Category Archives: iOS Development

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How Wearable Smart Clothing Will Revolutionize Health, Fitness, and Fashion

Wearables are in a nascent stage since coming into vogue through the advent of Samsung Galaxy Gear in 2013 and the Apple Watch in 2015. Smartwatches and fitness devices like Fitbit continue to reign supreme and help us make our lives more efficient while tracking vital health data and improving our workouts.

The next generation of wearables will be able to cultivate even more data and transmit that information to health professionals with the help of 5G. Machine learning algorithms will help predict potential health issues based on the data gathered. In order to cultivate this data, we predict that wearable clothes fitted with sensors will rise in popularity, yielding ground-breaking applications in Fitness, Healthcare, Emergency Services, and Fashion.

FITNESS

The release of Fitbit in 2009 marked the first consumer-grade wearable focused on activity tracking, precipitating the advent of the smartwatch by four years. Since then, Fitbit has designed and released a line of products focusing on activity tracking, including the Fitbit Versa, a health and fitness smartwatch, and the Fitbit Ace, an activity tracker for children 8+.

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Fitbit isn’t the only major player in the wearables game. Nadi X Yoga Pants use built-in haptic vibrations to encourage wearers to move and hold positions.

Sensoria’s second generation connected socks use textile pressure sensors to track the pressure put on the user’s foot when running and inform the user when it senses too much pressure on a particular body part to prevent injury. They also track time, cadence, pace, speed, and distance.

The Thin Ice smart vest cools your body using thermo receptors, activating the bodies brown fat pathways which effectively burns white fat (bad fat).

OMsignal’s OmBra measures heart rate and breathing rhythm in addition to time, distance, cadence pace, and impact for runners.

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The Athos Core is perhaps the most thorough and expansive application in smart clothes today. Athos Core collects data from a line of clothing embedded with micro-EMG sensors and analyzes it to help improve your workout. Athos shirts can evaluate electrical activity produced by your muscles to track the exertion of major upper-body muscle groups (pecs, bis, tris, delts, lats, and traps).

HEALTHCARE AND EMERGENCY SERVICES

As cited in our last blog on 5G and healthcare, 86% of doctors say wearables increase patient engagement with their own health.

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The second generation Owlet Smart Sock is a smart-sock made for babies which uses pulse oximetry technology to monitor heart rate and sleep patterns.

Siren Smartsocks are designed to prevent diabetics from suffering from foot injuries. They have microsensors designed to continuously monitor temperature for inflammation and alert users through their smartphone app.

As wearable clothes become more popular, applications will automatically contact emergency services when the wearer’s health shows major warning signs.

Invisiwear offers wearable smart jewelry and other accessories with a panic button which gives the option to share your location with loved ones and 9-1-1.

The iBeat Heart Watch monitors health and notifies your loved ones and an EMT team in emergency situations.

FASHION

“Fashion tech” is gradually earning adoption.

On a mass consumer level, Levi’s teamed up with Google’s Project Jacquard to offer a smart trucker jacket designed for urban cyclists. Conducive yarn makes it easy for the user to tap, swipe, or hold the sleeve to fulfill simple tasks like changing music tracks, block or answer calls, or access navigation information.

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A London-based design firm THE UNSEEN created a line of luxury accessories including a backpack, phone case, scarf, and more which respond to air pressure, body temperature, wind, sunlight, and touch to change colors.

THE FUTURE OF WEARABLE CLOTHES

Recently, NBA commissioner Adam Silver unveiled the future of the NBA Jersey: a line of smart jerseys that allow you to customize the name and number on the jersey.

There’s no doubt that the future of wearable clothes is still unveiling itself to us as 5G receives mass adoption and programmers continue to uncover potential applications of machine learning. What is clear at this point is that wearable clothes will help make the human race smarter, stronger, healthier, and more efficient.

5G: Exploring the Fifth Generation of Cellular Mobile Communications

In December 2018, AT&T made history by becoming the first mobile carrier to roll out 5G service. The average person probably thinks that 5G is merely a high-speed cellular service, however, technology aficionados know it’s much more than that—5G has the potential to facilitate major technological shifts in the way our world works. In our two-part series, the Mystic Media Blog will take a look at what 5G is and how it could shift our society.

WHAT IS 5G?

Let’s start with the basics. The G in 5G stands for Generation. 5G is the 5th generation of wireless technology. 5G will bring exponentially faster download & upload speeds with reduced latency, enabling many practical high-tech innovations across many different industries, in addition to many new consumer applications.

