DL), and other related tools. When an enterprise opts for AI, it does not purchase or implement the ‘entire package’. Instead, it looks for the technology(ies) that would deliver the maximum value for business (ROI). Virtual agents (referred to as ‘the current darling of the media’ by Forrester) are yet another popular example of AI-tools that have made a difference (think Siri, or Alexa, or Cortana). AI-powered chatbots are also witnessing healthy adoption rates. All the technologies are, in their own way, geared to automate processes, increase operational speeds, and deliver optimal results.

  3. Domains of enterprise transformed by AI

    By the end of this year, the value of the global enterprise market will touch the $3.5 trillion mark. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are affecting an ever-increasing share of the overall market – and interestingly, nearly all the important sub-domains of enterprise are being transformed by the technology. Right from security & risk handling, business intelligence, knowledge processing, productivity management and data science management, to B2B digital marketing/sales, e-commerce, finance operations, manufacturing, customer management, and even drones and (maybe) robots – AI is making its presence felt practically everywhere. This growth is being fueled by the fact that the number of AI vendors/AI companies are rising rapidly across the globe. At last count, the total number of AI startups had crossed the 2250 mark – and remarkably, almost half of these startups have been launched in the last 2-3 years.

  4. Moving beyond machine learning

    Data is the backbone of all artificial intelligence technologies. The so-called ‘AI winter’ – during which excitements over AI were seemingly slowing down – was primarily caused by the fact that most enterprises did not know what to do with the accumulated data (for many businesses, labeling the available unstructured data was also a considerable challenge). As machine learning technologies evolved, data could finally be used for predictive purposes. However, as we step into the next phase of AI development for enterprises, ML is not going to be sufficient in itself – and efficient ‘machine intelligence’ (MI) will become the more important capability. While ‘machine learning’ can estimate/predict that ‘X’ units will be produced this quarter or ‘Y’ number of shipments will be made in a year – ‘machine intelligence’ goes a step further, and delivers deeper insight into the ‘why’ factor – the causes behind these estimates, and whether (& how) such predictions can be modified. The focus is firmly on doing more with big data – and machine intelligence has big capabilities in this context.

  5. Where are the AI investments being made?

    As we enter into the ‘golden age of enterprise AI applications’ – with mounting investments by businesses in a bid to gain greater tractions in terms of quality, productivity, scalability, and efficiency – ‘machine learning applications’ have a clear lead over other technologies (with $3.5 billion funding). The next three spots are occupied by ‘natural language processing’, ‘smart robots’, and ‘machine learning platforms’ – with ~$1 billion investments on them respectively. Tools like ‘image recognition platforms/applications’, ‘speech recognition’ and ‘virtual agents’ also attract healthy investments from enterprises. Slightly surprisingly though, the least interest (in terms of investments) is on ‘video content recognition’ and ‘speech to speech translation’. Over the next half a decade or so, these technologies are also expected to push upwards.

  6. The importance of establishing data-driven culture in enterprises

    The technical capabilities available – high-end ML and DL platforms, advanced algorithms and seriously high computing power (by 2020, we are looking at ubiquitous workplace robots and ‘speed-of-light’ computing power) – might be top-notch, but enterprises that do not have a data-driven culture are not going to make much headway in the AI space. Any company that is serious about implementing artificial intelligence in its existing IT infrastructure simply must have a proper team of chief data officers (CDOs), data scientists, domain experts, information engineers, statisticians and other such experienced professionals – who can i) understand and effectively analyze the huge volumes of data, and ii) collaborate with customers, decision-makers and fellow employees properly. These ‘data professionals’ will have to work with enterprise app developers, in order to chalk out plans of integrating AI and ‘intelligent’ data flow in new applications. The onus of testing software tools and frameworks, along with the capabilities of different AI services, will also be on these ‘data experts’. The recruitment, training and talent-sourcing processes in enterprises have to be suitably modified.

  7. APIs for internal AI projects of businesses

    There are many use-cases of high-end application program interfaces (APIs) being used for streamlining in-house business AI projects. A classic example regarding this would be Ocado – which has successfully brought together robust cloud APis with Google TensorFlow – in a bid to manage the high daily volumes of customer emails received by the company. There is also considerable buzz over how the company has plans to ditch traditional packing procedures with barcode scanning, in favour of ‘intelligent AI vision’ practices. ML algorithms are being implemented within both end-user apps (e.g., Google Home) as well as other enterprise tools (e.g., routing applications). APIs can be used to make apps ‘smarter’ in a myriad of ways – like integration of NLP, or video search, or text-to-speech/speech-to-text capabilities. The scopes for switching over to AI-based tools and solutions is uniformly high across the board, and more innovative deployments should become active in 2018.

  8. The benefits of AI applications

    Given the potentially substantial advantages of AI technologies in the enterprise domain, it can be safely said that these will continue to grow in popularity over the next few years. Applications with built-in artificial intelligence can give current enterprise IT setups a total makeover – with agile software development and release, ‘intelligent’ data diagnostics, rapid and accurate processing standards, process dissipations, and holistic digital experiences for users. There are considerable benefits from the financial perspective too. By bolstering the overall efficiency of operational flows and bringing down the cost of manpower maintenance/management, AI will be able to help US-based businesses save up to $60 billion. AI tech is finding acceptance in different industrial sectors – led by finance and insurance (understandably, with financial data management and fraud detection being key activities), along with medical and healthcare, education, manufacturing and transportation. Predictive maintenance systems have made it possible for businesses to follow ‘just-in-time (JIT) maintenance’ standards. Inventory levels, hence, can be trimmed – and that has been a big advantage as well.

  9. AI use cases in enterprise software

    The importance of AI solutions is healthcare is underlined by the fact that the technology yields a massive $2250 million from customized processing of patient data, with built-in scalability. However, it is far from being the most common AI use case in business software applications. The top spot in this regard would go to algorithm-based improvement of trading strategy performance use cases (revenue $2400) – with static image recognition and tagging occupying the second spot. Other common, and significantly revenue-yielding use cases of AI-powered enterprise software applications include social media content distribution, text queries of images, object detection/identification/classification, and predictive maintenance. As organizations ‘learn’ to optimally deploy AI technologies, more and more new use cases are sprouting, and revenues are skyrocketing.

  10. The human-displacement consideration

    It has widely been speculated that large-scale implementation of automated solutions (say, chatbots) will result in huge loss of employment worldwide. This is, truth be said, only partially true – since the human element is still going to be required to control all the gadgets and algorithms and software (even when machines are ‘intelligent’ enough to not require any prior programming). As highlighted in an earlier, without the ultimate control in the hands of capable human data experts/scientists, the technology itself is hardly going to be of any use. There will be some labor-displacement though – thanks to focus of AI on making all menial, repetitive human activities automated and smarter. As AI becomes mainstream in the next 4-6 years, low-level employees might find themselves out of work (‘replaced’ by the considerably more efficient machines). AI is not going to affect those working at the top rungs of enterprise IT and management systems. Unless we are talking about a dystopian future, AI machines and robots are not going to order human beings around anytime soon!

  11. The steady rise of cognitive computing

    The spurt in the growth of AI solutions for enterprise is boosting another form of innovation – in the form of cognitive computing (through a combination of AI and signal processing capabilities). These fully autonomous computing systems do not require pre-programming, and have – in varying degrees – 4 key abilities‘to sense’ (through IoT ‘sense-and-respond’ networks), ‘to learn’ (by drawing ‘informed’ conclusions by making use of past data/experiences), ‘to infer’ (by working just like the human brain, with the help of powerful AI algorithms), and ‘to interact’ (via custom natural language interfaces through gesture, voice or touch). By the end of 2020, cognitive computing will be a $13.7 billion market globally – and it has tremendous potentials of taking enterprise operations and applications to an altogether higher level.

