Posts by D.P. Venkatesh

Mobile has become the preferred way for people to access information.

Google and Microsoft Push Mobile Search to the Front

May 21st, 2015 Posted by 2015, Blog No Comment yet

You may have heard that last month Google updated its search algorithm to prioritize mobile optimized websites, an act that earned the ominous “Mobilegeddon” moniker. Earlier this month, Microsoft did something similar with Bing, although the company pledged that, while its new algorithm would place an emphasis on mobile sites, it would not (unlike Google) penalize traditional sites.

The world has not ended, at least, not yet. Instead of bringing doom and gloom, the actions of Google and Microsoft actually symbolize how mobile has continued to outpace traditional computing.

According to eMarketer, this year mobile will officially surpass traditional desktops and laptops for search engine traffic. Over the next few years, mobile ad spending in the U.S. is expected to correspondingly increase as well:

Mobile has become the preferred way for people to access information.

What does this mean for companies?

Well, I wrote a couple of months ago about the importance of being a “mobile-first” organization, which involves truly embracing the mobile revolution and building services that suit the needs of today’s consumers. The actions of Google and Microsoft further underscore this point.

Businesses need to make sure they are allocating resources for building the best possible mobile experiences. If you don’t have a mobile optimized website – get on that, or else you may find yourself being buried in the search pages. If you don’t have well-designed mobile apps – get them done, because they are the gateways that customers are passing through to receive information, purchase products, and more.

Of course, both Google and Microsoft have some significant skin in the game. Google has Android and Microsoft has Windows Phone. Both have a large array of mobile properties, and make money off of search. It behooves them to place an emphasis on mobile any way they can.

Still, I believe that Google and Microsoft are only the first two dominoes to fall. Companies like Yahoo! and the soon to be acquired AOL, along with upstart mobile-focused search services like Cha Cha and Clusty, will inevitably continue to heavily cater to mobile preferences and adjust their services accordingly. They understand that it’s a mobile first world — and we’re living in it.

Is your site optimized for mobile search? Do you think the actions of Google and Microsoft are appropriate? Let us know in the comments!

Cheers,

D.P.

@dpv007

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4 Strategies for Creating a Great Mobile User Experience

“Must Have’s” for Enterprise App Development

Choosing the Best Enterprise Mobile App Provider

 

mobile user experience, UX, UI, mobile apps,

4 Strategies for Creating a Great Mobile User Experience

May 6th, 2015 Posted by 2015, Blog No Comment yet
mobile user experience, UX, UI, mobile apps, mobile design, mobile development

Photo Courtesy: zeendo.com

At Google I/O 2014, Google launched its most aggressive mobile strategy to date with the introduction of Android 5.0 (or Lollipop) and their new “material design” language. This new user interface emphasized a “paper and ink” feel along with new animations and a different layout.

It was a clear shot across the bow to that other mobile company out there – and a statement that Google really was getting serious about building great mobile design and a compelling mobile user experience.

It wasn’t always that way. Mobile design used to be more about the technology features. Now, it’s less about the features, and more about how they’re being delivered.

In fact, creating a compelling mobile user experience has become an art in itself – and it’s not just about surface looks. Sure, it’s important to have a design that looks cool, clean, and unique. But developing a lasting relationship with users requires more than just beauty. It requires focusing on four strategies:

Purpose. Just like everything, apps must have a purpose to succeed. This purpose will serve as the platform for everything else that comes after – features, layout, graphics, usability, and everything that ultimately must work together to form a compelling mobile user experience.

Design. Design can take many forms. Do you want a flat design, a la Apple, or would you like something more dynamic, like Lollipop? How interactive should the app be, and should it be cross-platform? Above all – does the design match the purpose?

Technology. The back-end needs to be just as functional as the front-end. Otherwise, you’re left with a pretty app with no purpose.

Design Intelligence. Marrying all of the aforementioned points together is the most important step, and the essence of true “design intelligence.”

Companies like Google and Apple discovered each of these points years ago. As such, they’ve shaped expectations of what a well-designed mobile app constitutes. Today, consumers and enterprise customers expect simple and intuitive, yet rich and compelling, mobile user experiences.

mPortal is in the business of delivering those experiences, and we understand the importance of compelling mobile design. That’s why we’ve published an e-book, The Art of Useable Design. which includes additional insight and details on the aforementioned strategies, as well as examples of our work.

Enjoy!

D.P.

@dpv007

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:

Three Steps to Overcoming App Fatigue

Choosing the Best Enterprise Mobile App Provider

mobile design, mobile development, app overload, too many apps, mobile cloud, UX, UI

Three Steps to Overcoming App Fatigue

April 21st, 2015 Posted by 2015, Blog No Comment yet

mobile design, mobile development, app overload, too many apps, mobile cloud, UX, UI

Have you downloaded fewer new mobile apps over the past year or so? If so, you’re not alone.

Gartner just released the results of a survey of mobile app users in the U.S. and Germany showing that mobile app adoption might be reaching maturity. According to the report, “user interest in apps has mellowed now that they have integrated apps into their use of personal technology and their interaction with brands online. Although usage remains high, users may not want or need more apps in the future.”

