Tag Archives: Apple

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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.

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Everything You Need to Know About Machine Learning

A calculator can solve complex problems which would take even the most savvy mathematicians an incomparable amount of time. Artificial intelligence has become one of the most hotly debated and highly funded aspects of technology because the speed at which machines can process information yields innumerable possibilities and applications which can and will benefit humanity. One of the first popular incarnations of AI is Machine Learning.

Machine Learning is the ability for a computer to learn without being explicitly programmed. Machine learning focuses on computer programs which can identify patterns and create its own algorithms when exposed to new data. It is used in self-driving cars, in newsfeed algorithms on social media, in evaluating job candidates, in recognizing faces on your phone, and more.

The most powerful form of machine learning currently active is called “deep learning”. “Deep learning” builds a complex mathematical structure known as a neural network out of vast quantities of data. Machine learning’s ability to handle mass amounts of data makes it crucial to the advancement of IoT. The IoT collects enormous amounts of data which require computers with machine learning to recognize patterns and create algorithms.  In self-driving cars, IoT cameras and sensors in each autonomous vehicle absorb their surroundings and turn them into huge amounts of data. The data is then sent to the cloud where it is accessible to all autonomous vehicles on the road. Thus, when one self-driving car makes a mistake, all of them learn. In conjunction with the Internet of Things, machine learning will be vital to the building of a smartworld.

TOP PROGRAMMING LANGUAGES

Machine learning requires a great deal of statistical analysis; it demands an intelligent programming language which can process a number of complex issues and general paradigms.

R: Considered a statistical workhorse, R has emerged as one of the top programming languages for machine learning. R is intended for advanced users because of its complex nature and wide learning curve.

Python: A rising star for machine learning, Python is a data science book which has been in use in the manufacturing industry for awhile. Python gives users direct access to predictive analytics, making it the foremost data science language. Developers turn to Python when they are looking to frame better questions or expand the capabilities of their existing machine learning systems.

MATLAB/Octave: Millions of engineers are already using MATLAB, a matrix-based language, to analyze and develop cutting edge systems. MATLAB has emerged as the simplest way to demonstrate computational mathematics.

MACHINE LEARNING AND iOS 10

Machine learning laid much of the groundwork for the biggest upgrade in iOS 10. It is very difficult for computers to comprehend the intricacies of the human language. Machine learning has enabled iPhones to sense contextual clues with increasing confidence, improving iMessage’s ability to autocorrect and for Siri to understand the particulars of your vernacular. In the iPhone 7 camera, machine learning allows the device to separate the background from the foreground to achieve amazing portraits once possible only with DSLR cameras.

MACHINE LEARNING AND ANDROID

Google is among the dominant forces in machine learning. Much of Google Search’s prominence is owed to advances in the machine learning field. In November 2015, Google released TensorFlow, an open-source software library for machine intelligence. TensorFlow effectively simulates “deep learning” neural networks across different computer hardware and offers a straightforward way for users to train computers to perform tasks by feeding them large amounts of data.

Google uses Tensorflow in many of their internal processes, including RankBrain for information retrieval, image classification, SmartReply, and more.

MAXIMIZING MACHINE LEARNING IN MOBILE APPS

Now that mobile devices have the high productive capacity level to perform tasks to the same degree as a traditional computer, the question of what machine learning can offer apps has arisen. Large retailers like Amazon and eBay use machine learning in their mobile apps to improve customer experience with smarter product search and recommendation features, along with the ability to forecast buying trends with analytics.

While Machine Learning algorithms require a high level of programming experience and a ton of data to be effective, integrating apps with Siri & iMessage for iOS 10 allows developers to take advantage of the vast deep learning neural networks embedded into Apple’s 1st-party apps.

While the future of machine learning  on a commercial level remains to be seen outside of tech titans like Facebook, machine learning algorithms will be crucial in conjunction with the IoT in building a new SmartWorld with unparalleled predictive capabilities.