SPEED

4G has been the prevailing cellular technology for the past 5-8 years. 4G is currently responsible for the high speeds powering your phone. While 4G speeds average about 16.9 megabits per second (Mbps), 5G promises to deliver speeds at the Gigabit level, greatly enhancing the things your devices can do. For example, while 4G allows for streaming in HD, 5G will make it possible to stream 4K HDR content.

ACCESS

The appeal of 5G is not just speed, but access as well. 5G will allow many more devices to connect to 5G networks at once. In order to facilitate this, carriers will have to use more cell sites. Currently, there are about 25,000 200-foot cellular towers blanketing large portions of the US with cellular service. 5G will change that, in fact, there will be far more 5G cell sites in the future, each covering a smaller region. These are called “Small Cells” and function differently from large cellular towers.

Check out Verizon’s awesome breakdown of what “Small Cells” are and their importance below.

LATENCY

5G will also greatly reduce latency, or the amount of time it takes for devices to communicate with each other’s wireless networks. For online gamers, reduced latency has a great deal of applications, as well as in healthcare, autonomous vehicles, and many other examples which we’ll cover in our next blog on what 5G can do for the future.

SPECTRUMS

Unlike 4G LTE, 5G operates on three different spectrum bands.

Low-band spectrum is a sub-1GHz spectrum. It is primarily used by carriers in the US for LTE and offers great coverage area, great building penetration, and peak data speeds of 100Mbps.

Mid-band spectrum provides faster coverage and lower latency than low-band, but fails to penetrate buildings as well as LTE. Peak speeds are up to 1Gbps on mid-band spectrum.

High-band spectrum, also known as mmWave, can offer peak speeds of up to 10Gbps with lower coverage area and weak building penetration.

The real innovations facilitated by 5G are happening at high spectrum bands which are less used by cellular companies. Frequencies of 28GHz and 39GHz have large sections of spectrum available to create big channels for high speeds. Those bands have been used for very advanced technologies previously, such as connecting base stations to remote internet links, but they have never been used for consumer devices.

WHEN IS IT ROLLING OUT?

5G’s roll out will be gradual. As mentioned earlier, until there are enough cellular cites for 5G to cover the entire nation, 5G will work together with 4G to augment connection speeds.

AT&T  officially become the first carrier to roll out 5G service earlier this month when the carrier began offering 5G in parts of Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Louisville, Jacksonville, Oklahoma City, Raleigh, New Orleans, Waco and San Antonio. AT&T will expand 5G in early 2019.

Verizon began offering 5G fixed in homes in October 2018. Verizon’s 5G is currently available in portions of Houston, Indianapolis, and Los Angeles, with plans to roll out standards-based mobile 5G in 2019.

T-Mobile expects to launch 5G in New York, LA, Dallas, and Las Vegas in 2019 with nationwide rollout in 2020.

Sprint will deploy 5G in early 2019 with additional markets in the future.

In our next blog, we’ll explore how 5G will enable innovations that will change the way our world works. Stay tuned!

Data Encryption

How to Safely Encrypt Sensitive Data in Your Mobile App

In November 2014, cybercriminals perpetrated one of the biggest cybercrimes of the decade. They hacked into Sony’s computer systems, stole sensitive data, paralyzed the company’s operations, and gradually leaked embarrassing information to the media. The hackers threatened to continue until Sony agreed to pull the controversial comedy The Interview from its theatrical release.

As the headlines will tell you, the encryption of sensitive data is one of the most important investments a company can make. Facebook is currently under heat for data protection practices. The UK National Crime Agency called WannaCry a signal moment for awareness of cyberattacks and their real world impact. With the stakes higher than ever, the encryption of sensitive data in apps has never been more important.

Here are our top tips on how to safely encrypt sensitive data in your mobile app.

TIP #1: Coding and Testing

Writing secure code is fundemental to creating a secure app. Obfuscating and minifying code so that it cannot be reverse engineered is critical to keeping a secure environment. Testing and fixing bugs when they are exposed should be an ongoing investment of resources as it will pay off in the long run.

Tip #2: Scramble Data

Sometimes, the best method of encrypting data is scrambling. Software and web developers often become obsessed with storing every bit of data in databases and logs, assuming it may be useful later, but doing so can create a target for cybercriminals.

Cunning developers will only store a scrambled version of the data, making it unreadable to the outside eye, but still useful for those who know how to query it correctly.

For an in-depth dive into scrambling data, check out this awesome essay on how Amazon does it.

