Cross-Platform Framework Comparison: Xamarin vs Titanium vs PhoneGap

Why Is Cross-Development So Important for Mobile Applications?

Nine out of 10 mobile devices run either Android or iOS operating systems. They share that 90 percent more or less equally. A half dozen other OS’s, including Windows Phone, fill out the remaining 10 percent. Given that there are mobile devices in the hands of about 2.5 billion people today, to ignore either Android or iOS for your consumer-level mobile app development is essentially writing off over a billion devices. Nor is it wise to write off Windows Phone’s growing market share.

At one time, enterprises thought they could ignore that math, since their IT ecosystems were essentially closed. However, the undeniable trend now is to support BYOD – Bring-Your-Own-Device – for an increasingly mobile workforce and customer base. No longer can the enterprise afford to dictate one platform over another for all B2C and B2B applications.

The Promise of Write-Once, Run Everywhere

This is where cross-platform development comes in. Developing consumer or business apps for multiple operating systems would be intensely resource-consuming if you had to write, test and support more than one app version for every platform separately. If you were to write natively for Android, iOS and Windows, for example, then your development teams need to know Java, Objective-C and C#, respectively.

Alternatively, cross-platform tools allow, to a varying degree, writing the app once and then compiling the code for each platform the development environment supports.

Potential Disadvantages to Cross-Development

Using cross-development tools to gain more platform market share is not without drawbacks however:

  • Cross-development environments may take a lowest common denominator approach that cannot take advantage of each device’s native performance or native look-and-feel.
  • Startup times are slightly slower due to having to load runtimes or libraries.
  • Possibly there will be increased debugging due to the extra layer of abstraction required.
  • App updates will have a longer lag time at each new OS release waiting for the cross-development IDE vendor to update APIs.
  • Cross-development environments are not free.

Despite these issues, these tools have come a long way, continue to improve and are enjoying growing adoption.

Three Existing Approaches to Mobile App Cross-Development

OSs, like cats, can be skinned in multiple ways. Three of the most popular cross-development environments each take a different approach.

xamarin-logo Cross-Platform Framework Comparison: Xamarin vs Titanium vs PhoneGapXamarin

Xamarin allows developers to write their apps in C#, which is then complied for each supported platform. Using APIs that interface directly with each platform’s native APIs, Xamarin claims that apps achieve a native look-and-feel plus native performance.

PROS

  • Supports Android, iOS and Windows.
  • Compiled code is platform specific, so it can achieve high performance, use native hardware acceleration, device features and native UI components.
  • One version plugs directly into Microsoft Visual Studio. For reduced cost, Xamarin Studio can be used instead.
  • One language, C#, is used to develop for all platforms supported.
  • Code can be reused between client and server sides.
  • Xamarin.Forms can be used to design platform-specific UIs.
  • From 60 to 100 percent code reuse is possible.

CONS

  • There is a learning curve for those unfamiliar with C# and .NET programming.
  • Xamarin.Forms results in a lowest common denominator UI, but customization is possible.
  • Load times are slightly slower as the Xamarin runtime must be loaded at invocation.
  • Business level license is $999 per year.

phonegap-logo Cross-Platform Framework Comparison: Xamarin vs Titanium vs PhoneGapPhoneGap

PhoneGap takes a different approach to cross-platform development than Xamarin by requiring that apps run within the platform web browser.

PROS

  • Supports iOS, Android, Windows, Blackberry, Firefox OS and others.
  • Uses common web development technologies: JavaScript, HTML5 and CSS.
  • A single, standard API works across all device platforms.
  • 100 percent of code reuse is possible.

CONS

  • It is difficult to build large apps with JavaScript than with strongly typed languages such as Java or C# because of JavaScript’s global scoping and library incompatibilities.
  • Given that there is a layer of indirection at runtime via the browser, performance and the UI suffer compared to a native app.

appcelerator-logo Cross-Platform Framework Comparison: Xamarin vs Titanium vs PhoneGapAppcelerator Titanium

Titanium is something of a mix of the development environments provided by Xamarin or PhoneGap. Apps are written in JavaScript but must utilize custom XML and Appcelerator’s API. No HTML5 or CSS is used.