  12. Arrival of Intelligent App Stacks

    In less than five years from now, 4 out of every 10 enterprise apps will have AI and ML capabilities. Adoption of ‘intelligent’ technologies are helping enterprises seamlessly move over from the traditional ‘system-of-record’ infrastructure, to a much more efficient ‘system-of-intelligence’ network – with apps, APIs, platforms and priority systems. Such ‘Intelligent App Stacks’ will have favourable effects on the entire value chain of organizations – pulling up overall ROI figures and limiting unnecessary expenses. An ‘intelligent’ enterprise app can easily influence customer behaviour, push out real-time updates, generate personalized responses, and perform a host of other high-end functions. Over the next few years, both infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and machine learning-as-a-service (MLaaS) are going to become increasingly mainstream.

Given the range of opportunities and capabilities that enterprise AI opens up, the mounting interest of the biggest tech players in the technology does not come as a surprise. From IBM (with Watson) and Google (with the $400 million acquisition of DeepMind), to Microsoft (with its venture capital startup for AI), Facebook (AI-powered photo narration on the iOS app) and Uber (with last year’s acquisition of Geometric Intelligence) – all the market leaders are investing on artificial intelligence in a big way. We are still a long way off from making robots or machines that surpass (or even match) human intelligence on their own – but AI-powered solutions are certainly poised to change enterprise software as we know it.

Top 13 Digital Transformation Trends To Watch Out For In 2018

 

digital transformation 2018

 

The world is becoming more and more digitized – there are no two ways about that. A recent study by Accenture has projected that the value of the global digital economy will soar to $24600 billion+  by 2020 (an increase of ~28.5% over 2015). The rates of technological innovations and adaptations are, expectedly, the highest in the developed countries – with the Nordic countries (Sweden, Denmark and Finland in particular) taking the lead in this context. There’s already a lot of buzz about smart things and unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) and 5G cellular technology, and we will here look forward to some likely digital transformations in 2018 and beyond:

  1. Big data and analytics to become more manageable

    By the end of this decade, the daily count of B2B and B2C transactions online will move past 450 billion. The total volume of big data worldwide has been estimated to show a 50% jump in 2020 (compared to 2015) – with the annual growth hovering around the 39% mark. In the next year, the application of big data will continue to spread to different business sectors – manufacturing and finance and healthcare and automation – and the benefits of optimized big data analysis will become more and more prominent. The steadily growing popularity of Hadoop (thanks to the recent improvements in both accessibility as well as overall performance) has made it possible to carry out detailed analytics reports on big data. A recent report suggests that close to 90% users are now able to examine critical data in more detail – while data retention has also gone up to 82%. In future, big data will drive all important predictions and estimations, and will add an additional layer of ‘smartness’ to business intelligence (BI).

  2. The growth of edge computing

    Cisco and IBM have already come together (with Watson) to push the limits of Internet of Things (IoT) with edge computing/fog computing. It can be reasonably expected that hardware capabilities and software-based innovations will continue to pick up momentum in 2018. The remarkable increases in both the volume and the speed of transactions are making real-time data responses essential in many cases – and that, in turn, is pushing up the demand for edge computing (there are several instances where transferring the data to the cloud (and back) is neither feasible nor efficient). More than 5.5 billion IoT devices will be actively used for edge analytics and computing by the government and enterprises (cumulatively), by 2020. We are coming towards the end of the experimentation phase with IoT – the ‘Internet of Everything’ might well start picking up pace from next year on.

Note: The International Conference on Edge Computing will be held at Seattle, from the 25th to the 30th of June 2018.

  1. Surge in demand for low-code platforms

    In 2015, vendors of low code platforms earned just a tad over $1.7 billion in revenue. By the middle of 2018, that figure is set to soar to more than $6.1 billion – and the revenues will move beyond the $10 billion mark by the end of 2019. The adoption of full-featured low code platforms is being particularly fueled by the shortage of qualified software developers worldwide (as per a Forrester report, 83% recruiters have reported such shortage). These platforms typically have intuitive drag-and-drop features and simplistic visual designs – enabling general users to create applications quickly (the process can be 10 times quicker than traditional development methods) and efficiently. With investments on digital transformations going up all the time, the collaborations between IT and businesses is getting stronger – and transformative enterprise software like these low-code platforms are witnessing spikes in number of users.

Note: Mendix, Appian, Zoho Creator and Google App Maker are some of the popular low code platforms at present.

  1. AR applications to find a solid footing

    Within the first three months of its launch (in July 2016), Pokemon Go had managed to deliver a whopping $600 million in mobile augmented reality (AR) alone. Interestingly, it is wide expected that AR growth will start to outpace growth in virtual reality (VR) from 2018 (VR was the dominant segment in 2016 and 2017) – and this trend will continue, with AR taking up 80%+ share by 2021. With the help of cutting-edge 3D visualization methods, enterprises are making their marketing campaigns (training, pitching and product envisioning) more engaging and effective than ever before. What’s more, basic AR applications are also not as expensive as VR tools and headsets – and this factor is providing a further boost to the former. Mobile AR will consolidate its position as the leader in the $108 billion global VR/AR market in 2021. For reaching out to the masses (i.e., large scale commercialization) – there is a need for a ‘hero device’ with AR though – and the fact that the recently released iOS 11 platform has built-in ARKit indicates that thinking on these lines is already underway.

Note: Building a strong AR-based ecosystem and ensuring seamless mobile connectivity are key challenges in this context. In 2018 and beyond, VR will also continue to grow – but all eyes will be on the performance of AR.

  1. Artificial intelligence deployment to pick up pace

    From marketing communications and mobile personal assistants (Siri, Google Now, Cortana, Alexa), to smart, automated chatbots and tools to deliver personalized user-experiences on digital platforms – artificial intelligence (AI) has started to make its presence felt in myriad walks of life. Over the next few quarters, experts are likely to ramp up work on the implementation of AI for robotics, data analytics, and of course, customer servicing. Market leaders like Amazon and Netflix have shown that the ability to offer customized solutions/recommendations/display results to end-users can be THE most important factor between success and failure – and it is precisely over here that AI can make a difference. There is also a definite trend towards using open development practices to enable ‘cognitive computing’ wherever possible, with the help of AI platforms like Cortana Intelligence Suite and Amazon AI. In 2018, expect developers to move away from closed-system tools and solutions – where AI cannot be easily integrated. The total market size for AI will nearly double on a YoY basis ($4066 million in 2018; $2420 million in 2017). Artificial intelligence will be ‘all around us’, so to speak.

Note: AI will also be at the core of the self-driving Uber vehicles, and the proposed drone technology by Amazon. We are not likely to see final prototypes of these before 2019, however.

  1. Digital transformation on the radar of enterprises across the world

    The value of the ongoing technological disruptions and innovations is not lost on leading companies. At the start of this year, a massive 87% of all Global 2000 companies reported that they either were already had digital transformation projects underway – or had plans to start them soon. By the next year, these tech disruptions will start to have a modifying effect on organizational workflows and charts too . 6 out of every 10 of the companies are setting up new cross-functional units to monitor, maintain and operate the digital transformations/innovations. In general, the global digital economy will grow by an impressive 26% in the 2016-2021 period (in the same time, the growth in the non-digital economy will be a much more modest 8%).

Note: Digital development has also been cited as a proven productivity multiplier. For every 1-point growth in digital density (combining digital skills, accelerators and technologies), factor productivity levels can go up by 0.04% in the developed countries.

  1. Moving beyond consumer experiences

    Digital transformation is too broad a topic to focus solely on improving customer experience (CX) levels. While that remains a critical factor, the objectives of the tech transformations will become increasingly diversified in the next few years – to ensure that all the dimensions of business are taken under its purview. Nearly 8 out of every 10 respondents in a survey earlier this year stated that their digital transformation projects do not put the spotlight only on CX-optimization. Instead, the focus is shifting towards integrating agility, business logic and efficiency at each and every stage of corporate operations. Once the overall operational processes are fully optimized, CX levels will automatically be bolstered. Developers will take a broader view of things, to improve overall user end-experience of a product, rather than wasting time on single tasks/screens/processes.

Note: Performance, reliability, speed and security are all key elements of CX. In 2018 and later, the emphasis will squarely be on improving all of these elements – preferably with the help of past experiences of customers.

