Today, effective mobile apps get serious work done –enabling salesforces to manage their pipelines, helping engineers inspect building plans, giving doctors the ability to review patient data, and more.
At Icreon, we develop serious (yet beautiful) apps on iPhone, iPad, Android & Windows. We're known for blending awarding winning design with serious, scalable, engineering-focused performance.
Within technology circles the hype and buzz around new software or development trends can be excessive. In fact the fervor around new trends can rival the gossip within People magazine.
Just think Apple versus Android. There are literally entire publications devoted to demonizing one while praising the other (ie. CultOfMac and Android Police).
In the realm of mobile app development there are few issues that have been at the center of such heated debate as the battle between HTML5 and Native app development.
HTML5 has been billed as a more economical way to build mobile apps that developers 'write once, and run anywhere'. Native on the other hand is viewed as the higher quality option. It requires more resources and talent but results in a mobile application that is highly optimized for specific devices.
Each option has its benefits and its drawbacks. But with the heated commentary and analysis from many tech publications, it can be difficult to find a level headed view.
Staying true to our own mantra at Icreon Tech to act as 'technology agnostics', here is a straightforward view of the competing benefits and limitations of native app development and HTML5.
This year alone saw 153 companies from the Fortune 500 use HTML5 for web development, and 34 of the top 100 websites in the world were built using HTML5. While the viability of HTML5 for web sites is acknowledged, mobile apps built with the language are still acquiring traction.
Currently HTML5 represents 17% of the mobile app market. One of the top benefits of HTML5 stems from compatibility with mobile and desktop browsers as well as cross platform use.
When developing mobile apps with HTML5, the app is written and then placed in a wrapper of code (like Web View) to make it compatible with iOS, Windows 8, or Android. The quality and responsiveness of apps are reduced to some extent due to the abstraction.
For instance, if a brand hopes for high intensity graphics HTML5 may add to latency issues for mobile app users. Due to the lack of direct access to device hardware the app cannot fully manage memory for optimal performance.
Such mobile apps can work exceptionally well across multiple devices but they cannot physically access device specific features. Without using services like Titanium or Rhomobile, HTML5 apps are unable to access push notifications, camera functions, GPS data, or accelerometer information. Without easy access to such components a mobile app developer cannot incorporate many popular functions.
Despite that drawback, a major benefit for using HTML5 for mobile applications is the larger pool of developers who can comprehend the language. HTML and its variations have existed for years, so taking the leap into mobile is easier thanks to that large talent pool.
The debate between HTML5 and native apps is similar to the debate between off-the-shelf and custom software. Both have their ideal use cases, and both have their caveats to be aware of. But the debate between the two is often polarized and lacks substantive direction or guidance for businesses.
Yet one data point that may clear up the debate rests with what actual developers prefer. Out of all the mobile apps developed, 67% have been built on native platforms with just 17% built with HTML5. Developers by far prefer building native mobile apps.
Here are the native programming languages mobile developers rely on:
Users also spend about 87% of their total time on mobile devices interacting with native apps. One main reason for this statistic can rest in the familiar UI design of native apps. Native apps usually mimic the design aesthetic and user experience of either the Android, iOS or Windows 8 operating system.
Native also has limitations in terms of market reach. Building an app specifically for iOS means that Android users can never access it. Given that Android has an 80% market share worldwide, this will be an issue. Especially if a brand's audience uses a variety of devices.
Prior to deciding on a development method, it is crucial to assess the audience. Determine which segment of users are using specific device types and decide from there.
There is no doubt that mobile is here to stay when it comes to business strategies. Over 50% of American adults own a smartphone and app stores have witnessed over 50 billion of downloads of 1 million apps and counting.
High profile mobile apps are even serving as the foundation for billion dollar companies (ie. Instagram, Waze, and Snapchat). While there is much enthusiasm towards mobile the first choice a brand or individual must make prior to development is the choice between HTML5 or Native.
By evaluating the intended audience, necessary functional features, available resources and budgets, a brand can make the correct strategic decision between the two leading mobile app development methodologies.
With a crop of over a quarter million iPad apps in the iTunes Store, it's evident the ability to develop apps has never been easier. A wealth of mobile developers, a stable SDK, and ample documentation on the app development cycle make it fairly straightforward to getting an app onto the store in few months time.
The ability to develop a differentiable, value-added product or service via the App Store, however, has never been more difficult. This is not meant to discourage – it's just that 250,000 apps have an inconveniently annoying way of covering 99.99% of the general population’s needs.
So if all the types of mobile apps have essentially been created before (insert infinite number of monkeys with typewriters joke)– what are the modern rules of engagement to creating custom iPad apps that will actually get noticed?
1. Be innovative. Always – The great thing about the future of touch computing is we have yet to discover all the unique ways we can use our fingers as inputs. The moment you start questioning conventional ways to present your interface, the moment you start to separate yourself from the pack. Case in point: there are about 4.25 million* drawing apps on the app store and almost every single one of them has a UNDO function for when you've made a misstep. Invariably, that function almost always looks the same.