PROS

  • Supports Android and iOS.
  • The resulting UI look-and-feel is close to native.
  • 100 percent code reuse is possible if you do not program for native UI.
  • Compiled code is a combination of native and JavaScript, so performance is improved over PhoneGap.
  • Trying it out is free.

CONS

  • Only supports UI features that are common across all platforms.
  • Has the same deficiencies for producing large apps since it depends on JavaScript.
  • Developers must learn the Titanium API.
  • There is a small delay at app startup due to library loading.
  • Requires hefty licensing fees for deployed apps.

Each of the cross-development platforms above have their individual strengths and weaknesses. None is a clear winner over the other yet. Which one you choose as an individual or organization depends on your requirements for app performance, look-and-feel and how comfortable your current development staff is with a particular language or IDE. You should also take into account testability and the level of code reuse you wish to obtain.

Introduction to Apple’s New Swift Programming Language

Developed in secret and now perhaps the most publicly talked about programming language, Apple’s Swift is coming on strong in the mobile app development world. It replaces Objective-C, first developed in the 1980s, as the preferred language for iOS and OS X applications.

Apple promotes it as a more powerful and easier to learn language that unleashes programmer productivity. Judging by its enormous acceptance by coders and enterprises, this appears to be the case.

Furthering its adoption is that Swift plays nice with existing Objective-C libraries, so there is plenty of legacy code reuse possible. It is easy to learn thanks to streamlined syntax, strong type checking and its “playground” feature that permits learning Swift on-the-fly as you program.

What’s New and Different about Swift

Programmers with experience in C#, Python, Ruby and other modern languages may find many of Swift’s features familiar:

Type Inference

The compiler deduces data types based on value assignments:
var a = 3.5 // compiler assigns type float
var s = “I think therefore I am” // compiler assigns type string

String Operations

Dealing with strings is cumbersome in many languages. Swift streamlines string handling by using simple operators such as ‘+=’ for concatenation and ‘==’ for comparison. Swift also allows embedding other types within strings, which is known as string interpolation:

var username = “Harold”
var vacationdays = 15
var s = “\(user) has accumulated \(days) of vacation”

Note the lack of semicolons to terminate statements, which is another convenience feature of Swift.

Generics

C++ coders will recognize Generics as being very similar to C++ Templates. These are functions whose parameters are polymorphic, meaning the generic function can be passed different parameter types, which are handled appropriately internally by the function. Thus, a single Generic could sort an array of values regardless of whether the values are floating point numbers, strings or complex data types.

Many Other Features

There are other characteristics of Swift similar to the above that make coding easier and less error prone including the ability to use strings in switch statements, tuples for making compound variables, the ability to assign functions to variables and powerful enumeration features.

The Playground

The Playground feature of Swift is one of its more powerful abilities, especially for new programmers. This is an interactive tool built into the IDE that allows coders to write code on one side of the development tool window and see results instantaneously displayed on the other side without waiting for a compile cycle. It also includes a variable watch capability to track values assigned to that variable simply by typing the variable name as a line of code at any time. “Quick look” buttons can instantly display strings or any graphical display content on demand.

 

Adoption of Swift has been spectacular to date. In the first few months after its release, it moved from the 68th to the 20th most popular slot in StackOverflow of programming languages earlier this year.

Ironically, the only thing that may inhibit a similar rise in the near future is Apple’s well-known penchant for keeping tight control over its technological assets. Some observers are worried that they will modify Swift to make it harder to port iOS apps to Android, for instance.

There is hope, however, that Swift’s creator, Chris Lattner, having come from an open source background will not allow that to happen. Even if Apple keeps Swift only for its products, however, its impact will be felt beyond just iPhones, iPads and Macs as it validates many other languages that share features with it.

Leading Mobile App Development Trends for 2015

As 2015 digs in, the year’s trends for mobile application developers are clarifying. Here are four of particular interest to mobile device application developers.

1. Apple’s Swift Programming Language

apple-swift Leading Mobile App Development Trends for 2015Apple wowed the crowd with its release of Swift, the new iOS development language. Especially popular with developers are its Ruby-like functional programming features, such as inferred data typing, and its on-the-fly, no-compile sandboxes they call Playgrounds. None of the programming features is truly new, but having them in a single language is.