Taken out of context, these “app fatigue” results may appear alarming, but they actually bear out something very positive: mobile apps have become an important part of our lives. We depend on them for social connections, managing our checking accounts, keeping track of food and exercise, and more. Gartner’s survey shows how far mobile has made inroads into our everyday existences.

Still, the fact that people are happy with what they’ve got does pose some challenges for mobile app developers and product managers trying to launch new products. As consumers’ usage patterns become more ingrained, managers and developers must find ways to make their apps stand out even more than ever before. As Gartner points out, “Users will try new apps, but they need to be convinced of an app’s value before they adopt them and change usage patterns over the long term.”

Here are three strategies for overcoming app fatigue:

Address a specific problem or need

The best apps are the ones that try to do one or two things well while addressing a specific need. For example, when we launched our Chrome app with BroadSoft, we created an app that was designed to help enhance the ability for business people to communicate using their Chromebooks. Likewise, our ScreenBee app scratches a social media and TV watching itch for consumers. Neither tries to be all things to all people. Instead, they focus on addressing certain needs for each of their target audiences. Their focus gives them value and allows them to work well for those audiences.

Develop a clean and compelling user experience

A big factor in mobile app stickiness is the user experience, which needs to be clean, compelling, functional, and powerful – all at the same time. Good apps are simple to comprehend and use – no one wants to use a massive and complex piece of software on their phone (or anywhere these days, for that matter). They also incorporate familiar gestures that users have become accustomed to (swipe, “pull to refresh,” etc.) – catering to those mature and established usage patterns reflected in the Gartner survey.

Also, users are increasingly turning to their mobile devices instead of traditional computers. As such, apps should reflect their more traditional software counterparts, with the same number of features, but in a smaller package. This goes for enterprise app development, too.

For more information about user design, be sure to check out mPortal’s “Art of User Design” eBook, which has some great tips and examples.

Get your app discovered

With fewer people looking for new apps, it’s even more important for developers and managers to focus on app discoverability. Developers with multiple apps or services may want to consider a dashboard app model, which aggregates different functions under a single view, making it easier for users to find what they need. Organizations may also want to consider having their apps included in targeted app discovery portals that house collections of apps. These are more curated than traditional app stores and can make it easier for apps to get noticed. Developers and managers can also market apps through paid advertising, social media, and public relations campaigns.

Gartner’s survey results show that mobile apps are now as much a part of our lives as the food we eat and clothes we wear. However, their popularity also means that app developers can’t afford to rest. Instead, they must get even more focused and creative if they wish to continue to successfully introduce new apps to the market.

Want to learn more about how mPortal can help you develop and promote your mobile apps? Send me an email, or contact us.

Cheers,

D.P.

@dpv007

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Live From Your Phone – Video Streaming Apps!

April 14th, 2015 Posted by 2015, Blog No Comment yet

video streaming, mobile video, OTT video, mobile OTT, streaming video apps

Recently I’ve been discussing the rise of video streaming apps and solutions such as Apple TV – but even as I write these posts, a new phenomenon has begun to take hold.

Live video streaming apps such as Twitter’s Periscope and South By Southwest darling Meerkat have attracted large numbers of users and an even larger amount of attention. For those who have been living underground (like an actual meerkat), these apps allow users to view live streams of videos posted by just about anyone, about anything from their smart devices. Viewers can comment or ask questions via the streams. The idea is to bring users closer to whatever or whomever they’re watching in a more immediate way.

Both Periscope and Meerkat exemplify how mobile technology can help people connect with others and find information in real-time. These live video streaming apps make it possible for me to learn how to cook up the perfect dish of Italian meatballs, watch my sister’s son play soccer a few states away from me, or follow and find out what my favorite celebrities are up to right this second.

In fact, mobile live video streaming will no doubt allow us to experience events like never before. Think of being able to “live” next year’s Super Bowl from the point of view of a friend sitting in the stands, or gain one-on-one insight into backstage preparations for the Oscars from an acquaintance on the production crew.

None of this would be possible without mobile, which has created a form of self-expression that feeds directly into the desire for live video streaming apps such as Periscope and Meerkat. The culture that started the craze of posting selfies on Instagram is now becoming the culture that loves to share ideas and hobbies with the world. It started with apps like Vine, but even those solutions have become too limiting for some. They need a different forum through which to express themselves. Live video streaming apps seem to fit the bill.

Of course, the market is still very much in its infancy, with only two primary players (so far) making a big splash. But I have no doubt that we are experiencing the precursor to a market that will begin to see new players moving into the space within the next few months, while established companies (Facebook, anyone?) begin to seek new ways of leveraging live video for their own users.

Periscope and Meerkat are consumer apps and some argue, just a fad. However, the launch of these apps certainly put a lot of marketing departments into overdrive, including Starbucks. Many big brands will want to stream live events such as conferences and product launches, taking advantage of the ability for live interaction with the audience – something you can’t do with recorded video.

Here at mPortal, we’ve been developing streaming video solutions for our customer’s for years, but admittedly not quite as attention getting! The business case for video discovery and delivery for most organizations is a bit different – you can check out a few of our customer examples below.

And don’t forget to let me know your thoughts on where you think the Meerkats, Periscopes and other similar apps might be headed!

The Great Courses – Video Discovery

Bright House Networks – Video Discovery and Delivery

Cheers,

D.P.