Admittedly, there are worse ways to force a person to undo a drawing error (for example, you could bury it in a bunch of submenus). However, there are definitely more novel ways to do so as well. One such example is the route that the company, 53 Studios, took in making their iPad application, Paper. Paper allows a user to take two fingers and dial back their mistakes: see here. It's incredibly simple, completely original, and most importantly, makes users' lives easier by keeping them focused on the drawing canvas as opposed to pecking through buttons.
2. Push the envelope – Want to get noticed by Apple so that they can advertise your mobile app on the front page of the App Store? The answer to that is yes, yes you do – because Apple-endorsed apps tend to get hundreds of thousands to millions of downloads more than ones that aren’t. One of the best ways to do get noticed is to develop mobile applications using the last SDK features available. For example, when iOS6 launched, Apple as well as various tech blogs freely advertised the most popular apps using the new Facebook integration and Passbook wallet features.
3. Follow the Data – Using services like Crashlytics, Flurry, and other monitoring tools, you can see exactly how users are interacting with your app. Because there's always a surplus of new apps on the App Store, existing apps that aren’t evolving to the demands of their customers quickly get left by the wayside. To that point, the maintenance of your app to ensuring that it stays bug free, unique, and delightful for users is a rule that goes on far longer than the original development cycle of any iPad app.
* – unofficial figure
It just works.
This is one of the most famous mantras of the Cupertino Corporation and represents one of the most successful marketing ploys that Apple has ever touted. Apple has long leveraged this idea to attract users to its Mac and iOS platforms – promising a seamless digital environment free of bugs, software hiccups, and tech nuisances.
However, for the immensely popular iOS platform, which powers all iPhones, iPads, and iPods – "it just works" means that every single mobile app goes through a rigorous review and approval process. While this has helped avoid subpar software that has plagued other operating systems for years – Apple’s approval guidelines have often led to some questionable rejections and even company withdrawals of highly visible content. And when dealing with the highly competitive landscape of this market, developers and companies can ill afford to get their apps delayed unnecessarily.
So, how do you ensure your mobile app gets through the submission process smoothly and efficiently?
Think Different: The world does not need another fart app – no matter how awesome it is. Likewise, there is a surfeit of tip calculators, weather indicators, and flashlight apps on the store. To that end, avoid the headache of rejection and avoid making a mobile app that has already been made 100x over. Apps like this get rejected on a daily basis – odds are, yours will be no different.
Be efficient: No one likes a resource hog. Smartphone and tablet apps have limited computing power allocated to them. Apps that excessively use 3G or 4G data, or non-gaming apps that max out on graphics are more prone to get rejected for multiple reasons. First, they kill battery and they can lead to users going over on their data plans. Second, extremely resource intensive apps need to be developed with far greater acuity – they are more prone to crashes and are the first processes to be killed during multitasking.
Avoid Private frameworks: This one is a bit more technical, but essentially, iOS comes with a toolkit that makes it easy to access commonly used frameworks when building an app. For example, the toolkit has a framework that makes it easy for developers to access your device's Address Book. These frameworks are categorized into 2 buckets: private and public. Apple condones the usage of public ones but will immediately reject any mobile app using private ones. This is where it’s crucial to gauge whether your mobile development team is coding to standard and isn't cutting corners during app development – because it’s often extremely expensive and time consuming to correct this error.
Prioritize Design: At Icreon, we have an internal motto – "Design isn't how something looks, it's how something functions". By this, we mean that poorly built mobile apps, ones that do not take pride in craftsmanship and have no forethought in creating usable experiences are often easy to reject. With 700,000 apps on the Store, Apple is not starving for attention or demand – so they can easily afford to shun apps that don’t create compelling experiences for their customers.
By no means is this list comprehensive, but these are some common ways to avoid getting your mobile app rejected. And moreso, if your team does have an app that gets rejected – stay calm. If you're willing to put the effort into fixing the problem points, engage actively with Apple's judgment team, and have a strong, agile development team in your corner – you can often correct mistakes quickly enough to resubmit and (hopefully) get downloaded by million of customers.
Apple's App Store recently approached a major milestone of close to 800,000 available apps and over 40 billion total downloads. With over $7 billion paid to iOS developer partners, mobile apps for iPad and iPhone have become a lucrative investment for brands and organizations across the globe. A contributing factor to the success of the Apple App Store is Apple's tight review process and quality expectations regarding app developer guidelines. Whether a new developer considering the creation of a new app or an enterprise in need of some mobile advantage, here are some helpful tips to streamline the submission process:
Once your app is submitted, utilize Apple's vanity URL feature for sharing and advertising iOS apps. Choose the name and begin sharing the link that will look like something like this: AppStore.com/_______. No punctuation though, only text.
Apple's developer guidelines allow for consistency and expected levels of quality for their customers. Our mobile developers at Icreon have developed innovative apps for iPad and iPhone such as SnagFilms and NetTexts, one of the country's most popular education apps. Without a stringent review process it is likely the App Store would have never been so successful. Specifically in regards to converting say a Windows app to iOS, there can be lots of integration issues that can result in a poor application. Services such as App Cloud for instance, assist the process of converting from different operating systems to iOS. And if you find your app rejected do not stress! There is an appeal process available.