How well was Apple’s Swift language lapped up by mobile developers? Let the numbers speak for themselves:

  • Just four months after launch, it is used by over 20% of developers
  • Almost 25% of Swift programmers are new to iOS app development

For such a short time period, those figures are astounding. Objective-C still has 39% adoption after nearly a decade of use for iOS development. Objective-C is not obsolete by any means and developers need to know both languages for the foreseeable future.

2. Cross-platform Development

cross-platform Leading Mobile App Development Trends for 2015If you want your app on all major mobile platforms, you need a cross-development strategy. Thirty percent of developers use cross-platform toolkits, and that number is on the rise. No single “cross-dev” platform dominates yet however.

This year, something else is driving cross-development frameworks’ rise. The money is not in consumer apps, but in enterprise apps. Far more enterprise mobile app developers make the big bucks than do consumer app developers.

Enterprises want B2C apps to work everywhere and support Bring-Your-Own-Device for employees and B2B partners. That means they need to cover all the bases device-wise.

Here are four of the most popular, stable cross-development frameworks:

  • Xamarin integrates with Visual Studio and runs apps with native UI and native performance with broad and deep libraries for the 3 major platforms. They recently announced partnerships with IBM, Xoriant and Microsoft.
  • PhoneGap is based on open-source Cordova, which makes it free. It is a browser app container-based platform on which developers build with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.
  • Sencha’s enterprise product is Ext JS 5. Developers write in HTML5 and use PhoneGap to transpose to other platforms.
  • Appcelerator Titanium is an open-source SDK for cross-development across iOS, Android and Blackberry. It comes with over 5000 APIs, an IDE and the Alloy MVC framework.

3. Wearable Devices and the Internet of Things

apple-watch Leading Mobile App Development Trends for 2015Mobile developers cannot wait for IoT to get off the ground. Already, half of them are working on IoT-related projects; many working on their own dime. The top sectors receiving attention are smart home and wearable device apps.

The new Apple Watch is particularly enticing for cross-device apps that run on an iOS phone, the watch and perhaps 3rd-party devices or other “things.” The Android/iOS Pebble is sure to catch developers’ imagination in the same manner.

Device combinations mean an almost unlimited scope for new apps, well beyond the current focus on health-related applications.

4. Mobile Commerce

mobile-commerce Leading Mobile App Development Trends for 2015The introduction of Apple Pay last year was a milestone along the way for the flurry of new e-wallets that followed from Samsung, Google, Visa, Mastercard and MasterPass. Along with these, came myriad different authentication methods including fingerprints and face and voice recognition.

In-app purchases are flattening out, however, so growth must come from tapping into other payment venues. Starbucks is rolling out its own in-store mobile-commerce-slash-loyalty platform, for instance.

There is no dearth of ideas within the e-pay revolution. More devices, including wearable devices, can take advantage of NFC or Bluetooth to embed your credit card digitally and pass it on at POS terminals. The same technology can herald your entrance to a store’s “customer-area-network” to deliver you coupons, specials and store layout.

 

The uber-trend in all this is that mobile technology is growing faster than the dandelions in your back yard. Thus, mobile app developers as a whole are already behind the curve and, more likely than not, loving it.

The Apple Watch, smart homes, wearable devices, increased connectivity and the rain of IoT devices about to fall out of the sky are all opportunities for new apps and new development tools upon which to create those apps.

Developing Mobile Apps with JavaScript and Node.js

Node.js® is a server-side JavaScript platform specifically designed for efficient and responsive web applications. Not just any web application. Only those that want to be fast, scalable and super portable. It runs atop Google’s V8 JIT-compile engine and an event-driven, non-blocking I/O runtime model.

Why You Would Want to Use Node.js

Node.js, or just Node, with or without a JavaScript frontend, makes efficient use of hardware resources especially for I/O-intensive services. It also reduces developers’ cognitive and coding loads via several key features:

  • It replaces the traditional request-response paradigm with a fast, two-way communication model.
  • Since both ends can speak the same language, transposing app logic is not needed.
  • Most developers know some JavaScript, so project ramp-up is shallow.
  • Since Node is asynchronous without the use of threads, it is not memory-intensive. Thus, a single server can handle about 20 X the load produced by Java.
  • Developers avoid having to manage I/O blocking and threads.
  • Page rendering code can execute on either the client and server sides to adjust for network load.
  • Node.js websockets run on TCP, not HTTP, so low-overhead client-server communication is enabled in both directions.
  • Naturally, using a single language and portable code base between frontend and backend developers saves time and money.