  1. More remote workplaces to become operational 

    We are slowly but surely moving away from the traditional ‘9-to-5’ workplace regime. The demands among employees for flexible working hours and ‘work-from-home’ options are pretty much well-documented. Yet another fascinating trend has been the steady growth in the number of remote workplaces. Two factors are primarily driving this growth – firstly, the launch of overseas branches/chapters of many companies, and secondly, the growing number of ‘virtual companies’ (75 in 2015; 125+ in 2016). It has also been projected that nearly 50% of the total workforce in the United States will be working remotely, by the turn of this decade. In 2018, we should witness a steady rise in the number of such remote workplaces – and that, in turn, will pull up the importance of high-end business collaboration tools, chat and video platforms on the cloud, and endpoint/device security solutions. Workers will actively start to look for jobs that give them the opportunity to work remotely. Many enterprises have also reported that remote workplaces have the potential to pull up productivity levels.

Note: In March this year, IBM bucked the trend by calling back its remote workers to office. In general though, the number of remote workplaces will go on increasing in the foreseeable future.

  1. Apps and APIs will continue to grow

    In the enterprise domain, the importance of mobile apps (‘appification’) is immense. Experts from the field of software and app development agree that apps can boost employee engagement levels in a big way, thereby opening up chances of higher productivity levels becoming achievable. Rather startlingly, nearly 88% of employees across the world are not engaged enough to their respective jobs – and the employers are either not aware of the problem, or have done nothing about. From 2018, things should get a makeover – with mobile social platforms, apps and gamification all likely to get employees involved and ‘into the fold’. Collaboration, communication and performance will be the three main pillars of such digital employee engagement. In addition, enterprise API strategies will also be validated by the apps – with the user-experience data collected by the latter likely to offer useful insights. By 2020, US-based companies will be spending $660 per year for API management (up by 371% over 2014). API-enabled enterprise solutions will continue to grow smarter.

Note: In terms of EPS, companies with highly engaged employees generate nearly 150% higher returns than than their competitors. This explains the demand for apps/APIs to bolster worker engagements.

   10. Reliance on cloud computing will keep growing

We have earlier highlighted the growing importance of edge computing. That, however, is not going to slacken the importance of robust cloud services in any way. More than 60% of all CRM software tools will be powered by cloud computing by the end of 2018 – with the overall size of the market set to touch $128 billion (the 2014-2018 CAGR will be a shade under 23%). By 2020, the lion’s share of all data center traffic (~92%) will be stored on, and accessed from, the cloud. The benefits of cloud services in the context of digital transformation will be manifold – from bringing down data management and operational costs, to making business processes agile, ensuring data security and superior backend connectivity for apps, offering greater operational scalability and bringing down the time-to-market spans. Both public and private sector companies are relying on cloud resources for secure data storage.

Note: Last month, Huawei announced ‘Enterprise Intelligence’ – an all-new enterprise cloud platform powered by artificial intelligence.

    11. The 5G revolution is coming

The vast increases in the big data volumes and transactions will automatically create a need for higher data/network speeds – and this is precisely where 5G will start to step up. Although 5G-enabled smartphones are not expected to arrive before 2019 (according to a Qualcomm report) – interest on the new technology will continue to surge next year, as more and more use cases arise where existing 4G speeds cannot cope up. The capabilities of the breakthrough Gigabit LTE technology were showcased earlier this year on the Sony Xperia XZ Premium – and 5G is expected to take things to an altogether higher level (with ~10GB/s download speeds, it will be considerably faster than 4G). More players are expected to join the 5G revolution in 2018 (in addition to Qualcomm) – and although there might be initial snags, we will be moving closer to faster, better network speeds and performance.

Note: This year, Samsung has also been active in the 5G domain, collaborating with leading providers like SK Telecom, AT&T, Arqiva and Charter Communications.

   12. Blockchain technology to the fore

The blockchain open, distributed ledger technology (DLT) is growing – albeit at a sedate pace – across industries (the finance sector, understandably, have been the first adopters). In February 2017, ‘blockchain’ was reported as the second-most frequently searched term on the Gartner website – with the annual growth in the search volume skyrocketing by more than 400%. Over the next couple of years or so, many new and interesting use cases for blockchain deployment will emerge – from different business sectors. Blockchain startups will be funded by interested venture capitalists, and the technology itself will become faster, more reliable and more scalable. The adoption of blockchain technology in developing/emerging markets will grow too.

Note: Blockchain has a role to play in the creation of smart cities too, with Dubai set to be managed by the world’s first-ever blockchain-powered government in 2020. The graduation event of Ethereum blockchain developers was recently held there.

    13.  More ‘XX-as-a-Service’ markets

From backend-as-service (BaaS and mBaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), to software-as-a-service (SaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) – the ‘as-a-service’ markets are growing exponentially. With the advancements in infrastructure, software and technical capabilities brought about by the digital disruptions – more types of ‘aaS’ are likely to become available within the next few years. Things like workplace-as-a-service (WaaS) and unified-communications-as-a-service (UaaS) will become increasingly mainstream. There will be greater focus on failed cases of service delivery (although expecting ‘failure-as-a-service’ to become an actual thing will probably be too far-fetched) as well. The onus will be on companies to track failures, learn from them, and make their ‘aaS’ operations properly optimized and efficient.

The growing demand for new and customized business apps, together with the relative paucity of developers, is boosting the concept of ‘citizen development’. These so-called ‘citizen developers’ use low-code platforms to create the applications that they require. A survey found that 7 out every 10 IT entrepreneurs are looking for tools to manage these developers – and in 2018, research on this will continue. There is also a lot of buzz over Apple AR smart glasses – with the Cupertino company announcing a patent earlier this year.

While 2018 will witness a wide range of data transformations and disruptions – the most important thing will not be the tech per se. Instead, the way in which these transformations affect the everyday operations of businesses (or lives of individuals, for that matter) will be the main point of interest. Technology is constantly evolving, and there’s a lot of ‘new’ things to watch out for next year.

 

 

Mobile And App Market In South Korea: Key Trends & Stats

 

South Korea mobile and app markets

 

In 2016, the value of the global app economy stood at $1.6 trillion. A recent App Annie report suggests that this figure will zoom up to well over $6 trillion by the end of 2021 – marking a >350% growth. Asia-Pacific (APEC) has emerged as the fastest growing mobile app market in the world – going beyond the significantly mature North and South American economies. While China and, to a lesser extent, Japan, have been the ‘face’ of the proliferation of apps in Asia-Pacific, South Korea is yet another country where smartphones and applications already have a strong base. We will here highlight some important app and mobile trends from the South Korean market:

  1. Number of smartphone users

    By the end of this year, the world will have more than 2 million active smartphone users. South Korea will have around 39.6 million people with smartphones, with the number projected to swell to 43 million by 2021. Interestingly, South Korea is also has the highest smartphone penetration rate among all countries in the world, with a 2016 Pew Research Center report revealing that around 88% of South Korean households owned at least one smart device (Australia holds second spot; the world average (median) is ~43%). Among the younger generation (18-34), smartphone penetration is almost 100%, while among older people, the figure is in excess of 82%.

Note: In terms of internet connectivity, the performance of South Korea is even more noteworthy, More than 99% households access the World Wide Web – through mobile, optical LAN, cable modem and other methods.

  1. Android in a big lead

    In the United States, Android has a stranglehold over 66% of the market, with iOS registering a comparatively feeble 31% share. The picture is even more skewed in South Korea. By last month, the share of Android had grown to a whopping 78.9% in the country, while iOS accounted for a meager 20% of all new activations. Blackberry ranks a distant third with a market share of 0.23%, and LG, Windows and Samsung all have sub-0.2% share. The iOS vs Android market share stat in South Korea somewhat mirrors the worldwide figure (Android 73%; iOS 19%).