Tip #3: In Transit Vs. At Rest Encryption

There are two types of data to be encrypted: in transit data and at rest data. In transit data is moving data, be it in transit via email, in apps, or through browsers and other web connections. At rest data is stored in databases, the cloud, computer hard drives, or mobile devices. In transit data can be protected through the implementation of robust network security controls and firewalls. At rest data can be protected through systematically categorizing and classifying data with data protection measures in mind.

Tip #4: Secret Vs. Public Key Algorithms

Secret Key Algorithms are algorithms that use the same key for encryption and decryption. Public-key algorithms us two different encryption keys, one for encryption and the other for decryption. The public key is how the data is sent and the private key decodes it. Public-key algorithms are more secure, but require more computer processing power.

Tip #5: Blockchain Cryptography

We’ve covered the Blockchain in our past article on The Revolutionary Mechanics of the Blockchain. Blockchain cryptography has been on the rise because blockchain databases are distributed and thus more resilient in the face of a DOS attack.

Tip #6: Apps that Clean Up after Themselves 

Apps that collect sensitive information don’t necessarily need to store it. It is wise to delete sensitive data from mobile apps when the data is no longer in active use.

Tip #7 Choose the Right Algorithm

There are several popular pre-existing algorithms in existence that can be used to encrypt sensitive data in mobile apps. Check out UpWork’s awesome rundown:

  1. Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)
  2. RSA
  3. IDEA
  4. Signal
  5. Blowfish and Two Fish
  6. Ring Learning With Errors or Ring-LWE

Over the last 10 years, enterprise-wide use of encryption has jumped by 22 percent according to the Ponemon Institute. When building a mobile app, investing in encrypting sensitive data will pay off in the long run and haunt those that short-change it.

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Integration with Siri and iMessage: Everything Your App Can Do

The upgrade from iOS 9 to iOS 10 was the biggest upgrade iOS has received in its 11 year history. As we covered in our blog How iOS 10′s Open Functionality Can Take Your App to the Next Level, the biggest upgrade to the operating system was the opening up of Siri and iMessage for third-party extensions.

The ability to integrate applications with iMessage and Siri creates a host of new functional possibilities for software developers. Here’s our rundown of the top ways to improve apps through Siri and iMessage integration:

SIRI INTEGRATION

As Alexa has proved, the voice assistant is burgeoning billion dollar business. With Google and Amazon leading the pack, Apple has taken many steps to improve Siri, including opening Siri up to third party integration.

However, Apple is prioritizing quality over quantity when it comes to Siri integrations.  Limiting the types of apps that can integrate with Siri enables Apple to build out robust integrations that take into account complex verbal applications. With robust integrations, Siri will be able to fulfill actions without forcing the user to alter the colloquial, natural construction of their spoken sentences. In other words: the integration is comprehensive, but it will only work with the following types of apps:

  • VoIP (Voice over IP) Calling
  • Messaging
  • Payments
  • Lists and Notes
  • Visual Codes
  • Photos
  • Workouts
  • Ride Booking
  • Car Commands
  • CarPlay
  • Restaurant Reservations

Siri integrations use “intents”. Apps that fit into the aforementioned categories describe a set of intents, or things the app can do, and Siri categorizes spoken orders by the user into intents to determine the next logical action.

Siri can pull up photos from applications like Vogue Runway and Looklive through voice command. It can send money to friends through Square Cash and Monzo, and can send messages through WhatsApp and LinkedIn. Siri’s vocabulary can process complex requests like “Hey Siri, show me my best photos of idyllic sunsets taken last summer using The Roll.”

iOS 11 opened up a host of new intents. Siri can now lock smartcars and manage notes and to-do lists in productivity apps, as well as complete on-the-spot language translations.

With Siri integration, app developers can make use of one of the most extensive digital vocabularies on the planet to make life easier for users.

IMESSAGE APPS

iOS 10 not only opened iMessage up to developers, it also spawned iMessage apps: apps designed exclusively for the iMessage platform.

iMessage integration allows make it easy to pull up documents, links, and information right from iMessage and send it on the fly. Productivity apps like Evernote can integrate to allow for updates to be both sent and updated through iMessage. Travel apps like AirBNB make it easy to discuss potential travel plans. Games like Words with Friends and GamePidgeon make it easy to simultaneously play games and text. The Starbucks iMessage app allows users to send digital gift cards using Apple Pay. Dropbox and OneDrive make files stored in the cloud easily accessible and shareable.

Unlike Siri, there is no limitation on what types of apps can integrate with iMessage. Due to limited functionality, enthusiasm for developing apps exclusively for the iMessage platform is fading according to Mac Rumors, but integrating with iMessage can greatly enhance the UI of existing apps.