The unique features of Node.js are designed to support multi-user, collaborative, real-time web apps that support multiple network connections with maximum throughput. For example, Node.js apps can play audio and video streams to a mobile device while simultaneously uploading them.

How Does Node.js Work with Mobile Apps?

Ideally, if you are writing a mobile app, you want to cover all the bases – iOS, Android and Windows – in order to obtain maximum market share or to grant your mobile workforce flexibility in device choice. A straightforward way to accomplish that is to write all the app’s logic in Node.js and place it on the backend. The user interface then runs on the mobile device under another language. Since Node shines the brightest in I/O-bound, highly concurrent scenarios like that, this works well in most situations.

Can Node.js Run Directly on a Mobile Device?

Unfortunately, there is currently no way to implement Node on the mobile client side for all leading mobile platforms. Technically, you can run JavaScript on Android, but neither iOS nor Windows is going to accept V8’s JIT compiled code except under special circumstances.

A workaround for iOS and Windows would be to select SpiderMonkey as the JavaScript engine executing in interpreter mode, but native performance suffers. Nubisa is leveraging the MIT open-source project JXCore in an attempt to bring Node to mobile clients, but that effort is in early stages.

Why Use Node.js for a Mobile Project?

Node is not a panacea for all mobile projects. But, it excels in supporting responsive web applications that center on thousands or millions of data exchanges. That covers about 95% of the mobile app space.

Its race car fast V8 runtime and real-time web connections are optimized for heavy I/O versus heavy computation applications. Additionally, unlike the standard web request-response paradigm that has been the mainstay for a couple of decades, Node makes the frontend and backend peers in terms of initiating communication.

IBM ran a detailed experiment by implementing IBM Passes in Node versus Java. Briefly, the Node version swamped the Java version when concurrency was above 50 and they were able to implement Passes in 40 percent less time than the Java implementation.

Need one more reason to use Node.js? That would be the Node Package Manager; NPM. This is a fast growing library of over 100,000 free JavaScript modules contributed by an even faster growing community of Node developers. It includes an interface to install node packages and assists developers while loading packages by maintaing the correct library dependencies. This feature alone greatly speeds up app development.

 

Real-time mobile services and applications are already the next big thing. Node.js is designed precisely to support a real-time mobile web. Node’s portability, interoperability and performance let browser apps fade from memory. Throw in shortened development cycles, combined frontend/backend teams plus streamlined support and Node.js looks like a winning strategy for servers and mobile devices.

Contact Optimus Information to learn more about developing a mobile app using JavaScript and Node.js.

Using Xamarin for Cross-Platform Mobile Development

Xamarin is a mobile development framework enabling write-once-run-everywhere-with-native performance coding for all three major mobile device platforms: Windows, Android and iOS. It enables developers to write in a single language on a single code base for their app to reach over 2.5 billion mobile devices. Xamarin delivers the look and feel of each platform’s native UI with full functionality and native app performance.

It removes the need to manage separate development teams or having to choose one platform over another. Using Xamarin Studio or Xamarin libraries with Visual Studio, your team has all the advantages of using a top-tier IDE to streamline coding, testing and support processes.

Use Xamarin to leverage your existing mobile app code base too. Apps written in Java or Objective-C are easily transitioned to C# where they can enjoy a huge increase in market share.

The Many Benefits of Xamarin

One Language for All

Developing cross-platform mobile apps without Xamarin requires extra time and effort:

  • You need multiple programming languages, one for each platform
  • … and separate developers for each language.
  • Sharing app logic is error prone without the ability to share identical code between developers.
  • Reuse of previous app code or libraries is not practically feasible.

With Xamarin, new apps are written in C# once. Once having ported existing apps and libraries to C#, developers can focus only on C# going forward. Application logic automatically passes between platforms without the potential for misspecifications. Your organization enjoys improvements in productivity, customer support and time to market.