Securing Your IoT Devices Must Become a Top Priority

The Internet of Things has seen unprecedented growth the past few years. With an explosion of commercial products arriving on the marketplace, the Internet of Things has entered the public lexicon. However,  companies rushing to provide IoT devices to consumers often cut corners with regard to security, causing major IoT security issues nationwide.

In 2015, hackers proved to Wired they could remotely hack a smartcar on the highway, kill the engine and control key functions. Dick Cheney’s cardiologist disabled WiFi capabilities on his pacemaker, fearing an attack by a hacker.  Most recently, the October 21st cyber attack on Dyn brought internet browsing to a halt for hours while Dyn struggled to restore service.

Although the attack on Dyn seems to be independent of a nation-state, it has caused a ruckus in the tech community. A millions-strong army of IoT devices, including webcams and DVRs, were conscripted with a botnet which launched the historically large denial-of-service attack. Little effort has been made to make common consumers aware of the security threats posed by IoT devices. A toy Barbie can become the back door to the home network, providing access to PCs, televisions, refrigerators and more. Given the disturbing frequency of hacks in the past year, IoT security has come to the forefront of top concerns for IoT developers.

SECURING CURRENT DEVICES

The amount of insecure devices already in the market complicates the Internet of Things security problem. IoT hacks will continue to happen until the industry can shrink vulnerable devices. Securing current devices is a top priority for app developers. Apple has made an effort to combat this problem by creating very rigorous security requirements for HomeKit compatible apps.

The European Union is currently considering laws to force compliance with security standards. The plan would be for secure devices to have a label which ensures consumers the internet-connected device complies with security standards. The current EU labeling system which rates devices based on energy consumption could prove an effective template for this new cybersecurity rating system.

ISPs COULD BE THE KEY

Internet service providers could be a major part of the solution when it comes to IoT Security. Providers can block or filter malicious traffic driven by malware through recognizing patterns. Many ISPs use BCP38, a standard which reduces the process hackers use to transmit network packets with fake sender addresses.

ISPs can also notify customers, both corporate and individuals, if they find a device on their network sending or receiving malicious traffic. ISPs already comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act which requires internet providers to warn customers if they detect possible illegal file sharing.

With the smarthome and over 1.9 billion devices predicted to be shipped in 2019, IoT security has never been a more important issue. Cyber attacks within the US frequently claim the front page of the mainstream media. CIO describes the Dyn attacks as a wake-up call for retailers. The combination of a mass adoption of IoT and an environment fraught with security concerns means there will be big money in IoT security R & D and a potential slow-down in time-to-market pipeline for IoT products.

Will the federal government get involved in instituting security regulations on IoT devices, or will it be up to tech companies and consumers to demand security? Whatever the outcome, this past year has proved IoT security should be a major concern for developers.

Nougat OS: Everything You Need to Know Android’s Latest Treat

With all the fuss about iPhone 7, iOS 10 and the new Pixel, it’s easy to forget Android recently unveiled their latest OS: Nougat. In line with Android’s other dessert-themed software titles (Marshmallow, Lollipop, KitKat, etc.), Nougat is a treat. It’s a refined version of Marshmallow with improved UX, specs and a lot more. Both iOS fans and app developers take note, here are Android Nougat’s top features:

MULTI-WINDOW MULTITASKING

Android Nougat Multi-Window Multi-Tasking via Phone Finderr

The most notable feature of Nougat is Multi-Window Multitasking. Unlike iOS, Nougat allows users to run multiple apps on their screen at once, allowing users to watch a movie while they text, view a recipe while they keep their eyes on the timer, or use any number of applications. Multi-Window Multitasking can be utilized with three display options: Split-Screen, Picture-In-Picture and Freeform Mode.

Split-Screen mode splits the screen across the bottom when held vertically, or across the middle when held horizontally.

Picture-In-Picture mode will be optimized for Android TV and will eliminate the controls and interface elements while keeping the content portion to scale.

Freeform mode will allow users to customize the size of each application, like one can with a desktop or laptop computer.

REFINED NOTIFICATIONS SETTINGS

Notifications Settings via How To Geek

Android has always been a major advocate of customizing notifications, and Android Nougat improves their system. Users customize their quick settings to ensure they are only alerted to the top-level notifications. Users can also maintain conversations within the notifications bar to make it easier to chat without having to go back and forth into apps.

