Tag Archives: mobile development

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The Rise and Rise of Mobile Phones

A while ago, a software developer friend told me about a PC fighter plane game he was working on. He was literally spending thousands of hours researching game engines, polishing scenarios, making the graphics as realistic as possible.

So I decided to help him with a demonstration.

Next time we were out with some other friends, I asked everyone “What was the last PC software package you bought?”.

Everyone looked at me blankly.

Then I asked “What is your favourite mobile phone app?”

Everyone pulled out their mobile phones and started talking at the same time.

My software developer friend leaned forward quietly and said “you b*stard” – but he took my point.

Last I heard he had converted all his software to run on a mobile game engine, and was busy making it all look good for a mobile environment.

PCs still have their uses – as Steve Jobs, the legendary ex-CEO of Apple once said, a PC is good for content creation. I usually use a Mac laptop to create new entries for this blog.

But mobile devices – phones, iPads, tablets – have come to utterly dominate content consumption.

Next time you think up a great idea for a PC application, take the thought a little further, and consider how your idea would work in a mobile phone environment. Because the chances are it would work well – and Mobile is where the action is.

For more information about mobile phone app development, iPhone development, or Android development, please contact Eric Worrall.

The New iPhone – What You Need to Know

Time to review your apps – Apple has officially announced two new iPhones – the iPhone 5S, and the more budget oriented iPhone 5C.

Both phones will run iOS 7, and iOS 7 will shortly be offered to existing phones – which could potentially break existing apps.

A new mobile operating system is an exciting opportunity to offer new products and services – but for mobile app development, it also presents risks to the stability of existing mobile apps.

While Apple operating systems are highly compatible with each other, every new version of the operating system comes with new rules, new ways of doing things. Sometimes these new rules break existing apps, often in subtle ways.
The key areas to watch in iOS 7 apps appear to be further tightening of the rules regarding access to iPhone contacts, and changes to how apps access internal identifiers.

While most of the pain of changes to address book access occurred with the upgrade to iOS 6, there are still likely to be apps caught out by the iOS 7 rule changes.

Similarly, a number of games will potentially be affected by the internal identifier rule change. In iOS 7, Apple have removed access to an API which a lot of game developers use, to uniquely identify a device – especially with multiplayer games. So quite a few games will simply break when the phone or iPad is updated to iOS 7.

There are also changes to screen layout rules, which might catch a few apps.

My advice – make sure your developer is available, to help you if you hit problems. If you are especially worried, for example if you have a profitable app which you want to protect, your developer can assist you with testing your app using a pre-release version of iOS 7, to minimise the risk of embarrassing failures when people try to use your app on an upgraded phone.

If you have any questions about how the imminent shift to iOS 7 might affect your app(s), please leave a comment, or contact me for more information.

Apps which Recognise Images and Sounds

How can Desirable Apps help your app recognise sound and images?

The good news is it is possible, but it is more difficult than most people realise.

A while ago I was asked (by another company) to quote a sound recognition app on their behalf – similar to apps which give you the name and artist of a song, after listening to a few seconds of music (note for confidentiality, I am not providing details of what the client requested).

I provided a quote, but the quote in this case was higher than the client expected. The client, naturally, solicited other quotes, which were also higher than they expected.

Techie bit…

The reason – sound recognition, like image recognition, activities which seem so simple and natural to us, are computationally incredibly difficult.

The best estimate I have seen for the amount of computation power required to create a silicon version of the human brain is 36 Petaflops, backed by 3 Petabytes of memory. Don’t worry, I also had to look up the meaning of the word Petaflop – it works out at 36 thousand trillion computation operations per second.

About 1/2 of the brain is devoted to processing what your eyes see. Around 1/10th of your brain is devoted to sound processing.

The best desktop computers perform at around 0.000001 Petaflops – 1 billion computation operations per second (apps are a little slower – iPads for example perform around 1 hundred million operations per second). To match the Visual processing power of the human brain would require 180 million iPads, all linked together. Sound processing would be a little easier – you would only need 36 million iPads to do as good a job of understanding sound as your brain and ears can do (though of course someone would also have to write the software… πŸ™‚ ).

The human brain makes hearing and seeing seem easy, by throwing almost unimaginable amounts of computing power at the problem.

