Mobile devices are a permanent part of our lives and help us to get smarter. Which apps, technologies and trends will determine the future of the mobile world? In this interview Pei-Ching Wu, mobile developer at Neofonie Mobile, gives an outlook.
Which upcoming trends do you expect in the field of mobile devices?
The smartphone and tablet markets are quite mature and saturated now, so I don’t expect much more innovation to happen in that sector. The new frontier is definitely in wearables and making all things smart and connected (possibly with a smartphone or tablet as the centerpiece). I imagine the trick is to make the devices and technology fit seamlessly into our lives, so I think developers should focus on pragmatic features rather than on gimmicky novelties.
In which field do you expect the biggest benefit for users?
I’m very much into sports and fitness and my circle of close friends are all doctors, so wearables and medical / fitness related technologies are of particular interest to me. Smartphones and devices like the Apple Watch and Android wear can now collect immense amounts of data and provide diagnostics and instant feedback like never before – all without expensive medical equipment or doctor visits. I believe there’s huge potential to help everyone improve and monitor their health and fitness.
What do you think about Location Based Services and iBeacons?
I’ve worked with iBeacons technology for an App that delivered location-based, beacon-triggered content and in-door navigation. I think in-door navigation won’t necessarily be life-altering but will be one of those convenience features that will fit seamlessly into our lives, and we’ll later wonder how we ever managed without it. I rely quite heavily on the maps and GPS navigation on my smartphone and only vaguely remember that once upon a time, I had to look up and plan where I wanted to go before leaving the house. I imagine in-door navigation will be quite the same – we’ll no longer have to wander lost through buildings or have to search for a physical map of a building; instead we’ll just do a quick look-up on our mobile devices and then be on our merry way.
Is there any crucial ingredient to make an app successful?
I think what’s important for mobile development is having a very focused feature set and knowing who your target audience is. A mobile app isn’t a website, and mobile devices typically have less screen real estate than laptops and desktops, so cluttering up a mobile app with unnecessary features and an overly complex UI can ruin the experience. And your audience is likely on the go with a poor internet connection – so your app should do only a few things and do them well with limited resources.
Mobile developers often debate on hybrid versus native technologies. What is your preference?
I’ve worked with both native and hybrid technologies for mobile development, and I’ll have to admit that I personally still favor a native approach as opposed to the Cordova / hybrid approach since the native approach will typically trump the hybrid approach due to performance and availability of the latest features. Targeting multiple platforms will always result in some amount of compromise and overhead while trying to accommodate the paradigms of multiple platforms. I think the Cordova hybrid approach is more about use of personel resources – if a company has a lot of web expertise and webprogrammers and would like to make a venture into the mobile sector, the hybrid approach is a viable path and could work well for a limited feature scope and a narrower audience (i.e. limited device support).
Is Swift the new programming language for the future?
In terms of the future of mobile development, the Swift language is definitely gaining a lot of steam, and there are even rumblings that Google may adopt Swift. I’m still somewhat skeptical about that rumor, but even Kotlin, the new Android development language from Jetbrains seems to be 90% syntactically the same as Swift. So I think there will be some convergence in the near future.
In Asia the mobile use is significantly higher than in Europe. Why?
I’m sure there are a number of factors that affect mobile usage, but one that plays a big role is infrastructure. According to a report of OpenSignal in Asia, LTE coverage as of Feb 2016 in Japan and South Korea were over 80-90% with speeds upwards of 20-25 Mbps, while here in Germany LTE coverage hovered around 60-70% with average speeds sitting around 15 Mbps . That’s quite a gap in performance and availability which will certainly affect whether users have a comfortable online experience and whether they spend more time on their mobile devices or not.
I also have the feeling that Europe has also been slower to adopt mobile payment technologies as compared to Asia, so that could also be another factor affecting mobile usage. I think this has more to do with the consumer mindset in Europe where consumers probably prefer more traditional payment methods due to perceived trust and security issues with new mobile technologies.
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