Bundled notifications allow users to see what is happening within their apps at a glance without clogging their feed. Simply tap to expand the box and view more info without going directly into the app.

FASTER PERFORMANCE, MORE BATTERY, LESS MOBILE DATA

The best improvements of Nougat OS are not flashy new features, but overall improved functionality. Google’s “Project Doze,” designed to increase phone battery length, was introduced with Marshmallow, but gets a big upgrade with Nougat. Doze shuts down CPU and network activity while the phone screen is off. Previously, Doze only worked when the device was motionless, but now it can operate whenever the screen is off.

Data overages can add up quickly. Google seeks to counter the threat of overages with Data Saver, a program which kicks in whenever the user is on a metered data connection and limits apps and background processes to a set amount of data. Rather than cutting off data usage at a  preset limit, Data Saver makes Android phones more efficient with constant refinement.

Both Data Saver and Project Doze are bolstered by minor technical improvements to Project Svelte, Android’s device optimization initiative, creating a more efficient phone.

SEAMLESS UPDATES

Android isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. Their Nougat OS functions primarily as a UX improvement over Marshmallow. Android has instilled major security improvements, including file-based encryption. Android has also taken a page out of the Chrome OS playbook by adding seamless updates, which will allow system updates to install in the background.

NEW EMOJIS

Android Nougat Emojis via Tech Hive

On the lighter side of things, Android has installed 72 new glyphs and has revamped their 1,500 emojis to appear more realistic. Nougat is also compatible with Vulkan API, which opens up a world of low-overhead graphical possibilities.

WHEN CAN I GET NOUGAT?

As with any Android update, the real question is: when is it coming to my phone? Nougat is out, but device fragmentation on the Android platform entails a staggered availability based on the hardware. While Google’s Pixel phone could soon alleviate some of these fragmentation problems, Android still cannot move at the speed of iOS—but Nougat’s improved functionality is a welcome addition for both app developers and consumers.

For a full list of Android Nougat release dates, check out this awesome article over at Pocket Lint.

Sink or Swim: Why Google Needs Andromeda to Compete with Apple

Andromeda summed up in a graphic (Via thehackernews.com)

App developers commonly cite device fragmentation as one of their biggest peeves about the Android platform. While Apple keeps a stronghold on all iOS devices, Android allows third-party developers to create hardware for the platform. With a number of different devices all with different screen sizes, tech specs and OS capabilities, developers cannot efficiently optimize the end user experience of their apps for all devices as they can with iOS. However, Google is making a major move to create a more streamlined app ecosystem with Andromeda.

Rumors of Andromeda began when multiple independent sources revealed it would be announced at Google’s October 4th announcement. When October 4th turned out to be hardware-focused, the heat died down on Andromeda. However, in the big picture, Andromeda represents a necessary move in order to prevent Google from losing potentially billions of dollars to Apple in the years and decades to come.

WHAT IS ANDROMEDA?

The idea of Andromeda is to combine Google’s laptop OS (Chrome OS) and their mobile and tablet OS (Android). Chrome OS is not Google Chrome, the web browser you may or may not use every day, but their desktop operating system which works with Chromebooks. For the skinny on Chrome, check out this awesome breakdown:

Rather than integrate Android features on Chrome OS, Andromeda will do the opposite and enable mobile devices with Chrome OS features. Mobile devices will begin to feel like an extension of one’s desktop. Rumored features include file organization, multi-modal windowing and compatibility between mobile and desktop apps. While the details have yet to be revealed, the concept behind Andromeda makes it a huge, necessary step for Google’s long-term future in the OS market.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT

Andromeda will put Google in direct competition with the Mac OS X and Windows platforms. Apple has long been focused on device Continuity, the interchangeability between iOS devices. Their mobile (iOS) & desktop (OS X) operating systems are optimized to work together. By merging Google’s mobile platform with their desktop OS, Google increases cross-device functionality  and creates a strong incentive for consumers to keep all their devices within the Google brand.