BUT there are apps which can read text and recognise sound – how can this fact be reconciled with what I just said about computation power?

The secret to solving the problem of image and sound recognition is to cut the problem down to size, by redefining the requirement in as narrow a way as possible.

For example, when recognising a song, instead of having to compare a sample of the song to billions of different sounds recorded in a human’s memory, the song is passed to a powerful server, which compares the music sample to at most a few thousand music tracks. By narrowing the range of sounds the computer is expected to be able to recognise, rather than expecting it to make sense of the full range of sounds we encounter in our daily lives, the computation problem is simplified to the point that the most powerful silicon computers can just about handle the task.

Similarly, apps are not very good at interpreting images the way our eyes do, but they can recognise letters and symbols – by narrowing the problem down to 36 different symbols (26 letters and 10 numbers), instead of expecting the app to make sense of any random image presented to it, apps and computers can handle reading text from images – they do it poorly, they make mistakes, but they can just about handle the job.

How long do we have to wait, before computers and mobile devices have similar computation abilities to humans? The answer, surprisingly, is not very long at all – decades rather than centuries. The reason – the power of computers and mobile devices is doubling every 18 months. Your iPhone 5, or your new Samsung Galaxy, is a far more powerful computer than last year’s model, let alone phones which were available a decade ago. Next year’s model will be more powerful still.

If you would like to discuss your image or sound recognition requirement, and how new computer capabilities might help you to solve your business requirement, please contact me at eworrall1@gmail.com.

A Deep Linked Facebook Mobile App

I recently released RubyApp, a deep linked Facebook App.

RubyApp allows users to send a bouquet of pictures, and a short love message. You can tag the recipient of your message (which prompts the recipient that they have been tagged), make the message public, or both.

Facebook Deep Linking is a feature provided by Facebook to make your mobile app an extension of the Facebook experience. When a user clicks a Facebook news feed message associated with the deep linked app, instead of opening a website, Facebook opens the mobile app, and passes information about the clicked message to the mobile app, so the mobile app can immediately present the media associated with the message.

If the deep linked mobile app is not yet installed, Facebook prompts the user to install the app.

As you can imagine, this is a terrific way of driving viral mobile app installation – people see a Facebook post which interests them, click the post, and painlessly download and install yet another copy of your app. They then use the app to post their own media, which all their friends can see – and so on.

And this is exactly what is happening with RubyApp. A few people tried the app, loved it, and it is now spreading throughout the Facebook community – with no publicity effort from me whatsoever.

What happens if a user is not using an iOS device? For them, there is the RubyApp website – https://apps.facebook.com/ruby__app/.

Why build a deep linked Facebook mobile app, if you already have a Facebook website? The rationale for building a deep linked Facebook mobile app was that I wanted to include a soundtrack with the bouquet of pictures. iPhones do not automatically play sounds presented by websites – so the solution to creating a high quality user experience for iPhone and iPad users was to bypass this limitation, by creating RubyApp.

If you would like to know more about how Facebook deep linking can drive downloads of your app, and what opportunities Facebook deep linking presents to content providers, please contact me at eworrall1@gmail.com.

Apple iWatch Delayed?

The Register printed an interesting article today, suggesting that the Apple iWatch will be delayed, citing as evidence Apple’s aggressive iWatch team hiring spree.

What does iWatch mean for app development?

When the iWatch arrives, it will present an entirely new vector of customer requirements. Assuming Apple opens iWatch to developers (and there is no reason to think they won’t), iWatch will be an opportunity to give prominence to your offerings. If your competition only has a phone app, the iWatch presents a few seconds convenience – if consumers choose your app, they save a few seconds of their life, by engaging with your app on their iWatch, rather than having to pull their phone out of their pocket.

Do a few seconds matter?

The answer is an unequivocal YES. The world’s premier search engine, Google, have calculated that improving response times by just a tenth of a second produces a measurable change in customer behaviour.


Average increases in response time of only a tenth of a second have a negative effect on search usage.

The downside is what works on a phone is unlikely to work, unchanged, on a watch size display. No rework was necessary when iPad Mini was released, because iPad apps worked, without modification, on the iPad Mini platform. But a watch size device will be not be able to display content designed for a phone size display. In addition, a watch size device is likely to be heavily constrained, in terms of processing power and battery life, even when compared to a phone.

so watch apps will be new. They will be lean, mean and clean – apps cut back to the bare essentials. But in terms of user interaction, a good watch app will be first in the queue – people will use their watch, if it saves them pulling out their phone. When iWatch is released, getting in first with apps which fulfil user’s needs will be your key to beating the competition.