Compiled for Native Performance

With other cross-platform strategies, such as HTML5 frameworks, you sacrifice UI and UX advantages of running natively. Furthermore, this approach guarantees apps that never approach native performance. Runtime interpreted code simply cannot compete.

Xamarin app performance is indistinguishable compared to a mobile app written within a custom Android, or iOS IDE. Xamarin apps can take advantage of any specific platform hardware acceleration that is available also.

Native User Interface

Every mobile platform has its own UX. To approach a native look-and-feel, UI abstraction libraries have been used, but these only provide a lowest common denominator experience at best. Xamarin’s approach is to provide 100 percent exposure of iOS and Android UI APIs via native bindings to your app.

With Xamarin Designer, creating native interfaces is as simple as drag-and-drop within the Visual Studio workflow for all platforms. Xamarin.Forms can be used to construct UIs with code or via XAML.

Full Platform Functionality

Xamarin exposes all specific functionality offered by each mobile platforms such as Android Fragments, iBeacons or text-to-speech capabilities. Xamarin.Forms assists developers in writing implementation-specific interface code, whose dependencies are resolved at runtime. This allows shared code to utilize specific platform SDK features.

Portability

It is Xamarin’s complete platform API coverage that permits developers to work from a single shared code base. One hundred percent of Android and iOS APIs are mapped between C# and the platform’s native language. Software engineers are freed from knowing all the nuances of each device platform.

Achieving between 60 and 100 percent of shared code across all three platforms is typical.

Furthermore, Xamarin maintains an extremely tight release window for its APIs to match any new iOS or Android release. Usually, after a platform API update, matching versions of Xamarin are released within several days.

Keeping up with The Future

Besides the over 2.5 billion mobile devices for which you can develop with Xamarin, you also have access to emerging devices such as the Apple Watch, Google Glass and the millions of new IOT devices coming online.

 

The question of going native or cross-platform is moot if you choose to develop on Xamarin. No longer must you maintain multiple development tracks, code bases and support personnel versed in separate instances of your consumer or business mobile applications.

Three-quarters of a million mobile app developers are already on board with Xamarin from over 120 countries. Companies such as Rdio, Bosch, Dow Jones, Dropbox, eBay and many more are taking advantage of Xamarin’s vision to simplify high-performance, UI-consistent app development for billions of mobile devices.

Contact Optimus Information to learn more about building a mobile app using Xamarin’s cross-platform development software.

Mobile Commerce: 2015 and Beyond

Optimus Information presents an infographic look at the mobile commerce landscape in 2015 and beyond. In 2018 mobile retail revenues are projected to reach 626 billion U.S. dollars worldwide. Furthermore, by 2018 27% of all retail e-commerce sales in the United States are expected to be through a mobile device. Learn more about the changing mobile commerce landscape with the following infographic:

Mobile-Commerce Mobile Commerce: 2015 and Beyond

Are you ready for Google’s mobile algorithm update?

google Are you ready for Google's mobile algorithm update?On Tuesday Google launched their latest major search algorithm update to favour mobile-friendly websites. Google said in a statement that they want consumers to “find content that’s not only relevant and timely, but also easy to read and interact with on smaller mobile screens”. Furthermore, Google stated that the search update will make it easier for users “to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices”. Read the full announcement.

It is estimated that more than 50% of all Google searches now come from a mobile device. Google, which has a 65% market share of U.S. Internet searches according to a 2014 comScore report, wants to reward websites that are easy to use on a mobile device. This is great news for consumers, but will have a major impact on businesses. According to website TechCrunch, 44% of Fortune 500 companies failed the mobile friendly test. Websites that fail Google’s mobile test could lose up to 1/3rd of their mobile traffic.

It is important to note that this is only one factor of many that impact a website’s search engine ranking. A website that is not mobile-friendly will not be eliminated from search results, but will have their search engine rankings negatively impacted. In addition, the update will not affect results from desktop searches, only searches on mobile devices.

Want to see if your website is mobile friendly?

Click here to take Google’s Mobile-Friendly Website Test.