THE INTERNET OF THINGS MAKES THIS SINK OR SWIM FOR GOOGLE 

The good news for app developers is in Andromeda’s long-term potential. Andromeda will enable developers to create apps which seamlessly function across devices: smartphones, tablets and desktops. As the IoT becomes domesticated, having a unified OS will mean big bucks for software companies looking to capitalize on home automation and commercial IoT products. In 10 years, consumers will be incredulous if they can’t control their coffee machine, change the channel on their TV and lock their doors on any of their devices. They want cohesive simplicity. If Google loses the OS battle with a less cohesive strategy than Apple, they will also lose the smartphone, tablet, TV and laptop.

CONCLUSION

Dennis Jones, CEO of payments technology company Judopay, put it this way for Developer-Tech: “Andromeda will be the foundation for omnipresence for Google-powered hardware, similar to Apple’s ecosystem… Andromeda is the foundation to enable this omnichannel world.”

Without Andromeda, Google would be dead in the water against the future omnichannel world Apple has been developing over the years. Who will execute better? Until the public sees Andromeda in action, the answer remains to be seen.

Apple Brings the Internet of Things Home with HomeKit & iOS 10

Anyone engrossed in the tech scene knows the Internet of Things is one of the trendiest technology topics on the web. The IoT is shaping our world and building fortunes for innovators, futurists and top app development companies. However, in the common household, the IoT has yet to break through to the mainstream. The biggest company in the world is now looking to enact change.

Tim Cook, in his September Announcement, declared that iOS 10’s HomeKit update is the first time home automation has been integrated with a major platform. While Apple introduced HomeKit in 2014 with iOS 8, iOS 10 comes with a dedicated app called Home that controls all home automation devices.

HOME IS A HOME RUN

Home Apple App via Wareable

Home combines IoT technology with the masterful UI of iOS. Previous iterations of iOS and HomeKit required the user to manage each interface separately. So if a phone had 20 HomeKit apps, they would have 20 user interfaces to manage. The Home app unifies HomeKit apps, creating a central control center for all home automation applications.

With over 1 billion active Apple devices across the world, Home enters the market with giant global reach. Virtually every major manufacturer of home automation devices now supports HomeKit. Accessories cross all major categories, from lights and air conditioners to window shades, locks and home security. Commercial IoT companies now have massive domestic reach, and iOS users have more incentive to update their homes than ever before.

HAVE SIRI SET THE SCENE

Siri Scenes via Next Market

One of the coolest features of Home is the Siri integration. Users can control Home from both the Control Center and Siri, but Siri can work at the speed of your language. Siri’s ability to handle multiple requests means users can accomplish their ideal environmental preferences in the speed of a sentence. Apple refers to these combination commands as “scenes” and users can give “scenes” a nickname. A rambunctious user might say “Hey Siri, let’s get funky,” prompting Siri to lock the doors, dim the lights, put Barry White on the speakers at a reasonable volume and provide the most apt customized ambience for the user to rock out.

THE APPLE TV IS THE HEARTH

The fourth generation Apple TV can also act as a hub for the Home app, with the Siri Remote making it easy to control your home on the go. Apple TV’s seamless integration with HomeKit and other iOS products makes it the ultimate smart TV for a smart home, providing yet another reason for consumers to consistently buy iOS products.

BUILDING COMMERCIAL IOT FROM THE GROUND UP

The Home Automation page on the Apple website is a clear indicator of Apple’s intentions to not only be a household name, but to be the name on your household. The company already has a major market share of phones, tablets, computers, TVs and watches. They are rumored to be looking to acquire McLaren as a part of Project Titan. Apple understands that the ubiquity of the iOS platform makes them the most appealing platform for manufacturers of smart devices. Apple also announced that leading home builders, including Brookfield Residential, KB Home, Lennar Homes and R&F Properties, are integrating many HomeKit devices into new homes.

With the Apple Home potentially on the horizon, one can only wonder how much of Apple’s vision of the smarthome will be realized in the next 5-10 years.