@dpv007

 

Enterprise-Mobile-App-Trends-Best-Enterprise-Mobile-App-Developer-San-Francisco

Choosing the Best Enterprise Mobile App Provider

April 6th, 2015 Posted by 2015, Blog No Comment yet
enterprise mobile apps, mobile app development, best mobile app developers, B2B mobile app developer, mobile cloud, OTT apps, custom mobile app development, enterprise mobile app provider

Photo Courtesy: CitrusBits

Last week I wrote about the growing demand for enterprise mobile apps, and touched on how challenging it can be for organizations to develop those apps in-house. This week, I’m going to share some insights that can help you get around those in-house challenges by providing a few tips on selecting the best enterprise mobile app provider to meet your unique needs.

  • Assess your needs and goals. What are you trying to do? Are you looking for an app that emphasizes form over functionality, or is something aesthetically simple, yet feature-rich, more important? Do you need long-term, ongoing support from your enterprise mobile app provider? Do you want to use a company that has a small team of developers devoted just to you, or a larger team that has a wealth of experience working on many different types of projects — or, preferably, both?
  • Understand the differences between providers. There are thousands of enterprise mobile app providers at your disposal. They range from digital boutiques (creative folks, but sometimes very expensive) to full-fledged design agencies (good at creative, but often not at back-end integration or on-going support) to systems integrators (good with technology, maybe not so much with creative). Check out which enterprise mobile app provider might be more proficient in designing a compelling user experience for the short term, vs. the technically deep, end-to-end providers who will work with your over the long term.
  • Find out if they’ll stick around past “Release One”.  Perhaps one of the most important questions you need to ask is whether the vendor offers full life-cycle management. This means providing a long term strategy that goes well past just the first release. You’ll need someone who can test, analyze and react to your first release, second and third – there is no “end-state” when it comes to an enterprise app, its an ongoing and iterative process.
  • Dig into the background of your potential partners. Once you’ve got a good idea of the app development vendor landscape, and you’ve narrowed your choices to your top three or four, do some further digging into the companies themselves. Find out how long have they been in business, their client list, the size of their teams, and the backgrounds of their developers. Read their press releases, news stories, and blogs. Do your homework by treating the process as you would any other potential partner courtship.
  • Review some of the mobile apps they’ve developed. If possible, go onto the App Store or Google Play and download samples of some of the apps your potential partner has developed for other businesses. Assess the quality of the work hands-on and read user reviews (note: this would only be possible if those apps are publicly available, and not developed for internal audiences).
  • Ask for customer references. Feel free to ask companies for client references. You’ll want to contact these folks and ask about their experience working with the company and its developers.
  • Check out any supporting materials you can find. Many enterprise app development companies will publish educational pieces, such as mobile app design e-books and other materials. These will give you a better sense of the company’s overall expertise and willingness to share valuable insight about their processes.
  • Don’t rush into the decision. Although mobile is a fast-paced and constantly moving environment – and you no doubt want to take advantage of it as quickly as possible – you’ll really want to take your time in deciding on the best partner for your needs. Due diligence is important. Remember that enterprise mobile apps are now serious business, and your process for selecting a partner should reflect that.

Have any other questions about selecting an enterprise app developer, or want to learn more about how mPortal can help with your enterprise app development needs? Shoot me a note – I’m happy to help. And, don’t forget to check some of our own resources, including:

mPortal’s Mobile Design Methodology (e-book)

mPortal’s Mobile Software Development Methodology (e-book)

Cheers,

D.P.

@dpv007

ux-design

“Must Have’s” for Enterprise Mobile App Development

March 31st, 2015 Posted by 2015, Blog No Comment yet
mobile app design, enterprise app development, mobile user experience, mobile design, enterprise mobility

Photo courtesy: Shutterstock

The demand for enterprise mobile application services continues to grow. However, most companies are vastly under-prepared for successful enterprise mobile app development. Designing, developing and maintaining a truly robust enterprise mobile app requires specific skills that are not often found in-house.

Here’s a short list of three “must-haves!”

(For more info, take a quick look mPortal’s mobile software development e-book, for a deeper understanding of our own enterprise mobile app development process.)

 

1) Designing a compelling user interface. Enterprise mobile apps must be clean, practical, and easy to use, while remaining full-featured and powerful. While IT teams may know how to create something functional, users expect more than function with mobile apps – they expect beautiful form. Creating a successful mobile app requires developers and designers working side-by-side, which doesn’t always happen in the typical enterprise.

Both teams also have to take into account the needs of different users when creating their UIs. For example, someone working on-site in a field operations role might have a different use case than the account manager who works for the same company. The app needs to meet everyone’s needs, yet still offer the same core functionality.

2) Experience in developing for different devices. Mobile’s no longer just about smartphones or tablets. It’s now smart watches, automobiles, and other Internet of Things…things. Each of these devices requires a different approach. For example, developing an app for a smart watch can be far different than one for a tablet.

To cover the bases you’ll want to make sure that your enterprise mobile app development team is knowledgeable about designing for all types of mobile devices. Most internal teams do not have this expertise.

3) The desire and time to continuously update and modify your apps. Traditional enterprise software development includes an end date – once the software is completed, you put it out in the wild and that’s pretty much it. Occasionally you might have to issue an update, but once it’s done, it’s pretty much done.