  2. Biggest telecom players

    The fast-growing South Korean telecommunications market has three major players – Korea Telecom (KT), LG U Plus and SK Telecom. Among these, SK Telecom, with 48% market share, easily holds the leadership position (although its growth has been tapering off as the market enters maturity) – while KT (31% share) and LG Telecom (21% share) holds the second and third spots respectively. In the telephone and fixed-line segment though, KT has the edge over its competitors. The arrival of 5G is set to drive mobile penetration levels to something in the region of 120% in 2018. The country also has the largest base of per capita broadband service adoption rate – with mobile broadband penetration touching the 110% mark in 2016. The total number of fixed broadband subscribers in South Korea is comfortably over 20 million.

Note: The mobile broadband market has entered early maturity in South Korea, and the growth rates are likely to be more moderate over the next few years.

  1. App engagement

    On a YoY basis, time spent with mobile apps increased by 25% in 2017 Q1(worldwide). On the Android platform, South Korea has the highest ‘daily time with apps’ figure – with people using applications installed on their devices for close to 200 minutes every day (up from 180 minutes last year). Brazil, Mexico and Japan have the next-best app engagement figures, while the US ranks at a somewhat lowly 6th. On average, individuals use ~30 apps on their handsets every month (the figure is significantly lower than that in China). The app usage and retention figures are mostly at par with the global figures.

  2. Cost per installation of iOS and Android apps

    The lion’s share of apps in both Apple App Store and Google Play Store is free – and that is reflected in the extremely low cost per installation (CPI) figures of mobile apps in South Korea. Android is, expectedly, the ‘cheapest’ platform – with the CPI being only a shade over $0.60. On the other hand, the average CPI of iPhone apps and iPad apps are $.108 and $1.07 respectively. In the paid apps category, Gudak Cam ($0.99) holds the top spot (as on 10 October). In the free category of the Korean App Store, YouTube and Instagram both rank within the top-10, while Facebook is presently listed at the 13th spot. As in most other countries, ‘freemium apps’ (free with in-app purchases) is popular in South Korea too.

  3. Rapid surge in mobile gaming

    South Korea has the 6th largest game industry in the world, in terms of revenues earned. The total spending on games hovers around $4.1 billion, with the total number of gamers in the country shooting up this year to nearly 26 million. However, only 1 out every 3 gamers in the country play games on all the three platforms (mobile, PC, console). On the mobile platform in particular, 45% of gamers (on SK Telecom) actually spend money on gaming apps. Once again, South Korea has the best engagement figure (on Android) – with more than 80 minutes being spent by the average user per day while playing games (beating out Japan, where the daily time-spent-on-mobile-games stat is around 73 minutes). United States, with users playing games for 32-33 minutes daily, holds the fourth position in this list.

Note: The bulk of mobile app revenues come in from game applications (to the tune of 75%). Given the sheer volume of gamers and the high-engagement times, there are excellent earning opportunities for professional game developers here.

  1. 5G and VoLTE in South Korea

    The 2018 Winter Olympics will be held at PyeongChang in February, and KT Telecom has targeted the event for the rollout of their 5G services. Many new services and mobile capabilities are expected to be showcased to a large global platform (commercial availability of 5G worldwide is not expected till 2020). According to early reports, the 5G connections in South Korea will be up to ‘1000 times faster’ than the existing 4G services. Also, South Korea has the distinction of having the very first commercial interconnected VoLTE service in the world. KT, SK Telecom and LG U Plus had collaborated to release this service in the country. Earlier this year, 5C, or five-band carrier aggregation was also tested successfully in South Korea (by SK Telecom).

  2. Popularity of mobile fitness apps

    The mobile gaming market is huge in South Korea, and the market for fitness applications is pretty big as well. The annual growth rate in revenues from fitness apps between 2016-2021 is estimated to remain steady at around 10% – with $93 million likely to be generated by this category by the end of 2021 (up from $45 million in 2016). More than 7 million people will use fitness apps by the turn of this decade, and the ARPU (average revenue per user) will be ~$13. It can be reasonably expected that fitness apps will continue to grow at a healthy clip for the next 3-4 years or so.

Note: Samsung (41.9% market share) and Apple (20.3% market share) are the leading mobile and tablet device vendors in the country.

  1. Facebook on the rise, but local social media apps dominate

    A DMC Media report in end-2016 showed that Facebook was the most ‘engaging’ (time spent with the app) social media app in South Korea, among users in the 19-59 age bracket. However, in terms of unique users – local players like Band (14.9%) and KakaoStory (13.7%) are both ranked above FB (~10%). Among the nationwide Android users, KakaoTalk is the top-ranked smartphone application, while Band and Facebook are at 7th and 8th positions respectively. Interestingly though, businesses and corporate houses in South Korea prefer using Facebook over any other social media application.

  2. IoT in South Korea

    Within a relatively short span of time, the internet of things (IoT) market in South Korea has come a long way. In July 2015, Nokia Networks and KT had come together to start the country’s first IoT Lab – focused on bringing the ‘smart programmable world’ to users. The technology has advanced quickly indeed, and South Korea bagged the top spot in the ‘Asia-Pacific IoT Readiness Index’ of 2017 (Singapore and New Zealand take up the next two slots). The country has excellent investment opportunities for IoT vendors and OEMs – with the favourable business environment being a key factor. The fact that spending on IoT amounts to a significant percentage of South Korea’s GDP is indicative of the rapid development of ‘connected things’ here.

  3. Rise of zombie apps

    The time spent with mobile apps might be high (particularly for games) – but apparently, users over here prefer using more or less the same set of apps. A recent report by Adjust revealed that an alarming 85% of South Korean applications are not discoverable by organic search – and are hence relegated to the category of zombie apps. The problem clearly does not lie in the native apps of the country (which makes up the 2nd smallest app marketplace here) – but with the broader pool of apps that are created for the global market. The onus is firmly on third-party mobile app developers in South Korea to come up with newer, better apps – that would have better chances of becoming popular. At the moment, low download figures are hurting many South Korean mobile apps badly.

  4. Adoption of LoRa technology

    In May 2016, Samsung entered into a contract with SK Telecom to create the first commercial LoRaWAN-powered IoT network (at Daegu). The 900 MHz frequency band was used for the rollout of this technology – with the focus firmly on building automated, smart infrastructure for a wide range of things, right from cloud services and big data management for the medical sector, to renewable energy management and usage in connected cars. Within three months, the nationwide deployment of LoRaWAN network was done. At present, 99% of the country is covered by the network – and various smart city projects have been planned. Apart from Songdo (the country’s first smart city), smart applications are being built for several other cities.

Note: The South Korean Land and Housing Corporation was requested by India in April 2017, to build a smart city in Maharashtra (‘New Kalyan Smart City’). This consolidated Korea’s position as a leading provider of smart-cities-as-a-service (SCaaS).

Among the Asian markets, South Korea is right at the top in terms of smartphone penetration and the average count of installed apps. What’s more, smart innovations (adoption of IoT, LoRaWAN, etc.) are driving the country forward – and South Korea is in a good position to remain one of leaders in the mobile and app industry over the foreseeable future.

Top 15 App Ideas For 2018

In June 2017, the number of apps in Google Play Store touched the 3 million mark. The Apple App Store ranks a close second – with more than 2.2 million applications at the start of the year. Revenues from mobile apps are witnessing a steady, steep rise, and is likely to hover around the $190 million mark by 2020. The cumulative app download figures have also been estimated to shoot up from 86 million in 2016 to a whopping 199 million in 2021 (in the US alone, the corresponding figures are 29 million and 75 million respectively). In such an immensely competitive and rapidly evolving domain, it is not always the easiest task to come up with fresh, engaging app ideas – that would actually deliver value to end users. Let us here go through some interesting new app ideas for 2018:

  1. App for job-seekers

    Nopes, we are not talking about creating a mobile job portal. Instead, there can be a customized application which will contain likely interview questions (and their answers), meanings and definitions of key items in different industries, and other such updated information. Fellow job-seekers will be able to interact with each other via real-time chat or messaging. All that a user will have to do is enter his/her field/discipline in the app – and the latter would throw up all the data that would increase his/her chances of bagging the right job. Apart from mobile, this app should ideally be made available on the web too.