Artificial

The Real Power of Artificial Intelligence

Technological innovations expand the possibilities of our world, but they can also shake-up society in a disorienting manner. Periods of major technological advancement are often marked by alienation. While our generation has seen the boon of the Internet, the path to a new world may be paved with Artificial Intelligence.

WHAT IS ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Artificial intelligence is defined as the development of computer systems to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, including speech recognition, visual perception, and decision-making. As recently as a decade ago, artificial intelligence evoked the image of robots, but AI is software not hardware. For app developers, the modern-day realization of artificial intelligence takes on a more amorphous form. AI is on all of your favorite platforms, matching the names and faces of your friends. It’s planning the playlist when you hit shuffle on Apple Music. It’s curating the best Twitter content from you based on data-driven logic that is often too complex even for the humans who programmed the AI to decipher.

MACHINE LEARNING

Currently, Machine Learning is the primary means of achieving artificial intelligence. Machine Learning is the ability for a machine to continuously improve its performance without humans having to explain exactly how to accomplish all of the tasks it has been given. Web and Software programmers create algorithms capable of recognizing patterns in data imperceptible to the human eye and alter their behavior based on them.

For example, Google’s autonomous cars view the road through a camera that streams the footage to a database that centralizes the information of all cars. In other words, when one car learns something—like an image or a flaw in the system—then all the cars learn it.

For the past 50 years, computer programming has focused on codifying existing knowledge and procedures and embedding them in machines. Now, computers can learn from examples to generate knowledge. Thus, Artificial Intelligence has already permanently disrupted the standard flow of knowledge from human to computer and vice versa.

PERCEPTION AND COGNITION

Machine learning has enabled the two biggest advances in artificial intelligence:  perception and cognition. Perception is the ability to sense, while cognition is the ability to reason. In a machine’s case, perception refers to the ability to detect objects without being explicitly told and cognition refers to the ability to identify patterns to form new knowledge.

Perception allows machines to understand aspects of the world in which they are situated and lays the groundwork for their ability to interact with the world. Advancements in voice recognition have been some of the most useful. In 2007, despite its incredibly limited functionality, Siri was an anomaly that immediately generated comparisons to HAL, the Artificial Intelligence in 2001: A Space Odyssey. 10 years later, the fact that iOS 11 enables Siri to translate French, German, Italian, Mandarin and Spanish is a passing story in our media lifecycle.

Image recognition has also advanced dramatically. Facebook and iOS both can recognize your friends’ faces and help you tag them appropriately. Vision systems (like the ones used in autonomous cars) formerly made a mistake when identifying a pedestrian once in every 30 frames. Today, the same systems err less than once in 30 million frames.

EXPANSION

AI has already made become a staple of mainstream technology products. Across every industry, decision-making executives are looking to capitalize on what AI can do for their business. No doubt whoever answers those questions first will have a major edge on their competitors.

Next week, we will explore the impact of AI on the Digital Marketing industry in the next installment of our blog series on AI.

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The Best New Features of iOS 11

While we thoroughly enjoyed iOS 10’s open functionality and all it offered app developers, Apple’s premiere operating system is due for a refresh. iOS 11 has been making waves in its public beta release, here are the top upgrades coming to Apple’s landmark OS:

MAJOR UPGRADES FOR IPAD

Apple’s iOS 11 preview states right off the bat: “A giant step for iPhone. A monumental leap for iPad.” iOS 11 offers a number of improvements for iPad users.

The improved Dock now looks a lot like the macOS dock. Users can put dozens of apps in the doc and easily pull it up by swiping upward.

Need to use two apps at the same time? iOS has your back. Like Picture-In-Picture Mode for Android, which we detailed last week in our coverage of Android Oreo, iOS 11 allows you to use two apps at the same time—something that will inevitably come in handy on the large screens of the iPad.

Apple Pencil Instant Notes via Redmond Pie

APPLE PENCIL receives a major upgrade in iOS 11. Instant Markup makes it easy to mark up PDFs, screenshots and more. Instant Notes and Inline Drawing let you customize your screen. The Scan and Sign feature also makes it easy to sign important documents online and send them in the flash of an eye.

SIRI MATURES

WIRED recently detailed the path toward improving the voice of iOS: Siri. While Google and Amazon have excelled in their virtual assistant development, Siri seems to have lagged behind. iOS 11 revamps Siri’s voice to sound much more natural, while also teaching her to translate Chinese, Spanish, French, German, or Italian.

GET READY FOR AUGMENTED REALITY!

When Pokemon Go took the world by storm, “Augmented Reality” became a household name. Now, the time has come for app developers rejoice! iOS 11 features ARKit, a new development framework that makes it easy for developers to build incredible AR experiences.