That’s not the case with enterprise mobile apps, which are built around constant and continual iteration. There’s no end date associated with the development of an enterprise mobile app; you’re always going to be updating the software as mobile technology and user demands evolve.

As an example, the most recent version of Android, Lollipop, contains thousands of new APIs, many of them enterprise-centric. In only a year, there were major updates and developments that developers needed to become familiar with. These updates were meant to address mobile business needs, and were rolled out one year after the previous version, KitKat, hit the market.

This rapid pace is indicative of the way today’s business runs in general. Mobile and the cloud have pushed organizations toward becoming far more nimble and agile than ever before, but many can’t do this alone. Hence, many are looking to third party partners to be able to help them achieve their goals of quickly delivering better solutions, including mobile apps.

In my next post, I’ll take a look at some things you should look for when choosing a development partner for your enterprise mobile app. In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about how mPortal can assist in your app development needs, shoot me a note.

Cheers,
D.P.

@dpv007

If you enjoyed this post, you might also want to take a look at:

mPortal’s Mobile Design Methodology (e-book)

mPortal’s Mobile Software Development Methodology (e-book)

spruce-image-16

Will Apple Streaming TV be a Cable-killer?

March 24th, 2015 Posted by 2015, Blog No Comment yet

streaming video, video streaming, Apple TV, Apple Streaming TV, mobile video, mobile video apps

Don’t look now, but Apple’s about to upset the streaming TV apple cart.

The company is apparently getting ready to launch its own subscription-based Internet TV service. According to rumors, Apple will strike deals with several major broadcast outlets, including CBS, ABC, and Fox, to add 25 new channels to Apple TV. Business Insider estimates the service could see 10.7 million subscribers by 2018.

Everyone knows what happens when Apple gets serious about entering a market. It wasn’t so long ago that Apple transformed the music industry through the introduction of iTunes. The iPad basically started the tablet revolution. And when the company released larger iPhones last year, it immediately became a leader in the “phablet” category.

Unlike what Apple did with music, however, there are already many other companies that have paved the way for streaming TV consumption. Consumers are not only used to watching TV online, in many cases they prefer it, because it gives them the chance to watch content across devices and whenever they want. Given this already robust adoption, it might be even easier for Apple to put a dent in the status quo, because the company does not have to drum up demand.

In fact, there’s so much demand for streaming TV services that it might actually be beneficial to cable operators if Apple does enter the market.

Consider that a streaming TV service from Apple will provide consumers with yet another online viewing option. In addition to Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, major broadcasters are already offering or preparing to offer their own standalone streaming TV apps. Sony’s PlayStation Vue service also offers video streaming, and Sling TV is delivering live sports to its customers, in the process removing perhaps the biggest cord cutting barrier.

However, as psychologist Barry Schwartz wrote in his book The Paradox of Choice, sometimes having too many choices can create anxiety for consumers. It can cause them to go back to the simplest option, and, often, that’s the one they’re most familiar with. Which is exactly why I think having so many streaming options – even one from a monolith such as Apple – could potentially help cable operators solidify their positions within this exploding marketplace.

To illustrate, take a look at this graphic from The Wall Street Journal, which provides a sense of the scope of the streaming TV landscape:

3.18.15-WSJ-TV-Table

While this fast-growing market does offer choices, it also presents some challenges for consumers that are best addressed by traditional cable TV. Consider that:

  • Consumers will ultimately have to make choices about which streaming services they are going to use. No one is going to subscribe to 10 different services, even if they offer unique content.
  • Subscribing to multiple services may end up becoming more expensive than a monthly cable bill. This nullifies the “saving money by cutting the cord” argument.
  • Consumers will still need an ISP to be able to take advantage of any of these services. Cable operators are getting very aggressive with the roll out of high speed Internet service in many markets, with fiber options topping 1000 megabits per second. Streaming TV consumers will need that bandwidth, and they’ll be able to get it through their local cable provider at a bundled, discounted rate.

Still, an Apple TV subscription service should not be taken likely. Cable operators will need to become even more aggressive on their commitment to providing streaming solutions through different forms, including via mobile devices. Apple’s going to do everything it can to take advantage of the segment our vice president of marketing wrote is “the fastest growing category of data-consuming activities on the Internet.” Therefore, you can be sure that the company will do everything it can to bring the service to iPhones, iPads, and more.

For right now, though, cable operators can take solace in the fact that they are still the best “one stop shop” for millions of consumers. If you’d like to learn more about the unique work we’ve done for cable and media companies in the mobile experience space, including video streaming apps and in-app video chat, drop me a line!

Cheers,

D.P.

@DPVenkatesh

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apple-pay-whole-foods-100526329-large-2

Five Things That will Impact Mobile Payments

March 18th, 2015 Posted by 2015, Blog No Comment yet
mobile payments, mobile apps

What’s in YOUR smartphone?

Looks like mobile payments are finally getting their due. In just the past couple of months, we’ve seen the introduction of Samsung Pay and Android Pay, and PayPal’s acquisition of Paydiant, not to mention the continued growth of Apple Pay.