  2. App for finding walking companions

    What does the Uber app do? That’s right – it helps you book cabs quickly, so that commutes become easy and safe. Now think of it this way…you need to walk over a fairly reasonable distance (say, to the local market, or to a relative’s house nearby) – but are not quite in the mood for trudging along alone. This app will help you find a ‘walking partner’/’walker’ who is also heading in the same general direction, and would like to accompany you. It won’t be a paid service, and the sole motive for signing up as a companion would be the fun of making new acquaintances. For elderly people, such a ‘walk buddy’ app would help from the security perspective too. The app will be powered by GPS technology, and every registered user will be verified on it.

  3. Medical emergency app for doctors

    For a patient in critical condition, every minute is crucial. It takes a fair bit of time to complete all the formalities of getting admitted to a nursing home – and then, the doctor(s) have to be brought up-to-date with the case histories, before a course of treatment can be decided. The whole process can be made more agile and streamlined if there was a dedicated app – on which medical interns/house physicians can enter patient details…as and when the latter are being admitted. Real-time notifications will be sent to doctors when new admissions are done and new case records are added. Going through the records will help the doctors to come prepared, so that the treatment can start at once. For an app like this, strong server-side support (BaaS) will be essential, particularly for maintaining and updating the case record databases.

  4. Restaurant occupancy tracker app

    Nothing is quite as frustrating as gearing up for a grand weekend lunch at a top restaurant – only to find that there are no tables available, and the waiting time is likely to run into hours. To avoid such inconveniences, there can be an iPhone app that would display the occupancy rates at all the leading restaurants in the city – both in figure, as well as in the form of graphical layout/floor map. Users will be able to book tables directly from the app as well – which would be mighty useful in case a particular eating joint is shown to be in ‘fast-filling’ mode. Calling the restaurant to know about seat availability will no longer be required.

  5. Environment-protection app powered by augmented reality

    With the arrival of ARKit in iOS 11, the horizon has really opened up for third-party app developers to integrate augmented reality in their new line of applications. Moving away from games like Pokemon Go for the moment, the concept of creating an information-rich customizable environment AR app seems interesting. With the app, professional eco-experts as well as general users will be able to get first-hand visual information on the various environmental parameters (for instance, degree of chemical contamination) in different facilities. The app will be targeted towards government officials and/or agents from environment agencies (interested citizens will also be able to sign up). It can be made available on both iOS and Android.

  6. Body fat burner app

    Once again, we are not proposing to add to the already long line of fitness and activity apps already available in stores. The way in which this app will work will be unique: before eating a savory item (a particularly sinful chocolate cream cake, for example!), the user will take a snap of it and upload it on the app. The software would instantaneously throw up the activity required to get rid of the extra calories that will be gained by enjoying the food item (like, ‘1.5km jogging and climbing 45 stairs’). In essence, the app will be like a cheat sheet for people who love to gastronomically indulge themselves – but do not wish to compromise upon…well…the size of their waistlines.

  7. App for aquarium lovers

    Many people love to have aquariums in their homes, but have precious little idea on a) how to hygienically maintain them, and b) how to set up the aquarium landscaping. This mobile application will come to the aid of such people. It will have built-in lists of the different kinds of aquarium plants, sand, gravel, lighting systems and even fish varieties. Users will be able to add their favourite elements – and check out detailed 3D views of their virtual aquariums. Information about the sustainability of each virtual aquarium will also be provided. With a tool like React Native, this idea can very well be transformed into a cross-platform app.

  8. Real-time audio translation app

    This idea can be worked upon as a IVR system as well as an iPad application. The user will be able to speak and record messages (seeking information about a particular service) in his/her local language – and the app would translate the message into another language and deliver it to the operator/service provider. Now, the latter will provide the response – which, once again, will be translated back to the language of the initial user. The translation software that will form the base of this app will have to be very high on both accuracy and promptitude (big lags between sending a message and receiving a response would defeat the purpose of the app). The app is likely to be very useful for people in a foreign country who need to urgently communicate with the locals, but do not know the language of the land.

  9. Pet life care app

    Ever wondered whether your four-legged buddy is getting the ideal amount of playing exercise (walking/playing)? Is the food you are giving your dog or cat actually nutritious for the animal? Is a visit to the vet needed? On a new pet care app that will offer end-to-end information, you will get all of these information – and then much more. The app will be compatible with third-party fitness trackers, to record the activity levels of your canine/feline friend. Pet-owners shall receive notifications and reminders, to go for appointments with vets. Including real-time chat feature will also be a great option for creating an active community of pet-owners/lovers in the app – facilitating information-sharing among the users. In case a pet animal passes on to the other side, the app will also inform its owner about the procedure to get its death certificate.

  10. Design service app

    Online classified ads and lengthy searches through job portals for graphic designers would take a backseat – with the launch of this application (ideally, on iOS first, and then on Android). People will be able to sign up and post their design requirements on the app. All interested designers will receive notifications about the new job posting, and they will be able to bid on the project (alternatively, only one of them will be able to ‘accept’ the project, with the posting becoming invisible after that). As is pretty much evident, users will be able to sign up in either ‘I need a designer’ or ‘I want to design’ modes. The core objective of the app will be the one-on-one matching of the members of these two groups, for getting the design jobs done.

  11. App for senior citizens

    With the advancement of age, every person needs that extra bit of care and attention. The breakneck speed of the modern society does not, however, always allow children to provide that type of attention to their elderly parents. We can conceive the idea of a new app that would help old people perform all the basic activities with ease – right from booking a health check-up session and planning the daily diets, to generating reminders for taking daily medicines, booking groceries, paying utility bills, and the like. Apart from making life easier for the aged users, the presence of the app will also help the working sons/daughter to worry less about their parents. There will be an emergency contact tab in the app, tapping which will ring up either a designated doctor, or the children of the senior citizens. Company of sons and daughters is still the best thing for parents – but it is not always possible, and this app can be the next best alternative.

  12. Fitness app for smart cars

    When it comes to personal health, there are literally hundreds of fitness and wellness apps out there. If we put the same attention on the ‘fitness of our automobiles’, we would definitely receive boosts in terms of both performance and longevity. An app can be created (supported by specific car APIs), that will be able to communicate with drivers as well as the dashboard/system of connected cars. The built-in GPS functionality of the app will help users track the miles-per-gallon (mpg) stats being maintained by drivers in the locality – and what the optimal ‘mpg’ for your vehicle model should be. Information will also be provided on driving best practices – for helping drivers attain their ‘target mpg’ levels. Again, social connectivity can be integrated – with a person getting the option to connect with owners of same/similar vehicles. The app will also double up as a navigation support tool.

  13. The seasonal app

    Seasons change, and it can be a tricky task to keep up with everything that changes with them. This app should prove to be handy in this regard. After auto-detecting the location of the user, the app would show all the information about the different seasons in that place – like temperature levels, dressing options and trends, recipes, places to visit nearby (say, within 150 kilometers). Health tips relevant to the different seasons can also be shared, along with season pictures (say, a snow-capped mountain peak or a frozen lake in winter, colorful flower gardens in summer, etc.). How about reliving one season when another one is on in full swing? The application will offer that opportunity too.

  14. App for nurturing relationships

    Delicacy is the name of the game when you nurture anything – from a houseplant to the relationship with a special someone. Instead of making yet another mobile relationship tracker (we had already worked on one such app – Rapport Card), it would be a cool idea to build a task-oriented relationship nurturing application. There will be a virtual plant, and a set of instructions generated at various times of the day (‘Wish good morning’, ‘Give a bear hug’, ‘Buy a present’, etc.). On completing a ‘task’, the user will tap on the concerned tab – and the plant will grow a little. In this manner, as the romantic attachment grows stronger, the plant will develop in a healthy manner (missing a task will cause it to wither a bit). The onus, of course, will be on the users to ensure that they do not end up spending more time on the app, and less with their partner. It will be, after all, only a support tool for your relationship.

  15. Online debate app

    On the various online forums, debates on a myriad of topics rage on. How about bringing such debates on the mobile platform, and making them more systematic? Different topics will be listed in the app, on which live debates are going on – and users can simply enter their names and information on whether they are for or against the motion – to join up. Upcoming debates can be listed as events, allowing people to join after doing the necessary preparation. There can be a ‘Help Me Out’ button, which will offer 1-2 information points, in case a debater is suddenly at a loss. For security reasons, the debate chats will be recorded and stored in the app database. Users will also be able to report others in cases of misconduct.