ARKit allows developers to create 2D or 3D elements in the live view from iPhone and iPad camera’s in order to make them appear as if they exist in the real world. ARKit combines device motion tracking, camera scene capture, advanced scene processing, and display conveniences to make building AR experiences a breeze.

Check out some of the best AR experiences built with ARKit so far.

CAMERA TIME

Thanks to a new compression technology, iOS 11 will be able to store video using less space than ever. Additionally, the camera will allow users to loop live videos, to trim and edit live videos, to grab a still from a live photo, and to capture time and movement with long exposure photos.

Apple App Store via BGR

APP STORE REDESIGN

The rigorous standards of Apple’s App Store always lent itself to curation. With that in mind, Apple has redesigned the App Store to emphasize discovery. The new App Store will offer a completely separate tab for Games, a variety of daily stories and a tab for the best apps of the day, all curated by Apple!

FILES, PAYMENT, AND MORE

iOS 11 is a comprehensive upgrade that comes equipped with a host of other great additions, including:

- FILES: Never lose track of important documents again! The Files app makes it easy to find files stored on iOS devices, in iCloud Drive, and even across other cloud services like Box and Dropbox.

- APPLE PAY IN IMESSAGE: iOS 11 will make peer-to-peer payments easy, allowing users to send Apple Pay payments as a part of iMessage.

- CONTROL CENTER: The Control Center has received a complete redesign. The new Control Center will appear all on one page and is customizable, allowing users to personalize the design to the most helpful layout.

TAKEAWAYS

If you are an iPad user, you are truly in for a treat when iOS 11 comes out. If you only use iPhone, iOS 11 still delivers a fresh redesign with improved functionality. iOS 11 is yet another solid entry in Apple’s OS canon.

Generate Downloads with the Ultimate App Promotion Guide

App PromotionAs app developers, retaining an adept understanding of the marketing side of the business is of the utmost importance. An improperly promoted app, whether it’s good or not, will falter in the 6 million apps in app stores. Some larger companies can afford to outsource this work. Independent developers and companies developing apps for clients must have the knowledge to guide projects from development through release regardless of their expected level of involvement in enacting a release strategy. When developing your app, take into consideration our overview of app promotion strategies and best practices.

APP STORE OPTIMIZATION 

App Store Optimization is the bread and butter of all app marketing efforts. App stores are the largest driver of downloads for the vast majority of apps. When enacted properly, ASO will drive tens, hundreds, or even thousands of daily downloads from app stores depending on the search traffic of the keywords. Experienced developers create ASO strategies before they begin the programming process.

Selecting keywords is the first and most important process of ASO. Searches in the app store are typed out with thumbs rather than a full keyboard, thus thinking of key shorthand terms is vital to improving search rankings. Developers must evaluate the amount of search traffic for each keyword and how competitive that search traffic is. Pursuing high traffic search terms can backfire because apps can falter against the high level of competition. Developers should continually refine their keywords and have a strategy ready for when their apps improve in search rankings. Over time, apps grow stronger in app store search and can eventually rank for more competitive keywords. It’s vital for developers to constantly refine their ASO strategies and build toward more competitive search terms. Many companies create one strategy for when their apps are first entering the store and a separate strategy for when they improve in ASO strength and can compete with higher volume search terms.

ASO does not end with the release. Engagement signals like retention, number times people open the app, and length of usage increase app store rankings. Developers must constantly be working toward improving the UI of their apps, as retention will boost ASO.

PAID ADVERTISING

While paid advertising, specifically social media ads, can be a major driver of app downloads, it’s important to understand where paid advertising factors into the equation. Before enacting paid ads, developers should have established a proven revenue model and overall business model. How much revenue an app generates per download will dictate the paid advertising budget. Without a model for revenue per download, app promotion can quickly become too expensive to maintain and end up in the red.

THE BENEFITS OF A SOFT LAUNCH

A soft launch is when developers make their app available in app stores without any promotional push. The small set of users you acquire through a soft launch can act as an initial beta user group that will inform your understanding of how consumers are using your app.

App developers often come to realize a major disconnect between why they think their app is good versus the opinion of their users. Experienced developers make the most of their analytics and continuously dedicate resources to the iterative process of improving their apps.

THE DANGERS OF CROSS-PROMOTION

While cross-promotion is a popular tactic, it’s also one that can backfire. App developers find partners with relevant but separate audiences and promote traffic to one another’s pages or content. The key to cross-promotion is finding a partner with an audience that is going to give an equivalent amount of exposure. The potential pitfall is that when users redirect out of the app, it reduces retention, ultimately damaging ASO.