The following are some important tips to consider when designing a mobile website:

  • Make sure that content fits the width of the screen to eliminate scrolling.
  • Increase font size so that users do not need to zoom to read content.
  • Increase line spacing so that tapping on links is easy.
  • Use mobile-friendly menus so that navigating the website is easy.
  • Avoid Flash because most mobile devices no longer support it.
  • Compress images and optimize pages so that they load quickly.

If your website is not mobile-friendly you will start to notice changes in your mobile search engine rankings over the next few weeks. Businesses that act quickly should not see much of an impact. Furthermore, for businesses with a mobile-friendly website this is an ideal opportunity to rank higher than your competition who have not optimized their websites.

Contact Optimus to learn how we can optimize your website for mobile devices.

Creating an Enterprise Mobile App Strategy

Finding someone within your enterprise that understands the need for a strong mobility presence among customers, partners, resellers, your sales force and employees is probably not a problem. Most likely, steps have been taken already by at least one department with a few tactical mobile apps already in place.

These first steps are not a substitute for a business-wide mobile strategy however. Early mobility experience is a good thing, but the longer the organization continues in this manner, the more difficult it will be to establish long term, measurable objectives to address mobile opportunities.

Meeting the Expectations of Mobile Users

As mobile device usage continues to eclipse desktop and laptop usage in the consumer space, mobile users in general have heightened expectations for anytime, anywhere access to information and services. Furthermore, they have developed an instinct for what a quality mobile user experience means.

Simply porting current interfaces and processes to a new platform and screen size is far from sufficient in this environment. Responding to these expectations with fragmented, poorly integrated, one-off enterprise apps leads to a significant loss of employee, partner and ultimately consumer confidence in your brand.

Take a Long Term View

Your enterprise must develop a mobility strategy spanning the breadth and width of the business. Clearly, that is a tall order, one that requires a great deal of coordinated effort. If done correctly, however, the benefits are unquestionable:

• Internal and external users will experience robust, user-centered services
• Customer, supplier and employee interactions become more effective and efficient
• A reduction in TCO and increased ROI for new services will materialize

It is essential to keep in mind an underlying principle as you your mobile strategy begins to take shape, which is new mobile-oriented capabilities must remove business complexity rather than simply extend today’s processes to another platform.

Putting Your Mobile Strategy in Motion

Before identifying the factors that influence your mobile integration strategy, be sure the correct players are involved. Both business and IT leaders have a huge stake in the outcome of course, but remember to include the viewpoints of partners, customers, sales and marketing.
Develop strong use cases for both B2C and B2E capabilities including specific mobile app proposals from each viewpoint. Evaluate these by repeatedly asking these questions:

• How does this use case align with our long term business objectives?
• What is its potential for new business opportunities?
• What is the impact on in-house support processes?
• How will it be integrated with backend infrastructure?
• What security or privacy risks are implied?
• What are the expected costs of implementation and ROI?
• What will success in implementing the use case look like?
• How will success be objectively measured after implementation?

For instance, new mobile apps to increase sales leads and acquisition must include instrumentation to measure reach, back-office support reliance, cost per customer and conversion rates. These use cases must also identify what new sales opportunities could be opened up by going mobile. For example, could unique mobile device features such as GPS, positioning sensors, gestures, contact lists or notifications be utilized?

What Would It Take for Mobility to Become a Prime Business Driver?

Use cases represent the tip of the iceberg relative to the efforts to implement your nascent mobile strategy. To this point, the focus has been on how to migrate existing capabilities to the mobile space, while taking limited advantage of additional opportunities mobile platforms provide.

Your team has actionable items, but now it is time to move your thinking toward what the world looks like if the enterprise embraces mobility with a bear hug.

You will be faced with a number of ambitious questions:

• How could deep adoption of mobility improve the brand image, customers’ experience and ultimately retention and loyalty?
• How could our mobile presence be used for further penetration in existing or new market segments?
• Could it become a fundamental driver of competitive differentiation and growth?

To achieve the goals implied by such questions, your organization needs to evaluate the technological requirements are to create a mobility-centered business:

• Which kind of mobile app development methodology will be most effective: native, web or hybrid?
• Will our current services architecture and infrastructure be adequate to support exponential growth in employee and customer mobile device use?
• How must the role of IT and IT policies change so as not to impede such growth and the end-user experience?