The IoT domain is really spreading wings, and there are possibilities galore to come with new apps for smart agriculture practices. Studies are going on for creating advanced applications powered by LoRa technology, for establishing connections for smart cities. As far as parenting apps are concerned, a piece of mobile software that serves as a countdown timer for different activities – time to study, time for meals, time to go to bed, etc – should be helpful. Apps with virtual pets (‘My Talking Tom’, anyone?) are also popular, and fresh new twists can be put on them as well.

At the end of the day, coming up with a new app idea is not about reinventing the wheel. In case your ideas are too unique, you will only end up alienating your users. If there is a good app concept – chances are that it has already been worked upon by someone, and the trick lies in coming up with improved versions – with greater features and functionalities. We are planning to work on some of the ideas in this list soon enough.

Any other new app idea that you feel will be worth investing time on in 2018?

 

Understanding Blockchain Factors with Digital Business Process Management

 

Blockchain in BPM 1

 

(This post has been contributed by Samantha Black, content writer and developer at BackOfficePro)

Business process management focuses on the design and observation of business processes in an effort to find way to improve them. In today’s world, we have seen a lot of business processes swapped over to digital format. Then we bring in blockchain technology to change the landscape even further. Blockchains offer a truly unique method of executing business processes in a secure manner.

This post is going to look at some of the ways that blockchain technology factors into digital business process management. We’ll look at some of the opportunities that the blockchain brings, as well as the challenges now facing businesses.

Strategic Alignment

The management of connections between business processes is referred to as strategic alignment. The goal of strategic alignment is to provide actionable steps that can be taken to boost overall performance. Blockchain technology allows businesses to flip the traditional “process follows strategy” equation, but this won’t work for all business models. It’s up to you to determine whether or not this is beneficial.

Governance of Data

Governance of data is different with blockchain technology than it is with traditional practices. Let me try to explain. Traditional BPM governance provides accountability for the roles of specific data. For example, some data might be used to help improve marketing while other data is used for making decisions related to stability. Blockchain completely changes data governance.

Blockchain in BPM 2

 

 

Within blockchain systems, it’s theoretically impossible for any business process to be violated because the network operates on a decentralised network. Algorithms check and verify the history of the public ledger. Since the network consists of different nodes, it’s not possible to violate all of these ledgers. My point is that blockchain enabled contracts would automate much of the overall process.

The Link Between Financial Transactions and Blockchain Technology

We can see that the financial world has started to show a promising level of cooperation between financial services and blockchain technology. That means that it’s going to play a role in many of your financial processes but how big that role is depends on your business. To better understand this, let’s look at the two big reasons why blockchain technology is limited to very specific financial industries:

First, every node within the blockchain must contain complete transparency. Therefore, it’s not suitable for certain sensitive financial processes where security is of paramount importance. Centralized systems offer greater security.

Secondly, each node within the blockchain must record every transaction. This consumes quite a bit of computing power, making it inefficient for certain processes.

The biggest risk for all companies right now is that DAOs are able to compete against many established processes that are currently in place, including human resources and customer service management.

Organisational Implications

Blockchain technology is capable of impacting traditional businesses and the way they view themselves. As artificial intelligence starts to take over certain business processes, blockchain technology can quicken the birth of networked organisations, reduce overall transaction costs, and require fewer levels within an organisation.

Overall, we will start to see more efficient planning and reporting as blockchain technology takes its rightful place in business process management. Consider the value of having a truly decentralised source to report data, with information being verified across multiple nodes for accuracy.

While we certainly don’t have all of the answers right now, one thing is for certain. Business leaders are going to have to learn how to incorporate this technology into their overall processes as new methods of doing business emerge.  

We will start to see many non-core tasks become automated through the use of smart contracts. Blockchain technology creates a new outlook on BPM by providing new methods of automation and new ways to authenticate processes.

 

Teksmobile At The 2017 Nordic APIs Platform Summit

The latest edition of the Nordic APIs Platform Summit – one of the premier API-focused events in the world – is set to take place on October 9-11, at Stockholm, Sweden. The first day of the event will feature several interactive workshops – hosted by Kevin Bouwmeester (APIGEE), Daniel Lindau (Curity), Victoria Wagman (46 Elks) and Travis Spencer (Curity). On the following two days, full conference sessions will be held, covering a vast range of API-related topics.

The primary focus of this year’s Nordic APIs Platform Summit will be on scaling the API platform as a whole. There will be two separate tracks (for businesses and for developers) – to help participants draw up fully customized lists of the sessions they would like to attend/would best fit their requirements. The rapid proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT), along with cutting-edge web and mobile applications, has increased the importance of built-in scalability and agility of APIs manifold – and the 2017 Platform Summit will put the spotlight squarely on that.

The Teks team is also going to have a strong presence at the event. On the second conference day (October 11), the head of the Teksmobile Australia in-house API Practice Group – Manish Singh – will be helming a session on API designing (“Best Practices While Designing API Program For An Enterprise”) – at the Stora Stjärnrummet from 14:00 (local time). The session would, of course, be followed by a Q&A session. Manish’s session will be a part of the ‘Technical Track – Design’ lineup of sessions at the upcoming Platform Summit.

A bit about Manish Singh – the veritable ‘face of the Teksmobile API team’ – would be in order at this point. The man can very well be referred to as an ‘API veteran’ – having been involved with these topics since 2011 (prior to that, he had gathered considerable working experience on the .NET, Java/J2EE and PHP platforms. Within a relatively short time-frame, Manish has acquired complete proficiency on the APIGEE (the platform that kickstarted his API journey), Axway, Dream Factory, Mulesoft and CA Layer 7 platforms. Right from planning the architecture of digital interfaces, to API designing and implementation of the same – Manish is a proven master of everything. At present, he is taking a keen interest on the best practices for designing enterprise APIs, and is visibly excited at the prospect of addressing a large audience at the 2017 Platform Summit – and sharing his knowledge on enterprise APIs in particular, and API designing/management in general. We are confident that attending Manish’s session would be immensely beneficial and a great learning experience for all those who choose to attend it.

The ‘Scale Your API Platform’ Nordic APIs Summit is expected to cover an interesting array of topics this year. Things like the choice of coding languages that offer enhanced capabilities, the expected response of marketers and businesses in the face of rapidly spiralling demands, and the latest innovations in API architecture would all be closely deliberated upon at the event. The two-and-a-half day affair would shed light on the progress, usability and advantages of APIs in future – that’s for sure.

As is customary with the Nordic APIs Platform Summit, this year’s event will also be attended by many big corporate houses, like Adidas (“Creating the new Adidas APIs”), Nokia (“Developing medical grade IoT systems”) and Spotify (“Pragmatic JSON API design”). The event will be sponsored by CA technologies (platinum sponsor), Tibco, IBM, Teksmobile, APIGEE, and others. Curity is the organizer of this year’s Platform Summit.

The domain of app and API development is a constantly evolving one. We believe that Manish’s intricately researched session on enterprise API designing will highlight the dynamic nature of this domain, the best practices for creating enterprise APIs…and showcase the way forward for API technologies. The four main components of API programs – the API gateway, the front end, the developer portal, and the backend/microservices will be discussed – with particular emphasis on the nature of logic/activity to be stored in the different layers. The possibilities of doing more with APIs is expanding fast – and the session would give attendees a sneak peek into that.

This will, of course, not be the first time that Teksmobile has collaborated with Nordic APIs. At the 2016 Platform Summit, I had held a session on API strategy optimization (you can catch my speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pv-7iiFugA8). The response was extremely encouraging – and I believe that Manish’s session on API designing for enterprises will be equally successful. For all of you who wish to stay updated with the rapidly evolving world of APIs and techniques of API designing for enterprises – this session is a must-attend.