How iOS 10′s Open Functionality Can Take Your App to the Next Level

When it comes to mobile app development, iOS is the preferred platform. The lack of device fragmentation on iOS, along with the consistent quality of hardware and the more spend-happy userbase, makes it the number-one platform for generating mobile revenue. During Apple’s September Announcement, Craig Federighi began his iOS 10 demo by proclaiming it the biggest release of iPhone software in Apple history.

A week into its release, it has become apparent that iOS 10’s openness marks a revolution for iOS apps and functionality. Apple has opened up many internal apps to developers, including Siri, iMessages and Maps.

DEVELOPING FOR SIRI

iOS 10 Siri Payment (via idownloadblog.com)

Apple was very excited to announce Siri is officially open for third-party app extensions. The Siri API is currently limited to six kinds of applications: ridebooking (i.e. Lyft), messaging, photo search, payments, VoIP calling and workouts. Machine learning allows iOS 10’s Siri to build a contextual understanding of its user and decide when it should handle a voice query by itself, or shuttle it off to a third-party app.

When you ask Siri to bring you Chinese food, it will use Seamless, Yelp or your go-to delivery app to offer options. Users can have Siri book a taxi, pay a friend, and help manage a workout. The integration gives Apple more access to both how people use language to interact with their iPhone, and how they use their apps. Apple is taking their analytics to the next level while giving developers the ability to integrate voice control without having to invest in voice recognition and query interpretation.

App developers must take note in building their new apps and updating existing apps. SiriKit details how app developers can code for the program.

IMESSAGE EXTENSIONS

iMessage iOS 10 Gaming via 9 to 5 Mac

Apple gave iMessages its biggest overhaul ever in iOS 10. What was once a fairly traditional SMS system is now opening its doors to third-party developers for integration. This dramatically beefs up iMessage’s capabilities to allow personal payments and more. The new iMessages resembles WeChat, a popular app in China with versatile functionality.

The advantage to the user is the ability to keep all conversation on a single thread. The ability to pay friends without having to leave the app is very convenient and makes sense, considering most payment apps send a text to confirm anyway. iMessages comes with its own app store which offers categories including games, stickers, productivity, lifestyle, travel and more. Users can play chess, pay a debt, make a drawing, and even book movie tickets with Fandango all without leaving iMessage.

The upgraded iMessage opens up a world of social possibilities for mobile gaming. In a sense, it’s a new gaming platform within the iMessage. iMessage also has added the ability to send drawings and have added a ton of new stickers to the app store.

The API framework for iMessage can be found on Apple’s Developer website.

APPLE MAPS

Apple Maps has been opened up to developers. Like Siri, extensions in Apple Maps can allow you to book an Uber, make reservations at a restaurant and more.

PARTNERSHIP WITH CISCO AND IMPROVED COLLABORATION

Apple and Cisco announced their partnership in 2015 and have introduced major updates in iOS 10. The major initiative was to improve collaboration. When connected to a Cisco network, iOS 10 optimizes WiFi connectivity, sensing the fastest WiFi network as AP signals diminish on the closest router. Cisco also has improved business app prioritization, allowing businesses to enhance performance on critical apps. Cisco’s research has shown roaming is 8x faster on iOS 10, voice over WiFi & Spark is 66x more reliable, and there is a 90% reduction in web browsing failures. Learn more directly from Cisco.

TAKEAWAYS

Apple is pursuing the Android way of thinking and opening up their software to developers. With Apple’s internal apps more accessible than ever, mobile app designers are being given the resources to build upon Apple’s impeccably designed OS. The new and improved Messages app makes the most immediate impact on the user, coming with its own app store which begs unlimited possibilities for integration with everything from business to gaming apps. Siri’s redesign is significantly smarter using machine learning. And extensions using Siri will allow Apple more analytics, which will ultimately benefit developers looking to improve their apps.

Overall, iOS marks a major step forward for the platform and is a gift to developers. If you have an iOS app or are planning on building one, it’s time to take a good look at what iOS 10 can do for you.

The Next Generation of Apple: What Does It Mean for App Development?