It’s quite a change from when Google Wallet first launched in 2011. At that time, consumers were not yet at the point where they felt comfortable replacing their cash and credit cards with mobile devices. What’s more, retailers were not yet ready to invest in mobile payment systems that would complement or replace traditional credit card readers.

Since then, several things have happened to make mobile payments a more viable solution:

Smartphone penetration has grown significantly. There are now about 1.75 billion smartphone users worldwide.

Those users are more comfortable using mobile devices for monetary transactions. As an example, PayPal’s mobile payment volume grew to $46 billion in 2014. People have simply come to trust paying through their mobile devices.

Leading retailers got into the game. According to Finer Things in Tech, we’ve seen the number of merchants and trusted brands that accept Apple Pay grow significantly, from this:

Apple+Pay+Sep+2014To this:

Apple+Pay+retailers+Feb+2015

We feel the growth of mobile payments will be impacted by several factors over the next two years:

Consolidation and acquisitions

PayPal’s Paydiant agreement and Samsung’s purchase of LoopPay were the beginning of what I feel will be a wave of consolidation within this space. There are still plenty of smaller mobile payment providers out there, like Venmo and PopWallet, that could prove to be attractive acquisition targets for larger companies seeking to strengthen their mobile wallet offerings.

At least one security breach

I hope I’m wrong about this, but with so much focus on mobile payments – and with so much personally identifiable information and data at stake – I think there’s a great chance of at least one major security breach over the next year. Given that, every company involved in the mobile wallet space, both small and large, will need to heavily focus on making sure their payment platforms are rock solid and as impervious to hackers as can be. We’re already seeing this with Apple’s “Secure Element” and Samsung’s focus on secure transactions.

The dominance of Apple Pay

Apple keeps adding new retail partners to its list of Apple Pay vendors, with Coca-Cola, Office Max, Regal Cinemas and many more familiar names signing on in recent days. Expect to see that list truly explode by the end of the year.

Credit card companies becoming major players

Ironically, the ones that might be best positioned to take advantage of the mobile payment trend might be the ones who pioneered old school plastic. Companies like MasterCard and Visa had significant presences at Mobile World Congress this year, and envision mobile as their future. They will continue to look for ways to leverage their massive customer bases and seek to push them toward mobile solutions, such as MasterCard’s MasterPass technology.

Availability on all connected devices

Smartphones and tablets are only the beginning. Already, consumers can make purchases through game systems. Soon enough, they’ll be able to even buy items through car dashboards and other devices, including Apple Watch. The Internet of Things will make this a reality.

Are you interested in learning more about mobile payments, or how your company can develop mobile wallet solutions? mPortal can help. Drop me a line, or contact us.

Cheers,

D.P.

@dpv007

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Five Reasons Apple Pay Will Help Mobile Payments Cash In

 

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5 Things From #MWC15 That Show Everything is Connected!

March 10th, 2015 Posted by 2015, Blog No Comment yet

#mwc15, mobile world congress

Last week the wireless world gathered in Barcelona for the annual rite of passage known as Mobile World Congress. As usual, the show was dominated by new smartphones and a mixture of devices that ran the gamut from the cool to the unusual:

Runcibles aside, though, there was other news that came out of the show that showed mobile is now much more than just devices. It’s now about connecting everyone in an almost limited number of ways.

Here are five big things that came out of Mobile World Congress that show just how much we’ve evolved over the past few years, and how everything truly is becoming a connected experience.

The discussion of the next billion smartphone users turns to new technologies

Globally, the smartphone market has not yet reached a saturation point – there are still plenty of customers to be targeted. How do companies reach them? This question has been asked at the past few Mobile World Congresses, but this year the answers were slightly different. Now, the focus is on increasing spectrum and new wireless network technologies like LTE-Unlicensed, which allows LTE cells to operate over radio waves typically used by Wi-Fi networks – another testament to the importance and ubiquity of Wi-Fi.

Mobile marketing and advertising is serious business

This was the most marketer-friendly Mobile World Congress ever. Discussions of how to monetize social media and mobile ads were everywhere. In fact, for the first time ever, Mobile World Congress devoted an entire day to mobile marketing, highlighted by discussions on mobile marketing trends, success stories, and new technologies to help marketers achieve their goals. That’s a big deal for an event that was once primarily known for being a technology-driven show, and it shows how important marketing has been for mobile, and vice-versa.

Connected cars rev up

Forget about a potential iCar — automakers are already moving into the wireless space in a big way. Mobile World Congress no doubt looked like a BMW or Mercedes showroom, as automobile manufacturers displayed wireless dashboard features dedicated to safety, entertainment and, of course, communication. In fact, according to Business Insider, the car dashboard is poised to become the next great wireless revenue generator.

Another major entrant into the mobile payments race

Mobile payments got their spotlight in Barcelona. Samsung announced Samsung Pay, a shot across the bow at Apple and Google, signifying yet another big mobile organization throwing its weight behind the concept of mobile payments.

Wearables are in fashion

Unsurprisingly, wearable devices were all the rage this year. Smartwatches, fitness trackers, even virtual reality headsets were all on full display. In turn, there were many companies showing off new applications to run on those devices. As I pointed out last week, the market for wearables is only just starting. Developers may want to get on the ground floor and begin taking advantage of it now.