Beware that when considering such questions that you fail to acknowledge the elephant in the room, which is the nearly astronomical growth in the number of combinations of devices, things, OSs, apps and delivery mechanisms that are fast becoming reality in the mobile space.

Leading vs. Catching Up

If you take your organization’s embrace of mobility seriously, you avoid addressing opportunities tactically with bolt-on, one-off apps; a trap in which many enterprises appear to consciously choose. The strategic view enables you to develop an innovative, top to bottom, sustainable approach. This ultimately transforms your business into an entity that is agile, market responsive and growing its capabilities overall even beyond mobile interactions.

Beacon and Mobile Payment Trends in 2015

Mobile payment methods have been deployed in many stores around the world. However, cell service can be difficult to obtain while inside a facility. This can be detrimental to making payments using cell phones or tablets as service may not be available. With beacons in place, mobile devices are able to gain a connection through the use of Bluetooth signals. Although a stable connection for indoors has a great deal of promise, this is only the beginning of what beacons can offer mobile shoppers.

Beacons Offer Customized Experiences While Shopping

Bluetooth can remain connected to a device for more than 30 feet. With several of these low-power devices spotted throughout a retail store, customers can remain connected to an intricate network. What does this mean for the shopping experience?

  • Greater range than NFC devices
  • Automated payments
  • Deals and coupons sent directly to users
  • Customized information
  • Advertising campaigns 

Greater Range than NFC

Near Field Communication is a way that some smartphones make payments to retailers. Usually, this entails touching or being in very close proximity to the receiver of the payment device. As Bluetooth has greater range, you can theoretically make a payment without the phone leaving your pocket. This can be done through automated payment methods.

Automated Payments

In some scenarios, customers can have their mobile devices automatically pay the cashier without touching the unit. Essentially, the bill can be paid as soon as the cashier is done calculating your merchandise or other goods. This can ultimately hasten the lines in retail shops creating a near-seamless flow of patrons. It could take an average person up to a minute to make a payment, or longer if a checkbook is involved.

Deals and Coupons

Using the Bluetooth connection, messages relating to special deals or coupons can be sent to a customer’s phone or tablet as soon as they get within range of the facility. This can save money for the customer as well as the business in terms of costs for printing paper-based coupons. Currently, many stores will use barcode scanners on a person’s phone for coupon use. Beacons could end that process making the entire experience automated.

Customized Information

Depending on the needs and wants of any given person, customized information can be sent to the mobile device. This can go beyond mere coupons and deals especially in an environment such as a drive-thru coffee house or a movie theater. Show times, food calories, popular purchases and much more can help consumers decide on goods to buy based on the information provided directly to their phones.

Advertising Campaigns

In some locations, advertisements are directly sent to mobile devices when walking past particular products. A variety of retail locations currently use similar ad displays through the use of motion-detecting LCD screens near products. This could decrease the operational costs of such ads while being more versatile. Those ads could be customized based on the past purchases made with that particular mobile device.

 

Other Applications of Beacon

Making and accepting payments are just two instances of how beacons can improve functionality for retails stores as well as other non-shopping locations. While mobile payments are one of the greater demands for the current technology, beacons are being utilized for a variety of other purposes as well.

Analytics

Collecting data about consumers can help nearly any facility create a greater experience. This can open the doors to understanding the target market in real-time, view trends regarding purchases of various products and track foot traffic of consumers within larger facilities for marketing strategies.

Food and Order Preparation

Some locations are developing methods in which a customer can order his or her food or other product while walking into the establishment. An app can be used to set up the order and then process that information once the smartphone is within range of a beacon. This can expedite the dining experience reducing the time it takes you get get food, drinks and other goods. 

Notifications

By walking into an airport, you can get a message letting you know that your flight is delayed. Notifications like these can save a great deal of time while supplying individuals with the information they need immediately. Those looking for employment could simply walk into the building and instantly receive notifications about opportunities. General information can be quickly shared store-wide of natural disasters or severe weather patterns forming. Notifications can be used in a plethora of ways to enhance the experience of those within any given facility through beacons.