Rather than partner with another app or company, some developers elect to develop feeder games and alternate apps which cross-promote to one another, maximizing downloads without detracting from outside marketing efforts.

SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION

Many app developers promote their apps through their website with Google SEO, social media, content marketing & more. While some apps treat their website as a landing page with a large download button, there is much more that can be done. For example, hosting Youtube content or a blog on your site will draw users in to your brand and retain them on the web page.

Enacting SEO for your app store URL can be even more effective than for your website. App Store URLs can outrank websites in SEO because of the authoritative domain of iTunes and Google Play.

PUBLICITY AND OTHER ENTREPRENEURIAL METHODS

While effective ASO and app promotion can be done on a relatively low budget, app promotion doesn’t have to begin and end on the tech side of things. Many developers make a point of developing their public persona through social media and external publicity in order to foster an audience to whom they can later market their products.

THE ROAD TO SUCCESS

Ultimately, the road to success is not smooth, but bumpy. With the right mix of expert development, continuous maintenance, vigilance and dedication, an app can break through the sea of competition and become a profitable enterprise.

app-promotion-3

App Promotion Strategies and Best Practices

As app developers, retaining an adept understanding of the marketing side of the business is of the utmost importance. An improperly promoted app, whether it’s good or not, will falter in the 6 million apps in app stores. Some larger companies can afford to outsource this work. Independent developers and companies developing apps for clients must have the knowledge to guide projects from development through release regardless of their expected level of involvement in enacting a release strategy. When developing your app, take into consideration our overview of app promotion strategies and best practices.

APP STORE OPTIMIZATION 

App Store Optimization is the bread and butter of all app marketing efforts. App stores are the largest driver of downloads for the vast majority of apps. When enacted properly, ASO will drive tens, hundreds, or even thousands of daily downloads from app stores depending on the search traffic of the keywords. Experienced developers create ASO strategies before they begin the programming process.

Selecting keywords is the first and most important process of ASO. Searches in the app store are typed out with thumbs rather than a full keyboard, thus thinking of key shorthand terms is vital to improving search rankings. Developers must evaluate the amount of search traffic for each keyword and how competitive that search traffic is. Pursuing high traffic search terms can backfire because apps can falter against the high level of competition. Developers should continually refine their keywords and have a strategy ready for when their apps improve in search rankings. Over time, apps grow stronger in app store search and can eventually rank for more competitive keywords. It’s vital for developers to constantly refine their ASO strategies and build toward more competitive search terms. Many companies create one strategy for when their apps are first entering the store and a separate strategy for when they improve in ASO strength and can compete with higher volume search terms.

ASO does not end with the release. Engagement signals like retention, number times people open the app, and length of usage increase app store rankings. Developers must constantly be working toward improving the UI of their apps, as retention will boost ASO.

PAID ADVERTISING

While paid advertising, specifically social media ads, can be a major driver of app downloads, it’s important to understand where paid advertising factors into the equation. Before enacting paid ads, developers should have established a proven revenue model and overall business model. How much revenue an app generates per download will dictate the paid advertising budget. Without a model for revenue per download, app promotion can quickly become too expensive to maintain and end up in the red.

THE BENEFITS OF A SOFT LAUNCH

A soft launch is when developers make their app available in app stores without any promotional push. The small set of users you acquire through a soft launch can act as an initial beta user group that will inform your understanding of how consumers are using your app.

App developers often come to realize a major disconnect between why they think their app is good versus the opinion of their users. Experienced developers make the most of their analytics and continuously dedicate resources to the iterative process of improving their apps.

THE DANGERS OF CROSS-PROMOTION

While cross-promotion is a popular tactic, it’s also one that can backfire. App developers find partners with relevant but separate audiences and promote traffic to one another’s pages or content. The key to cross-promotion is finding a partner with an audience that is going to give an equivalent amount of exposure. The potential pitfall is that when users redirect out of the app, it reduces retention, ultimately damaging ASO.

Rather than partner with another app or company, some developers elect to develop feeder games and alternate apps which cross-promote to one another, maximizing downloads without detracting from outside marketing efforts.

SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION

Many app developers promote their apps through their website with Google SEO, social media, content marketing & more. While some apps treat their website as a landing page with a large download button, there is much more that can be done. For example, hosting Youtube content or a blog on your site will draw users in to your brand and retain them on the web page.

Enacting SEO for your app store URL can be even more effective than for your website. App Store URLs can outrank websites in SEO because of the authoritative domain of iTunes and Google Play.