More than ever, Mobile World Congress drove home the point that everything truly is connected. We saw that mobile has become more than just “wireless.” It’s Wi-Fi, Internet of Things, and the cloud. It’s smartphones, cars, and watches. It’s technology and marketing. It’s all of these things – and so much more.

Want to learn more about the future of mobile, and how we can help you leverage it? Email me, or contact us.

Cheers,

D.P.

@dpv007

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Four Questions About Wearable Apps

March 3rd, 2015 Posted by 2015, Blog No Comment yet

spruce-image (9)

As the world eagerly anticipates the arrival of the Apple Watch, app development for wearable devices is becoming part of the mobile conversation. We’ve moved beyond apps overtaking the mobile web to apps overtaking our wrists, which brings up a whole set of questions developers should be asking.

Is developing apps for wearable devices worth it right now?

The market for wearable devices may just be getting going, but it will likely mature quickly. Part of that’s due to Apple’s impending entrance, but it’s also because wearable apps are an extension of mobile apps, which have already established themselves as the go-to computing software for today’s consumers. As such, wearables already have a built-in audience.

It’s also worth noting that hardware purchases are traditionally a good predictor of potential usage. That will probably be as true for wearable devices as anything else, which means that Juniper Research’s prediction of $53 billion in “smart wearable” sales by 2019 is something to pay attention to. It shows a tremendous amount of future opportunity.

Enough with the future, though – wearables are already here! While it’s true that the market is currently driven by fitness bands like the FitBit and Jawbone UP24, there are still a number of Android developers creating apps for devices like the Samsung Galaxy GEAR. I expect that after the launch of the Apple Watch, we’ll begin to see an even greater ecosystem of apps begin to take shape, much as we did with the launch of the iPhone.

The bottom line is that right now the market is not very crowded, which can give you a leg up on the competition. And, once things begin to explode, you’ll be in a great position to take advantage of the growth.

OK, but isn’t there more to it than just creating a wearable app?

Although it’s possible to create apps that are housed within the wearable device itself (think the Pebble watch), in many cases you will actually need to create two apps: a wearable app that exists on the wearable device itself, and a larger smartphone app. Wearable devices do not have much memory, and some need a “sister” smartphone app in order to function. In these cases, data and activities – notifications, messages, emails, and more — are processed through the smartphone apps and then synced to the wearable. You’ll need to design the smartphone app to manage the operations load, while keeping the wearable app very simple and lightweight.

Given that two apps might need to be created, will that double the cost or time that I’ll need to invest?

Anything that involves new development will create the need for additional time and resources. The good news is that many wearable apps are based on already existing SDKs. This helps minimize the amount of time it might take to develop a wearable app, as that app will be created using a baseline of tools that many developers may already be familiar with (Android, for example).

Still, anything that involves new development will inevitably create the need for additional time and resources, which is an area where mPortal can help. We’ve developed traditional mobile apps for many organizations over the years, and have already extended our offerings into the wearable device market.

I’m sold. How can I ensure that my apps deliver the best user experience?

It’s important to understand that designing wearable apps is much different than developing apps for smartphones or tablets. Wearable devices are physically different from those other mobile tools, and feature smaller screen real estate and less powerful CPUs.

When developing apps for wearables, developers should think small and targeted:

  • Make sure the apps address specific user needs (monitoring sleep patterns, telling time, etc.)
  • Keep the user interface as simple and clean as possible (large fonts, for example)
  • Only include necessary or relevant information

As we’ve pointed out in this space before, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” A guy named DaVinci said that once, and wearable app developers should take his words to heart. Wearable devices require the ultimate in simplicity. Getting to this point, however, can be a complex process, but we can help. Simply contact us to learn more.

Cheers,

D.P.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:

Four Ways to Become a Better Software Developer

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The Impact of Voice Over Wi-Fi (VoWiFi)

February 17th, 2015 Posted by 2015, Blog No Comment yet

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If you think Wi-Fi is big now, hold on, because you haven’t seen anything yet.

That’s one of the key takeaways from the most recent Cisco Visual Networking Index. According to the report, 46 percent of total mobile traffic in 2014 was offloaded onto the fixed network through Wi-Fi or femtocell, to the tune of 2.2 exabytes of mobile traffic. By 2016, more than half of all traffic from mobile-connected devices will be offloaded through Wi-Fi or femtocell – almost 14 exabytes!

For those who are not math majors, let me just boil it down and say that’s a heck of a lot of data.

There are a number of reasons for this:

  • The sheer number of Wi-Fi connected devices is growing at a phenomenal rate
  • Data consumption is increasing substantially from these devices
  • Operators are offloading this data from expensive, congested cellular networks to more cost-effective IP infrastructure

VoWiFi in general received a big boost a few months ago when Apple launched support for VoWiFi in the iPhone 6 and the 6+. T-Mobile also made a big splash about it, touting the fact that it would now support VoWiFi calling across its network as default (on certain devices), in effect extending coverage in areas that previously had spotty cellular coverage, as well as saving consumers money when roaming internationally.

Two more recent examples of service providers moving to VoWiFi include Cablevision, who launched a Wi-Fi only mobile phone service called FreeWheel that’s based entirely on Wi-Fi only connectivity – and Sprint, who recently announced carrier-grade WiFi calling thats bundled with Microsoft Lync, as part of their Workplace-as-a-Service platform for Enterprise.