On September 7th, 2016, Apple announced their new line of products for the coming year. Per tradition, the company kept the audience on its feet with a flurry of new features and partnerships which can’t help but excite anyone interested in tech and mobile development. Given the bevy of announcements, here is a rundown of what’s important for app developers.

THE APPLE APP STORE REIGNS SUPREME

Tim Cook kicked the presentation off, reminding the audience of Apple dominance. The Apple App Store accrued 140 billion downloads in the year, a 106% year over year growth and more than double the global revenue of their closest competitor: the Google Play Store.

NINTENDO BRINGS MARIO TO THE MOST POPULAR GAMING DEVICE IN THE WORLD

Gaming is not only  the most popular category in the App Store, Apple devices are the most popular gaming devices in the world. Cook brought in perhaps the greatest game designer of all time: Shigeru Miyamoto (creator of Mario, Donkey Kong, Zelda, Star Fox and many more Nintendo classics) to introduce the new forthcoming Super Mario Run, the second Nintendo game on a mobile phone after Pokemon GO. Mr. Miyamoto emphasized the accessibility of the iOS platform and delineated gameplay mechanics which emphasize competitive, social-focused arcade modes in which you can challenge your friends’ high scores.

Apple later announced Pokemon GO is coming to the new Apple Watch Series 2. Pokemon GO has accrued over 500 million downloads and Pokemon Trainers have walked over 4.6 million kilometers playing the game. Pokemon GO for Apple Watch will emphasize allowing users to spend less time looking at their screen, and more time being social in their walks.

APPLE WATCH SERIES 2

Apple Watch Series 2 via TechRadar

Apple Watch became the #2 biggest selling watch brand in the world within a year of launch. The new Apple Watch Series 2 is waterproof and features apps which improve your golf swing, remind you to breathe and more. The emphasis from the trailer was on the Apple Watch as a fitness device for optimizing workout efficiency. Apple proclaimed the new Apple Watch as the ultimate device for a healthy life. Those in the fitness app development business are in luck as the Apple Watch opens up a ton of possibilities.

App developers will love the additional dual core processor, which is up to 50% faster than the previous Apple Watch, the new GPU 2x faster graphics performance, and the 2nd generation display with 1000 nits. The device offers all kinds of opportunities for internal apps and developers.

IOS 10

As of Tuesday September 13th, iOS 10 has officially been released. After a summer in beta, the new operating system is here with a smarter keyboard which cultivates contextual clues through machine learning to improve auto-correct, enhanced Continuity, and a smarter Siri. Best of all, iOS 10 opens up Siri, iMessage and Maps for app developers, allowing them to create app extensions which incorporate these tools. This means Siri can book your next Lyft, you can incorporate ePayments directly into iMessage, and you can make reservations at a restaurant directly through Maps. The ability to create app extensions on internal iPhone apps opens up a world of possibilities for app developers in designing both new and updating existing apps.

IPHONE 7 & 7 PLUS

iPhone 7 via 9to5mac.com

The reviews are in for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus and they are impressive. While the screen size stays the same, the headphone jack is gone, and the camera is beefed up. iPhone 7+ features a dual camera system which allows for true 2x optical zoom without loss of image quality.

When it comes to graphics, the display is now 25% brighter with a wider color gamut. The new A10 fusion processor is 40% faster than the A9 and features a graphics processing chip that is 50% faster than the iPhone 6 counterpart. While it has increased processing power, it also has extended battery life – the longest battery life ever in an iPhone.

The possibilities for mobile game developers are endless, as seen in this demonstration by Heather Price, co-founder of ThisGameStudio:

HOMEKIT & IoT

Having made major strides in the phone, watch, TV, music streaming and soon original content areas, Apple is naturally moving toward the connected home. HomeKit is the first time home automation has been integrated with a major platform. HomeKit will allow users to adjust lights in their house, check on locked doors, open their garage and more. HomeKit will now accept virtually every major brand creating home automation devices, and it works on over 100 products coming to market.