PUBLICITY AND OTHER ENTREPRENEURIAL METHODS

While effective ASO and app promotion can be done on a relatively low budget, app promotion doesn’t have to begin and end on the tech side of things. Many developers make a point of developing their public persona through social media and external publicity in order to foster an audience to whom they can later market their products.

THE ROAD TO SUCCESS

Ultimately, the road to success is not smooth, but bumpy. With the right mix of expert development, continuous maintenance, vigilance and dedication, an app can break through the sea of competition and become a profitable enterprise.

via Symbols & Emoticons

The Business of Emojis: How Top Companies Monetize Emoji Apps

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Emojis have become a staple of text communication in the 21st century. According to Digiday, over 6 billion emoji messages are sent per day. iMessage, Facebook Messenger, GChat, Snapchat & more have all integrated unique emojis into their platforms. Where there is popularity, there is money to be made.

An Emoji is defined as a small digital image or icon used to express an idea, emotion, etc., in electronic communication. Emojis evolved from emoticons, which are pictorial representations of a facial expression using ONLY punctuation marks, numbers and letters. The first intentional use of an emoticon has multiple origins depending on your source. In 1857, historians documented the use of the number 73 to express love and kisses in Morse code. Some credit a New York Times article covering an Abraham Lincoln speech in 1862 with introducing the phenomenon. The first documented use of “:-)” and “:-(”  overtly to express emotion was in 1982 at Carnegie Mellon.

As online chat became popular, so did the use of emoticons. In an era of computer-mediated communication, emoticons help communicate nonverbal cues in digital threads. From emoticons, emojis emerged, eschewing the punctuation and using images to directly convey emotion. The first emoji was created in 1998 or 1999 in Japan by Shigetaka Kurita. Emoji was first integrated with iMessage in iOS 5. Snapchat recently bought BitMoji for $100 million. Messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and G-Chat are all following WeChat’s lead in creating their own visual keyboards. iOS 10’s iMessage App Store pushes stickers, opening up a new visual possibilities for app developers and advertising.

With big money on the line, here’s how top companies are monetizing their emojis:

DOWNLOAD FEE: Some emoji companies sell their apps with a download fee. For a flat rate of $1.99, the user receives access to all emojis. Most users will find it hard to justify paying for an emoji app unless they have a pre-existing relationship with the brand, thus this technique is best for major brands like Kimoji, Amber Rose’s MuvaMoji, the newly released Mike Tyson emojis, etc.

EMOJI PACKS/PREMIUM CONTENT: A more popular monetization method than a download fee is the individual pricing of emoji packs and premium content. Both paid and freemium apps can enact this monetization method. A company may offer one emoji keyboard for free with download of the app, then offer premium content, potentially sponsored by another brand, for a fee. Emoji> is among the top purveyors of this strategy.

BRANDED CONTENT: Perhaps the most effective monetization method for emojis is branded emojis and stickers. Fortune recently profiled a start-up named Swyft that generates revenue creating branded emojis & sticker packs. A sticker pack they created for Gwen Stefani’s album Spark the Fire was downloaded almost a million times and resulted in 41 million impressions in 10 days.

App developers looking to push their own emoji packs can generate revenue with branded partnerships after establishing popularity. BitMoji built up an audience over time with a seemingly endless keyboard of expressions. Upon attaining popularity, BitMoji was able to acquire tons of sponsored sticker packs to generate revenue. BitMoji’s success led to Snapchat’s decision acquire BitMoji and integrate an established brand rather than create their own unique emojis.

RETENTION: In order to build an audience and monetize, emoji keyboards must retain their users. Ads aren’t a popular monetization method for emojis since users like their digital conversations ad-free. Animated Emoji Pro integrated games into their app in order to increase user retention and ascend in ASO rankings. Users get lost BitMoji’s vast selection of icons, increasing usage time.

LOCALIZATION: Localization is another major way of enhancing retention on an emoji keyboard. A study by SwiftKey found radically different patterns of emoji usage depending on geographic location. Creatively utilizing geolocation services to localize the user experience for an emoji keyboard can be a vital tool in building and retaining a national or even global audience.

Succeeding with an emoji app requires innovative thinking, attention-to-detail, marketing & careful consideration of audience. Like TV, print, & web messaging, well-crafted emojis require good creative, and meaningful visuals that convey emotion. With 45 billion messages sent per day in the US alone, there is great potential for a well-crafted emoji app to become profitable business with the right combination of concept, execution, and an experienced app developer.