According to Cisco, VoWi-Fi usage will exceed VoLTE by 2018 in terms of minutes of use. 

Cisco VNI 2015, VoWiFi, WiFi calling, voice over WiFi

Here are five reasons why VoWiFi is becoming important in the communications space:

  1. Wi-Fi is already popular, and consumers have become dependent on it. According to a 2013 report by Deloitte, two thirds of consumers prefer connecting over Wi-Fi rather than a cellular network. This is due to cost reasons, as well as performance reasons (e.g. downloading a youtube video.)
  1. Wi-Fi continues to enjoy significant enterprise investment. Most businesses planned to increase Wi-Fi capacity by at least 20 percent in 2014 (Infonetics). A key factor here is in-building wireless coverage, which can still be spotty in large buildings.
  1. Wi-Fi extends coverage. Spotty service is a non-issue when operators employ voice calling over Wi-Fi. In effect, this service extends coverage to areas that cellular signals have trouble penetrating.
  1. Wi-Fi makes almost any device a communications tool. VoWiFi can be offered as a service regardless of the hardware capabilities of a device. Virtually anything can become a communications vehicle as long as it’s Wi-Fi enabled, even non-SIM devices. Just ask the folks at Republic Wireless; their phones use native Wi-Fi applications to deliver voice services.
  1. Wi-Fi is ubiquitous. As I’ve written before, Wi-Fi is pretty much everywhere. Indeed, there will be 5.8 million global hotspots by the end of this year (Informa), a 350 percent increase since 2001. It’s fast becoming the preferred method of connection, and while it may not yet be as pervasive as LTE, don’t be surprised if it gets there – soon.

What’s your opinion on VoWiFI services? Do you think carriers will embrace it sooner rather than later, despite the impact it has on their existing GSM/CDMA-based voice infrastructure? Shoot me an email and let me know your thoughts!

Cheers,

D.P.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:

Three Ways Cable Operators Are Leveraging Wi-Fi

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Five Strategies to Successfully Become a Mobile-first Company

February 3rd, 2015 Posted by 2015, Blog No Comment yet

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Last week Facebook announced it had once again topped Wall Street’s expectations thanks to two-thirds of the company’s revenue coming from mobile ad revenue. Facebook is a prime example of a “mobile-first” company: an organization that derives most of its success from delivering a great mobile experience. Other organizations, like Netflix and Google, were certainly already successful before mobile, but mobile helped them explode.

However, large tech industries aren’t the only ones benefitting from mobile. Mobile is transforming almost every industry you can think of, from banking to customer care to field service and much more. Here are a few strategies to help you start thinking “mobile-first” in your organization:

Embrace mobile within your company

The first step toward building a mobile-first organization starts from within. The BYOD horse has left the barn, and it’s time to embrace the fact that employees are using their own devices. Leverage the effectiveness of mobile communication and collaboration apps that let employees work from anywhere, or investigate apps that can help your folks out in the field quickly and easily access back-end information from their mobile devices.

Focus on building the best customer-facing mobile apps

Part of becoming a mobile-first company is accepting that it’s no longer even about being mobile-first; for some, it’s about being mobile only. According to ComScore, we now spend much more time consuming digital content via apps than the web. Focus everything you have on delivering a great mobile experience for your customers, because mobile is what they prefer.

Create customized apps that meet your business’s needs

As I mentioned in my last post, it’s a great idea to develop customized apps that address your business’s unique challenges. These can be much more effective than simply downloading a generic third party app from an app store. They can be customized and updated as needed, have lower upfront costs, and offer competitive advantages.

Get active in social media

Social media and mobile are intertwined as part of the new wave of communications. Social media is only as popular as it is because of mobile, and most mobile users are heavily into social media (hence Facebook’s mega success). Therefore, to get to your mobile customers, you have to be engaged in social media. It’s an important part of your mobile-first approach.

Mobile apps make video easy

Mobile makes initiating video communication easy and enjoyable. There’s no longer much reason to constantly depend on hard to hear teleconferences. Video calls are made one-touch easy through Google Hangouts or a solution like our Chrome App. They allow employees to engage with each other in more immediate ways, and are the perfect complement for companies with mobile workforces (which is basically everyone these days) or who have embraced Scrum or other agile methodologies.

I’m not saying these strategies will help you become the next Mark Zuckerberg, but they will get you firmly on the road to where you need to be: a mobile-first organization.

Want to learn more about how mPortal can help your company become mobile-first? Shoot me an email.

Cheers,

D.P.

@dpv007

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:

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Are Custom Mobile Apps Better Than “Off the Shelf”?

January 27th, 2015 Posted by 2015, Blog No Comment yet

custom vs off the shelf apps

When buying a new suit, you want the style to be tailored and customized to you. It’s the best way to ensure the suit fits.

When it comes to mobile enterprise apps, it’s not much different. While commercial off the shelf (COTS) apps can be useful, mobile apps that are designed and built specifically for your needs end up being a better fit – and investment – for your company.