The 2017 Platform Summit is already sold out – a clear indication of the worldwide popularity and interest-levels of the event. Tickets to select workshops are still available. All eyes are now on this flagship API event, and we will see you there…learning all the interesting tricks and tidbits about enterprise API designing.

Mobile UX Optimization For Higher Conversion Rates: Top 14 Tips

 

Mobile UX optimization tips

 

In an ideal, utopian scenario, the conversion rate for mobile applications should be 100% – i.e., every app that is launched at the store(s) would be downloaded and installed. However, in the actual world – things are far from being that rosy, and as an app developer, you can be fairly pleased if the conversion rate of your applications hover around the 2% mark (biggies like Dropbox and Evernote and Google Drive have 4%-5% conversion rates). The conversion rate also varies across categories – with games typically having the highest conversions (~10%), while advanced software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps often have sub-1% conversion rates.

The concept of mobile conversion rates has evolved with the growing importance of delivering optimized user-end experience (UX). There was a time when achieving high click-through rates (CTR) for apps used to be the prime objective of developers. That aim gradually evolved into maximizing the app download figures. At present, app conversions also include the retention rates of apps (only 1 out of every 5 newly downloaded apps is ‘retained’ on mobile devices beyond 90 days), and the overall commercial viability of the latter. Put in another way, the app-usage experience needs to be good enough to ‘motivate’ users – so that they keep using an application. We will here discuss some basic tips and pointers for mobile UX optimization, for attaining higher conversion rates:

  1. Make your app discoverable

    More than 40% of total app downloads happen through search behaviour in the app stores. Contrary to what many believe, the ‘user experience’ does not start only after a person has come across your app. The ball actually starts rolling from the moment the user starts looking at the app store(s) for an application similar to the one you have created. Make sure that your app can be organically discovered with ease – and is not one of those hard-to-find ‘zombie apps’. Following proper app store optimization (ASO) techniques is of paramount importance in this regard. Higher visibility would increase the probabilities of higher CTRs and more downloads…pushing up conversion rates.

  2. Design for the mobile

    Browsing behaviour on the web is different from navigating on the mobile screen – and failure to take this difference into account invariably results in poor conversion and engagement rates. Make sure that each screen of your app has just the right ‘text-to-graphics’ ratio, the buttons and tabs are easily tappable, and there are ‘pinch-and-zoom’ features for relevant pages (this feature is hardly ever required for web applications). Do some research to find out what people are likely to do after launching your app, and plan out the in-app navigation accordingly. Do not just create a mobile version of your responsive website….the web and the mobile are separate mediums, and what works well for one might not be good for the other.

  3. Splash screen and load time

    Smartphone-users are an impatient lot. The longer your app takes to load (i.e., the time required for the app assets to get ready for use) – the more fidgety they are likely to get, and the drop-off figures are likely to go higher. As a rule of thumb, users should not have to wait for more than 5 seconds (ideally, 3 seconds, according to the ‘three-seconds-or-less’ rule) after they tap on your app’s icon on their handsets. Also, during this ‘waiting period’, the splash screen of the app has to be displayed. Add some element (small graphics/animation) to display the loading progress on it. A static, 8-10 second long splash screen can easily make people feel bored – often prompting them to close the app, and try another one.

  4. Ease of onboarding

    Ever tried to tell a joke to an audience, and then had to explain it – because no one had quite got its meaning? The UX designing of a mobile app is somewhat similar to that. The onboarding process for first-time users should be easy and intuitive – so that they can start using the application immediately after downloading it. It would be a good idea to allow people to give some ‘view only’ access to users, even before they have registered themselves on the app (i.e, a walkaround before they become full-time users). In the app store description as well as within the application itself, include a section/screen on how the app is to be used. Remember, your goal is to ‘please’ your app’s users – and that is going to happen only when you do not force them to ‘learn’ something new. Using your app should come naturally, without additional guidance.

  5. Think from the users’ perspective

    There are two ways in which a new mobile app can be marketed by developers. The first would be to describe the nature of the app per se (“all-new media streaming app”) – while the latter would involve highlighting the user-needs it would resolve (“catch all your favourite tv shows, whenever you want”). The onus lies with the copywriters to create the pitch that would actually ‘motivate’ the users into giving a new application a try. Before adding any new element/functionality to an app, think how that would be useful for the end-users – and whether it would indeed boost the overall user-experience. For conversion rates to move upwards, users need to be convinced about the utility of your application.

  6. Device support and offline usage

    There should never be any uncertainties about the devices on which your app would be usable. Nothing irks a user more than going through the trouble of locating an app in the store and installing it on his/her handset – only to find that the application is not compatible with the device. Create separate, customized versions for smartphones, tablets, and (if applicable) wearable devices. There is a tradeoff involved over here – compatibility with a greater range of devices would ensure wider reach, but an app with cutting-edge features might have functionality issues with older versions of mobile platforms (iOS or Android). In addition, it is often advisable to make sure that the app retains its core functionality even when there is poor (or, no) connectivity. Games, in particular, are often played on the go (say, in public transits) – and for users to stay engaged, they have to be be available in offline mode.

  7. Searchability

    On the homescreen of a mobile app, only the ‘primary content’ and the navigation scheme (for instance, tabs) should be highlighted. To ensure that people can get to the screens/sections they are interested in quickly and without any hassles, there has to be a ‘search’ option (box) present. In e-commerce and mobile shopping apps in particular, search features enhance product visibility in a big way – thereby pulling up probable conversion (sale) figures. Depending on the precise nature of your app, you can include keyword-based search, product search, or even image-based search.

Note: If you are creating a m-commerce app, be extra careful while designing the individual product pages. The actual purchase decisions are taken over here – and unless the information and layouts are optimal, conversions would remain low.

  1. Make things personalized

    The ideal length of the registration screen (and the number of fields contained therein) is a point of many discussions. While there are no hard and fast rules about this, it is prudent to keep the registration process short – with users being requested to provide only the most basic information. In case you do wish to collect more user-data, consider making some of the text-boxes non-mandatory (user should always be able to control what (s)he wishes to share on the app). With the help of the collected information, provide personalized experiences to repeat users (customized ads, preferred content, suggestions, etc.). In essence, people should understand that the app ‘remembers’ them, and ‘knows’ what they want to see/do. That’s where the ‘wow factor’ starts to take form.

  2. Notifications and widgets

    There is a very fine line between sending important, interesting information to users through real-time notifications and widgets, and irritating them with notifications that are way to frequent. The latter would hamper the user-experience (let’s face it: anyone would be irritated if an app continues to send notifications all day long!). Find out what type of data/updates you should ideally send to the end-users, the degree of personalization that would be involved in such notifications, and the frequency at which they should be sent. Avoid generating popup messages, which are likely to ‘disturb’ a person. Requests to rate the app at the store (store ratings are mighty important) should also be sent at proper intervals. Do not be too whiney about it.

  3. Advertisements and in-app purchases

    If you are creating an app as an experiment or for charity, you need not worry about its monetization. Then again, if that were the case, you would not have been reading this article in the first place. In free apps, placing advertisements is a popular monetization strategy – but it is also something where things can go horribly wrong. During the app testing phase, make sure that the ads are not hampering app-usage in any way (there are plenty of free mobile games in which the ads encroach into the playing area). What’s more, consider the appropriateness of the ads as well – particularly in children’s apps. You also need to ensure that the in-app purchases (another form of app monetization) can be done smoothly and securely. Give your users the option to upgrade to a ‘premium’, ad-free version of the app. Using a mobile app should be a seamless process, advertisements should not disrupt it.

  4. Colors, call-to-action and clarity

    For mobile shopping apps in particular, the ‘call-to-action’ (CTA) buttons should be systematically placed and easily visible. Generally, multiple A/B testings can give you a fair idea about what would work best (the text on the buttons, the position of the clickable area, etc.). Create a task-based, user-centric design – where the user would never be confused about what his/her next action should be. In other words, prepare a easy-to-follow roadmap of ‘user-touchpoints’ in your application. Be careful while choosing the color scheme for your app as well. Be consistent with your color usage – to generate an air of familiarity, which would help in your branding endeavors. In general too, users should be able to get an idea of the core purpose of your app even before they decide to download it. Trying to pack in too many features in a single app is often counterproductive – from the usability, retention and, of course, conversion standpoints.