Apple also made several announcements, including their educational investment in ConnectEd, introduction of real-time collaboration through iWork, a partnership with Nike with the Apple Watch Nike+, and more. With such a density of announcements, it’s an exciting time to be an iOS developer.

Are You Cashing Out? Rule the Mobile Game Market with Top Monetization Strategies

The ultra-competitive world of mobile game development leaves many game developers in the red. Less than 1% of mobile game players contribute 48% of revenue to game publishers. With the rise of the Freemium model, many feel paid apps are essentially dead. Without a price to download, app publishers can no longer rely on a single method of monetization.

Here are some of the best methods for mobile game monetization:

SEGMENTATION

Segmentation, the division of profit streams, is key to any mobile game monetization plan. By understanding the many different ways in which one can create a revenue stream out of their game, developers are able to tactically decide which streams they want to pursue and how they want to pursue them.

App monetization revenues stem from three major categories: in-app purchases, subscription-based premium upgrades, and ad revenue. Highly-successful games can also bring in money through sponsorships, merchandise, and even big-budget Hollywood movies, but the bulk of app developers generate revenue from inside the phone. Experienced mobile game developers give individual attention to their apps, analyze what monetization streams will be the most effective, and design individual strategies for each stream.

REWARDED AD FORMAT

Ads and in-app purchases are both great assets to mobile game developers looking to monetize, but what if you could play them off each other to increase both sources of revenue? That’s the idea behind  the rewarded ad format. Games offer its users in-game rewards in exchange for watching full ads. The incentive increases video completion rate as well as ad revenue. By giving users a free in-app purchase, developers are not only able to increase ad revenue, they also preview the premium features, enticing more in-app purchases.

While the rewarded ad format can lead to a surge in both in-app purchases and ad revenue, it still requires strategy. Keeping the audience in mind by ensuring the user will find the ad interesting will increase completion rate. Considering the best time to show the ad also will affect whether the user is frustrated or eager to view the ad. Showing an ad after every level can be overkill and limiting the amount of rewarded ads can help strike a balance between user experience and monetization.

For more tips on rewarded ads, check out this awesome article by InMobi.

The following is an example of a rewarded ad:

Castle Clash Rewarded Ad via AdWeek

FREEMIUM

The popular Freemium monetization method entails a free download of the most basic form of the app to entice the user, then offering a price for premium services and features. Freemium apps can also profit through ads, but in order to be considered freemium, they must offer in-app purchases or premium versions for a subscription fee.

Apps like Tinder and Candy Crush have capitalized on acquiring a massive user base then enticing users to make in-app purchases and update to premium accounts. Candy Crush also intelligently uses social to allow users to receive premium features in exchange for sharing with their friends.

Candy Crush Social Share via BeatCandyCrushLevel.com

NATIVE ADS

Native ads are advertisements which are designed to match the form and function of their surroundings. Twitter, Facebook, Google, and Instagram all offer native ads and tools to help developers create and customize their ads. Native ad placement increases the chance of engagement by seamlessly blending the design of the ad in with the UI of the app. While many ads stand out in the context of a mobile app, native ads look like they are a part of the app rather than an advertisement. In 2013, Twitter upped their ante on mobile ads with the purchase of MoPub for $350 million.

The debate surrounding the morality of native ads is still ongoing. Some say they are unethical and deceptive, but few argue against the fact that they lead to better customer targeting and enhance content to reach more customers by blending in with surrounding content. The number one rule of native ads is to know your audience. While some will be bothered by the deceptiveness of native ads, if the developer can incorporate relevant content rather than ads for random products, native ads can appear to become more of an enhancement than an interruption.

Here is an example of a native ad by Google’s service AdMob:

AdMob Native Ad via The Next Web

FEEDER APPS

Feeder apps are simple games with addicting gameplay which app developers utilize to spread brand awareness. Feeder apps often feature such simple gameplay, in-app purchases and ads would feel intrusive. Instead, push notifications and links in the main menu  redirect users to their company website or another one of their games in iTunes. Many mobile development companies develop a network of feeder apps as a part of their publication and monetization strategy.