A recent report by Apperian bears this out. According to the company’s 2014 Executive Enterprise Mobility Report, organizations that reported “high satisfaction” with their mobile apps had developed them internally (57%), as opposed to those with “low satisfaction” (32%) who had not. In short, investing in an app developed specifically for your business can be more beneficial than something downloaded from an app store. Let’s take a quick look at some key reasons why:

One size does not always fit all. Custom mobile apps are designed to meet your exact business needs. This may mean a specific front-end (UI) design, such as one-handed data entry or perhaps specific branding. The back-end gets even trickier – from an integration point of view, you may have to deal with existing legacy or proprietary systems. Off the shelf apps are simply not designed to support this, which means your app may end up missing out on certain critical features, or worse, you have to change your business practices to work with the selected solution. Pricey!

Lack of control. With an off the shelf app, you have no control over when and what updates and enhancements you receive. The app may already be bloated with features you don’t need (and don’t want to pay for, but are) and will be slow to adapt or change with your industry’s requirements. Customization is costly, if it can be done at all.

Pay me now or pay me later. Lets get down to price. With off the shelf, there is typically a much lower upfront cost. If you can get away with the feature set, it might be the right choice. However, you need to be careful that you’re not getting stuck with something that has so many limitations that your users simply reject the app, or that it is so weak that it really isn’t providing the ROI you thought you would get. The benefit of a custom app is that you can start small, and make tweaks along the way. You have complete ownership of the app, and changes can be made quickly as your business grows or to meet new legislation or customer requirements.

Competitive advantage. It’s probably no surprise that, as per above, satisfaction is higher with a custom built app. A properly designed app should completely fulfill the needs of your business, plus be built with future demands in mind. As such, it will help your organization work faster and better, giving you a competitive advantage over those who are still dilly-dallying around with inefficient processes.

Unfortunately, many organizations simply do not have the time or expertise to develop custom apps in-house. They’re already well behind on their IT projects; there’s no time to take on another one. In this case, working with a trusted third party developer will be your best option. While the development of a custom app may require a more involved process than simply downloading an app from Apple or Google, for many (especially large enterprises), the ROI will be well worth the effort. After all, a well-tailored Armani will always work better than a JCPenney special.

Want to learn more about how mPortal can develop custom apps for your business? Shoot me a note for more information.

Cheers,

D.P.

@dpv007

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Businesman with smartphone in cafe

5 Mobile Productivity Apps to Help Your Business in 2015

January 20th, 2015 Posted by 2015, Blog No Comment yet

top mobile apps, top mobile business apps, top productivity apps, top business productivity apps

We all know mobile apps can enhance productivity, but it can be tough for busy people like you and me to wade through the thousands of options available. The fact that apps are often designed for very specific purposes can also make it difficult to choose which one(s) to use for any given task.

In the hopes of setting the table for a very productive 2015, I’d like to provide you with a list of my personal choices for some go-to productivity apps. Each of these offers specific features and capabilities that will help you get through and manage different aspects of your business. All of them will help you become more effective at what you do.

MobileDay – Conference calls are a fact of life, especially if you have employees or clients in various locations. Keeping track of the numbers and costs associated with them, however, can be a real pain point.

MobileDay simplifies the process immensely. It automates dial-ins so that you don’t have to hunt down the correct, long conference call number as you’re scurrying to join a call. MobileDay also automatically chooses the most cost-effective calling options for each conference call, which helps the bottom line. I spend half my day on the phone, and I love this app.

Sunrise – Sunrise combines two things that are very important to me: my LinkedIn contacts and a calendar app. Sunrise provides a calendar that not only shows you appointments, but connects to your LinkedIn account, so that you can see the picture and profile of the person you’ll be meeting with. That’s extremely helpful, especially if you’re like me and have thousands of contacts.

Slack – Slack is not for slackers; rather, it’s a handy communications app that allows teams to communicate with one another in a more efficient manner than, for example, email. It’s a chat app that allows for teams to communicate and share information. But it’s also much more than that. Team members can share files, videos, images, links, and more. Plus, it’s free for an unlimited number of users.

CircleBack – As many of you know, I have a LOT of contacts. Keeping track of them can be difficult — but CircleBack makes this much easier.

CircleBack uses a special artificial intelligence engine to make sure that all contacts are kept up-to-date and accurate. It also helps reduce duplicate entries, cleaning up your contact list and making it easier to find the correct person when you need to. It does this across devices, too, so my contacts on my phone, tablet, and PC remain consistent.

Box – Seems like everyone and their mother has a storage solution these days, but what makes Box particularly relevant for enterprise users is its focus on security. The app provides users with an enormous amount of control over who sees particular files, how information is shared, and more. These features provide a security blanket – pardon the pun – that other storage apps simply do not offer.

Box also has a few other cool features inside. You can connect your Salesforce and other accounts to your Box system, which makes it easy to save documents. You can also easily collaborate with others on the files saved in the Box, which is obviously important to keep business moving along. The pricing structure is a bit more expensive than other storage apps, but it might be worth it for the wealth of features.

What are some of the apps you depend on for business productivity? Let’s see your tips in the comments below.

Cheers,

D.P.

@dpv007

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4 Ways to Increase Field Productivity with Mobile Apps

January 13th, 2015 Posted by 2015, Blog No Comment yet

One of our customers came to us with a new challenge – how could they solve field ops inefficiency? They wanted to make life easier for their HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) technicians who were responsible for equipment install and maintenance. (Read More)