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How To Design Battery-Efficient Geolocation Apps

The ability for smartphones to offer location services fostered major opportunities for app developers looking to create new apps and enhance functionality of existing apps. Tinder, FourSquare, & Waze use geolocation in the center of their functionality to great success. In combination, these three apps can help a user determine a dinner companion, restaurant of choice, and route to the restaurant. By delivering location-sensitive information to users regardless of where they are in the country, these apps appeal to massive audiences.

Programming geolocation services into an app will have a major impact on the overall quality of the app—and it’s easier said than done. Inefficient geolocation services drain device battery life and deliver inaccurate location data. When apps drain battery life, users uninstall them. In order to determine the best method of programming geolocation services, it is vital for app developers to know who is going to be using the app and how they are going to use it.

Location can be determined by a smartphone in a number of ways. The most widespread include:

GPS: All modern iOS & Android smartphones are equipped with GPS technology. GPS can use at least four satellites to determine a user’s location within about 60 feet.

Cell ID: When GPS isn’t available, phones can use Cell ID, information from cellular towers, to determine location. Cell ID is ideal in big cities with vast amounts of cell towers. Serial fans should be familiar with how cellular tower information can be vital in identifying one’s location. GPS & Cell ID can also work in conjunction to deliver a more precise GPS location.

Wi-Fi: Devices can detect Wi-Fi networks in the same way they can detect cellular towers, but Wi-Fi is more precise as Wi-Fi networks cover smaller regions. Devices can use RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indication) to refer signals from the phone with Wi-Fi points database. Devices can also use the user’s frequently visited places, a profile or wireless fingerprint based on locations in Wi-Fi networks frequented by the user. Wi-Fi can identify a user’s position within 2 meters of accuracy.

The decision of how an app should prioritize these three methods to determine location is a vital one. If users are located in the city, that means both dense Wi-Fi router and cell tower coverage will open up options. If the app is being used primarily in a domestic situation, Wi-Fi might be both the most accurate and efficient method. Apps designed for rural areas may have to use Wi-Fi due to lack of cell towers.

Geofencing Graphic from Applidium

GEOFENCING

Geofencing utilizes a device’s GPS to determine a user’s distance from a particular point. Geofencing can sense when a user enters within a set radius defined by the coordinates of its center. Geofencing will sense when users are inside or outside of a retailer and offer action prompts for either space. There are three types of geofencing:

Static geofencing is based on a user’s position in relation to a specific place. For example, a retailer app sends a message to users who pull into the parking lot of a mall containing the retailer.

Dynamic geofencing takes into account both a user’s location and a changing data stream. For example, a parking app sends the user a message about a recently evacuated parking space that the user is approaching.

Combined geofencing determines when a user enters into a location in relation to other users. For example, apps like Yelp, Facebook, or FourSquare send notifications if a friend checks into a nearby merchant .

CREATING BATTERY-EFFICIENT APPLICATIONS

Making a geolocation app battery-efficient is one of the biggest challenges  app developers face in the programming stage. Developers must create a comprehensive strategy based on their audience.

ACTION THRESHOLDS: Defining accurate action thresholds and use-cases for an app’s geolocation services will dictate its level of battery-efficiency. The more precise your location accuracy requirements, the greater the battery drain. Action thresholds and use-cases define how an app is intended to be used, allowing a framework for developers to enact an efficient model of internal processes for location determination.

COMPREHENSIVE TESTING: Testing the app aggressively to gather a large amount of data is the only way to know the most efficient action thresholds. The more the developer understands how an app is being used, the more they can refine their programming. After release, continuing to gather analytics from user behavior and refine tactics based on how users are getting value from the app becomes a crucial ongoing process.

POLLING FREQUENCY: One of the major variables dictated by action thresholds is polling frequency. The more an app polls for locations, the better its location accuracy. The necessary level of location accuracy varies depending on the app. The precision of location accuracy necessary for an app to be functional can vary. A restaurant app, for example, might be able to get away with accuracy from 200 meters to a few kilometers, while an app that locates friends might need accuracy within 10 – 20 meters.

Evaluating the most efficient polling frequency requires thorough use-cases and some creativity. Programmers can design algorithms to reduce polling frequency if an app hasn’t changed locations for several minutes. Programmers can also analyze the speed of the device and use this data to change polling frequencies. A developer may elect to increase polling frequency as a car accelerates to ensure they maintain location accuracy within a selected radius.

DEFERRING TO OS: Many major mobile platforms will share geolocation information at an operating system level. As a result, any app that is listening can receive location updates requested by other apps. By deferring to other apps already polling for location data, apps can minimize battery drain while still retaining acceptable location data.

Check out Apple and Android’s developers’ sites for more information on best practices for programming location services.