Bluetooth beacons have an incredible amount of possibility for creating efficiency in home and professional life. With proper development, this could increase the automation of society exponentially. Wouldn’t you rather spend less time waiting in line at the grocer if your phone could make a payment instantly?

10 UI/UX Mobile App Design Trends in 2015

Mobile device design trends in 2015 are already establishing themselves, driven by accelerating mobile device adoption by consumers and enterprises, new device capabilities and an increasing number of technology-inspired UI/UX design techniques.

1. The Exponential Expansion of Platform Instances

A major trend that in large part drives other UI/UX trends is not strictly a UI/UX trend in and of itself. It is the ever expanding explosion of mobile device instances as platform components continuously combine. Multiply the product catalog of mobile device manufacturers plus the onslaught of Internet “things” times the number of OSs, application development paradigms and the increasing number of on-board gizmos and you get the idea. Beyond niche apps designed for a narrow range of devices, this trend has huge side effects for app UIs and platform UXs that wish increase penetration and sustain presence.

2. Mobile First

Unfortunately, many businesses still address their need for a mobile presence via one-off, bolt-on mobile apps. In a world where the average connected user has 3 or 4 mobile devices, all of which are in use, they are clearly off-trend. Most enterprises this year are taking advantage of apps, processes and presence for a mobile world where content delivery and usability are paramount regardless of screen size or on-board resources.

3. Flat UI Design

App interfaces with flat design components and layout have been with us for some time now. Witness Microsoft Office 2013 for instance. At first glance, they appear “simplified,” but they are in fact more amenable to creating consistent UI and effective UX especially for small screen devices. Furthermore, the concept is evolving, helped by Google’s design language Material Design. Flat design now implies a rich UI approach with subtle layering, gradients and animation that focuses content while adding agility to any device display. As a result, its adoption is accelerating this year.

4. Tiled Navigation

Another UX-enhancing trend this year is the move toward tiled interfaces that chunk content into easily digestible “cards.” This modular format is an excellent complement to responsive design techniques. It allows apps and users unprecedented flexibility in how content is arranged or sorted.

5. Context Aware UI/UX

To stand apart from the crowd of mobile devices, a new UI trend breaks the rules around interface consistency. There are an increasing number of sensors that can provide clues as to what a user is doing, where they are, their activity/attention level and a summary of their environment. If they are looking for a restaurant and one is around the block, the app might go straight to the menu. If the user is jogging, the UI could enlarge buttons making it easier to control the device while holding back low priority calls.

6. Accommodating Multiple Device Use

This trend is responding to data that show a majority of connected users employ more than a single device to accomplish a single task. Naturally, this implies agile app UIs, but it also means that apps need to be architected within to ease data and context flow as well as deliver consistent performance across disparate devices.

7. Wearable Devices

Clearly, since last year wearable devices are coming into their own as their display and communication capabilities increase rapidly. They are no longer niche, single-use devices. Add these to the combinations of available platforms in trend 1, except now the platform exists across more than one device.

8. Full Screen Navigation

This mobile UI trend is on the rise and even bleeding back into the desktop space. Instead of the usual title-banner-content-ads format of a traditional website page, the user is presented with a clean, large entry menu of actions. It is a technique that invites rather than blares at you. If fits well with flat design too. As this trend continues one of the side effects will be the death of the sidebar.

9. Gather around the Campfire

A new approach to drawing in visitors is the technique of storytelling. It is an often overlooked, but highly effective method for engaging potential customers. Relating the story of your company, its services and solutions helps build emotional attachment that sets you apart from competitors. The technique is greatly enhanced thanks to a number of trending capabilities arising out of HTML5.

10. Eye-catching Animation

Some of these HTML5-based techniques that are seeing more usage this year are sophisticated, context aware and subtle animations that, for instance, provide clues to users about where they are within a task or interface locale. Parallax scrolling provides a stunning 3rd dimension to an app’s UX and is especially effective when combined with storytelling. See http://nasaprospect.com/ for an example. Another up and coming UI enhancement is background blurring when doing so increases content presentation.

These are the major trends to keep an eye on throughout the year. Surely, others will emerge, which is what makes mobile application development so exciting.