  5. Social media integration and chatbots

    Artificial intelligence and machine learning are making rapid strides at present – and they can play a big role to pushing up your app’s engagement and conversion levels. In shopping apps, a chatbot (with a persona of its own) can very well act a guide for the users – with everything, right from product search, to final purchase-decisions and payments – happening on the same chat screen. In addition, most apps should give people the option to: a) sign in with their Facebook/Twitter or LinkedIn profiles and b) share content easily to their social media profiles. In-app networking – through real-time chatting options – is yet another way to provide some additional ‘delights’ to users.

Note: If your app is based on any cutting-edge smart technology (say, augmented reality), go the whole hog with it, and don’t just create a gimmicky application. A good, genuinely unique app has better chances of adoption.

    13. The importance of feedback and rewards

Think of it this way: you come across a cool new gaming app at the store, download it on your device – and find that the very first level is extremely difficult. An immensely frustrating experience, right? Developers should look to build the confidence levels of the gamers – by starting off on a easy note, and gradually ramping up the difficulty levels. At the end of each ‘task’ (a purchase, or clearing a level in a game), there should be immediate feedback available too – in the form of accumulated reward points, or virtual coins, or stars, and the like. For many apps, being repetitive is actually a good option (the ‘match-3 games’, the shopping apps, etc.). People can ‘get used’ to working with such apps – always a good thing from the app retention perspective.

    14. Test your apps

The fact that practically all leading mobile app companies have separate, well-trained teams of app testers is no coincidence. If any bug or functionality issue remains undetected in the final build and released version of the application, crushing reviews and lowly 1* ratings would start to pour in from the first set of users. It would be almost impossible recover from this early damage – even if bug-fix updates are quickly released. Testing should take place both on simulators/emulators as well as on actual devices (by people who would mimic the behaviour of first-time users). Make it a point to test each and every element of the app (including the apparently trivial ones). Never give your users an opportunity to complain.

Note: Conversion rate optimization (CRO) does not finish with a bug-free app being downloaded by a user. Problems can crop up at any time, and a 24×7 support team should be available to handle customer queries.

A recent Google survey revealed that 6 out of every 10 customers dropped off if they could not find the product or information they were searching for quickly enough, from a mobile site or application. This clearly highlights the close association between an app’s UX and its final conversion rates. Systematic mobile UX optimization can pull up conversions by up to 150% – and you need to follow the above tips to bolster the chances of your app’s success.

Teksmobile – Now In South Korea!

Early last month, Teksmobile launched its South Korean chapter – Teksmobile Korea. This was the fourth international office working under the Teks brand, following those in United States, Sweden and Australia (there are a couple of offices in India as well, at Kolkata and Pune). On the occasion, global CEO of Teksmobile, Hussain Fakhruddin, gave a brief overview of the new Korean offices, the key principles of operations for Teks, the organizational targets, and many things more. Here are some excerpts:

Logo of Teksmobile Korea

“Hello everyone…my name is Hussain Fakhruddin, and I happen to be the founder/CEO of Teksmobile. It gives me great delight to announce the start of Teksmobile Korea from this month. When I had started this company some 11 summers back, I had not imagined that Teks will have offices in 5 different countries – all within a decade or so. It’s been an exciting journey…and I look forward to building on our successes thus far, and scaling greater heights.

 

By the end of 2017 Q2, Teksmobile had (all branches combined) clients from 45+ different countries. Apart from US, Canada, UK and Oceania (Australia/New Zealand) – we had a strong client base in Asia. That, in turn, fueled my motivation for starting a new Asian chapter for the company. Eric and me managed to forge a collaboration, the formalities and completed…and bosh!…Team Teks had new offices in two South Korean cities, Busan and Seoul.

 

I have always been very particular about selecting the locations for our overseas chapters. While opening offices in the United States or Sweden were practically no-brainers – my team had conducted in-depth researches and studied the trends in the Australian market, before we decided to take the plunge there. This time too, we did our homework – and while countries like Japan and China were the more obvious choices, we felt that that the South Korean mobile app market presented considerable untapped opportunities. Over the last 4-odd years, this market has grown by nearly 800% – clearly underlining the prominence of Korea as one of the fastest growing app economies in the world.

 

A bit about our ambition to emerge as a leading force in the domain of 2D/3D game development. Our studies revealed that South Korea held the 6th rank in the world, in terms of revenues generated from games. There were more than 25 million gamers in the country, and the figure was rising steadily. This was a marketplace, I told myself, that would give Teks the opportunity to show off our skills as high-end game developers in particular, and drivers of technological innovations in general. It’ll be a challenge…what good thing isn’t, after all…but I feel that Teksmobile Korea will be a rousing success. We will, of course, have to give it some time.

 

During my career as a mobile app and API architect, and of course the CEO of Teks, I have been fortunate to meet and form mutually fruitful partnerships with some great people…people who have done more than their bit to expand the company’s reach. I should, at this point, mention the name of the COO of Teks Sverige, Maria Bergström, in this regard. Eric Jinsu Kang, who is the head of the South Korean Teks Team, is the latest addition to the list of amazing work-partners I have had the good fortune to meet. The man is an expert on software and big data in his own right, knows several languages…I think 7…and is a go-getter in the truest sense of the term. If something can be done ‘today’, Eric believes in doing it ‘now’ – and he is precisely the type of person I was looking for to be the ‘face of Teks Korea’. It might sound like a cliche…but Eric does remind me of a younger version of myself, from the time when I had just started to plan big things for Teks. He has the same hunger, the same drive…and his presence augurs well for our South Korean chapter.

 

One thing that we must not lose sight of is the existing competition in the South Korean market. It would be way too naive to think that Teksmobile will be automatically successful over there – since there are already several other mobile app companies present in the country. Commitment to maintain uniformly high quality of service is going to be the biggest tool for us in making inroads in the Korean app and mobile software markets. Team Teks has always followed a ‘client-first’ strategy – something that I believe has been a major reason for our sustained success over the years. For our Korean chapter too, we will continue with the same business philosophy…the philosophy of being completely transparent with our operations, and never compromising on the quality of our products. I have been a mobile app entrepreneur for more than a decade…and my experience has taught me that sincerity always works wonders in the long-run…gimmicky promotions don’t.

 

I would also like to point out that the start of Teksmobile Korea would bring increased exposure opportunities for my team-members….more like the members of my ‘Teks Family’. A senior software developer is already assisting Eric in setting up the offices in Seoul and Busan – and will be looking over the first set of projects. We also have plans to send over more people to Korea, for handling the projects over there. Eric, of course, is already busy recruiting people and setting up his own team. The Swedish, Australian, American and Indian chapters of Teksmobile will closely coordinate with the Korean chapter – to help the latter in the initial stages.

 

In our Korea offices, we will be offering services related to a wide range of cutting-edge technologies. Developing mobile apps for the iOS and Android platforms, along with custom APIs, will remain our core service – but Eric and yours truly have plans to start delivering IoT tools and applications, VR and AR solutions, AI-powered chatbots…and maybe even something based on blockchain technology. The more we expand our horizons, the greater will be the chances of our success.

 

I am thankful to my team-members – the developers and the designers, the testers and the backend experts – for giving their all for making ‘Teks’ a brand that is automatically associated with ‘quality’, ‘creativity’ and ‘great software’. Our body of work to date includes over 1000 applications, many websites and portals, quite a few mobile games, a children’s storytelling app that has widely been recognized as among the best of its kind, and several other advanced software solutions. The goodwill we have managed to build…the positive word-of-mouth publicity from our clients – these will play a big role in helping Teksmobile Korea get off the blocks quickly. Do wish us the very best.

 

As I said right at the start, I had not imagined that my little startup in 2006 will become a multinational company with offices in 5 countries in 2017. Now though, I feel that there are no limits to what we can reach – and with the support of our clients old and new (I like referring to them as our ‘external employees’), and my team-members – a couple more overseas chapters might well be in the offing. Pretty soon.”