If you would like to find out more about how mobile apps can help your business, mobile app development in general, iPhone app development, Android app development, or likely near future technology trends, and how they might affect you, please contact eworrall1@gmail.com.

The Third Dimension

When will my phone produce true 3d images – images with depth, like a 3d Television?

The answer – phone size 3d devices are already appearing.

Wikipedia provides a list of 3d phones which are already, or soon will be on sale. My experience with such phones is current generation 3d phones are power hogs – if you want to play a 3d game, you need to plug the phone charger in, otherwise the 3d display will flatten your battery in minutes.

Normal phone displays are power hungry. If you stop touching the phone, normal 2d phones dim the backlight within a minute or two, and switch it off completely a few minutes later, to preserve battery life.

The reason 3d displays are so power hungry is that 3d displays produce two display images – one for each eye. So a 3d phone consumes battery reserves at least twice as fast as a normal 2d phone – even faster once you include the additional computation required to keep both displays coordinated.

What we are looking for then, is not a new type of display – 3d displays are already available. What we need, to make 3d displays practical, is a leap forward in mobile battery technology.

There is good news – we probably won’t have long to wait. And when true 3d displays become mainstream, most of the games and apps constructed by developers like me will be able to use the new technology, without modification.

Under the hood, games and other advanced apps are already 3d. When you see photo realistic space ships, monsters, or other 3d components of app games, what you are seeing is actually a computerised 3d shape created by app developers and artists, projected by software onto a 2d display. No tricks – phone apps and game consoles are already 3d under the hood.

Will the next iPhone, iPhone 6, be true 3d? Probably not. But my prediction is iPhone 7 might be.

If you would like more information about some of the exciting advances in 3d graphics which could be used in the development of your new app, please contact eworrall1@gmail.com.

Who should Host My Server?

Most apps require a server component – a place to store common data, which is shared with other app users.

If your app is successful, demand on your server could soar. You have to be prepared for success – by all means keep the costs down until revenues start flowing, but the last thing you want is to have your app’s success compromised by poor customer experiences (and reviews) due to inadequate server capacity.

So how do I keep costs down, while at the same time preparing for success?

Short answer – Amazon

Most people know Amazon as the online bookstore, but for several years they’ve also specialised in providing server hosting for online businesses.

Why choose Amazon? Because it starts cheap, but scales easily. While you are waiting for your marketing campaign to attract app sales, your Amazon server will cost next to nothing to run. The lowest Amazon service tier costs between zero and a couple of dollars per month.

But make those app sales, and with a few clicks of the Amazon console, and you can scale up your server to handle almost any imaginable load, within minutes of discovering your server is reaching its limits. With Amazon servers, you won’t see a sudden success snatched from under your nose by poor customer reviews due to inadequate server capacity.

My only criticism is Amazon is it is technically complex to administer compared to a normal ISP account – but that is why you hire techies ;-).

You still have to register your web domain name with a an ISP, if you want a web address for your server. If you are unfamiliar with server setup, Desirable Apps is happy to walk you through the process, and carefully explain the options and costs of every step of building, deploying and managing your app, including configuration and installation of your server.

Contact me today to discuss your app development and app server development requirements. eworrall1@gmail.com.

Why should you build an App?

Apps have substantial advantages over websites. While websites are becoming more app like, apps are still far more efficient at harnessing the full power of the mobile device, to offer the best possible user experience.

In addition, apps have substantial offline capabilities – your app can deliver its service in areas of poor or intermittent internet coverage.

For example, the success of apps such as Angry Birds is built on targeting people with a few minutes to spare, such as people commuting on public transport. But internet coverage of public transport routes is often poor to nonexistent, particularly on an underground metro train! Apps which do not rely on a continuous internet connection can continue to provide their service, long after websites fail due to poor mobile coverage.

Finally, the best reason of all – if you don’t act on your idea, and build your app, someone else will. In the globalised world of app development, he who hesitates is lost.

Contact me now, to discuss how I can help turn your idea into an app.