By utilizing a well-integrated native ad for the company or the game the developer intends to monetize, developers can turn viral feeder apps into profits. This comprehensive article by Scientific Revenue offers a great example:

ZeptoLab cross-promotes their featured app King of Thieves through their feeder app Cut the Rope.

Succeeding in the world of mobile gaming requires the same intense flare for competition which fuels mobile gamers. Experienced game developers know the stakes and come out swinging, ready to capitalize on every strategy they can to create a revenue stream. With the right combination of smarts, app development, promotion and strategy, mobile game monetization can rake in the big bucks.

For help with your next monetization strategy, contact Mystic Media today by clicking here or by phone at 801.994.6815

Mind Over Matter: Why Apple Downsized with the iPhone SE

On March 21st, Apple announced a smaller 9.7 inch iPad Pro modela price drop for Apple Watch and new nylon bands, and most importantly, their latest smartphone: the iPhone SE. While the iPhone 6 and 6+ represented the largest phones in Apple history, Apple elected to go smaller with their latest release. The iPhone SE is the size of an iPhone 5 with the processor of an iPhone 6, essentially recycling the aesthetic design of the iPhone with the speed of an iPhone 6.

When it comes to smartphones, screen size matters. Statistics show over half of YouTube views come from mobile devices and the average YouTube session lasts for over 40 minutes. Although people are watching more video than ever on their phones, it doesn’t mean bigger is always better. Many scorned the iPhone 6+ for being too large and clunky. The iPhone SE represents a more affordable option with all the processing power of an iPhone 6 on a smaller screen.

iPhone SE vs. iPhone 6s (via 9 to 5 Mac)

When it comes to specs, the iPhone SE is no slouch. The iPhone SE screen measures at 4.87 x 2.31 x .30 inches, the exact same dimensions as the iPhone 5. Like the iPhone 6, the iPhone SE has retina display. The phone has an A8 chip with 64-bit architecture and an M8 motion coprocessor, like the iPhone 6. While the iPhone 6 has 1334 x 750 pixels (326 PPI), iPhone SE has slightly fewer with 1136 x 640 pixels. The SE’s rear camera is identical to the iPhone 6. The one area in which the SE exceeds the iPhone 6 is in battery life: iPhone SE has 1642 mAh while iPhone 6S has 1715. The SE’s smaller, lower-resolution display ensures users will receive 20% longer 3G internet surfing time on the SE, 30% more 4G, and 20% longer when watching video.

Check out this awesome video review of the iPhone SE by The Verge:

Apple is expected to announce the iPhone 7 in 2017. Techies expect the iPhone 7 to be a major advancement in the Apple lineage. With a large announcement looming, the iPhone SE is designed to diversify their product line with a cost-friendly option to hold Apple lovers over and combat the probability that iPhone sales will decline for the first time in company history in 2016.

At $399 without a contract, Apple seems to be aiming to take a bite out of the cost-friendly Android market. Although the average price for an Android smartphone was about $215 at the end of 2015, the difference may entice those drawn by the allure of Apple products.

Last year, Apple took a big bite out of China. In the 4th Quarter of 2015, iPhone sales grew 33% in China. Having recently lost their crown as largest smartphone vendor in China to Xiaomi, the Chinese market represents a major area of potential growth for Apple. Affordable options with premium processing power have the potential to eat into Android’s sales in rural and urban Chinese markets.

The move to more affordable iPhones began with the iPhone 5c; however, supply chain problems taught Apple that using new material can produce unforeseen difficulties. Foxconn announced that the iPhone 5 was the most difficult device they have ever assembled. By recycling iPhone 5 design, materials, and supply chain, iPhone SE is a much cheaper product to create and manufacture.

Some argue that smartphone UX has not advanced with screen-size and few phones have UX features specifically designed for large-screen devices. Whether or not this influenced Apple’s decision to downsize, the affordability, overseas sales potential, and diversified design certainly make the iPhone SE an attractive device for the company. The question now becomes: will Apple unveil a larger iPhone 7 in 2017 with groundbreaking large-screen UX? We’ll have to wait and see.