Tag Archives: Application

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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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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.

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.

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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.

Android O: What Google’s Latest OS Offers App Developers

On March 21st, Google unveiled the developer preview for the latest version of the largest OS in the world: Android O. For consumers, it means improved UI, design, battery life, & more. For app developers, it has far deeper implications. With release anticipated in Q3 2017, here is our rundown of the top takeaways about Android O for Android developers:

BATTERY LIFE

The main focus of Android O appears to be to continue Android Nougat’s initiative to reduce battery life. The OS will limit and manage what launched apps can do in the background when multiple apps are open. For example, if a user has a geolocation app open in the background while using another app, location updates will happen less frequently for the background app.

In technical terms, background execution & location limits have been reigned in, allowing the OS to better manage background activity. Background apps are defined by Google as apps showing no visible activity, no foreground service & not connected to a foreground app through its services. Location changes affect the following APIs:

  • Fused Location Provider (FLP): The local system service computes a new location for background apps only a few times each hour, according to the interval defined in the Android O behavior change. Foreground apps will not experience location sampling rates in relation to Android 7.1.1 (API level 25).
  • Geofencing: Background apps can receive geofencing transition events more frequently than from FLP.
  • GNSS Measurements: Callbacks registered to receive outputs from GnssMeasurement and GnssNavigationMessage will stop executing for background apps.
  • Location Manager: Location updates will be provided to background apps only a few times per hour according to the interval defined in the Android O behavior change.

NOTIFICATION CHANNELS

Android OS’s have always thrived in the notification department. Android O allows developers to group notifications into channels. Developers must select a channel for each distinct type of notification they send with the goal of making things easier and more customizable for the user. For example, a user can turn off the “Sports” notification channel from the New York Times app if they are already getting sports notifications from the ESPN app.

Developers can also allow user behavior to dictate notification channels. For example, the developer of a messaging app can create separate notification channels for each of a user’s messaging threads.

WI-FI AWARE

Wi-Fi Aware, or Neighbor Awareness Network (NAN), allows devices to discover and connect directly with each other without any other connectivity between them, like Wi-Fi Access Point or Cellular. Two phones can connect with each other with NAN and share data at high speeds without any additional apps or configuration, opening up tons of possibilities for developers.

Learn more about Wi-Fi Aware:

HI-FI BLUETOOTH AUDIO

Android O supports Hi-Fi Bluetooth audio. While the quality of the audio still depends on the speaker or headphone through which one listens, this is a major improvement for music lovers.

ADAPTIVE ICONS

Android O will introduce adaptive launcher icons. Adaptive icons support visual effects and can display a variety of shapes across different device models. Adaptive icons are a major tool for developers to guide the user’s eye and enhance UX. Check out Android’s developer site to learn more.

RELEASE SCHEDULE

The O Developer preview will run from March 21st to the final Android O public release anticipated in Q3 2017. Android will provide incremental updates in mid-May, June, & July. Until Q3 2017, the onus is on Android developers to prepare their future and existing apps for the latest operating system.

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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.

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.

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.

Monetizing IoT: How the Internet of Things Builds Fortunes

A man sits in a restaurant and orders “The John Candy Burger” (a double cheeseburger with four strips of bacon and a fried egg) through a touch screen embedded into the table. As he gives the waiter his order, his smartwatch vibrates. He checks a push notification which tells him he should not order “The John Candy Burger” based on information gathered from a sensor in his body which has been monitoring his blood pressure and cholesterol among other notable health measurements in a constant stream of data for 15 years with infallible predictive capabilities. It tells him this specific cheeseburger from this specific restaurant will increase his risk of a heart attack on his daily run by 8%. He doesn’t understand how, but he accepts it the way one accepts that the earth is round and the Great Pyramid of Giza existed in 2540 BC.

In the above fictional example, the Internet of Things took the man’s order, evaluated the average nutritional content of the burger based on data gathered through sensors embedded into a smart grill, and transmitted it to the smartwatch where it analyzed nutritional content in the context of over 15 years of health data gathered on the man to inform him on the potential risk of his decision. The Internet of Things is bigger than money. It’s a new world where planes don’t crash and  smartphones can tell their users the location of the nearest empty parking spot to minimize travel time and ensure the city is maintaining optimum functionality. A pregnant wife is gently guided through a safe 9-month path to the newest addition to her family. The edges of the world are being smoothed out by data. The Internet of Things is leading the human race toward new levels of efficiency, productivity and effectiveness.

“Show me the money”

As a major technological evolution takes place, many businesses are looking to monetize it. Although the world has yet to see the full impact of the Internet of Things, it has already revolutionized process improvement for everything from manufacturing to health care, product enhancement, and safety. For the developer eager to enter a burgeoning field with infinite possibilities, here are some of the common techniques for monetizing IoT applications.

ONE-TIME PAY + FREE APP

The most basic monetization method entails creating a simple product with everyday applications, like Jawbone and the Phillips Hue Connected Bulb for example, and offering the equipment for purchase which works in conjunction with a connected app for iOS & Android. This method is most effective for products where the manufacturing cost to market ratio is kept low.

SUBSCRIPTION-BASED

One of the major issues with the IoT is the amount of data generated regularly by their devices. The amount of data and possibilities are so staggering, it’s vital to understand and decide upon relevant metrics and analysis tactics. For developers, it means that the cost of maintaining many IoT apps calls for a constant stream of revenue. Companies like Audi offer a hotspot subscription, ranging from 6 to 30 months, for Audi Connect, their hotspot navigation system utilizing Google Earth and Voice to offer real-time alerts, weather and traffic. In some applications, data plans will likely emerge as a another way of tiering subscription-based purchases.

WHITE LABEL SERVICES

Perhaps the most profitable and complex option, monetizing IoT applications through white label services entails having the foresight to identify the future of the technology and the necessary human & financial resources to act upon it effectively through the creation of a template offering which businesses can rebrand as their own. Jasper Technologies created the Connected Car Cloud as a cloud-based turnkey solution for developing smart-cars with real-time diagnostics, safety, security, and more.

Acquired by Cisco for about $1.4 billion in March, Jasper is one of the big success stories of IoT monetization and a model for future innovators looking to capitalize on the business opportunities brought about by the Internet of Things.

Learn more about IoT through this awesome article with advice from early adopters via Computer World.

Mobile Website or Mobile App: What Should I Build?

Mobile commerce will reach approximately $142 billion in 2016 according to Mobile Commerce Daily. Promoting business through mobile platforms has become an essential part of many IT and marketing departments worldwide. Mobile phones allow businesses the opportunity to share information about their store, such as hours and nearest location, as well as offer exclusive deals through branded apps as well as third-party apps like Yelp & GroupOn.

The necessity of a mobile presence is evident. When developing for the mobile platform, one has the choice between building a mobile website or a mobile app as the avenue of preference. Obviously developing for both platforms is ideal, but it’s important to realize the strengths of each platform when developing a mobile strategy. Many businesses don’t take into account the importance of the mobile web when it comes to driving revenue.

If you read Cashing Out the Smartphone, you know that while 85% of time spent on mobile devices occurs in apps, 80% of that time is spent on the user’s top 3 apps, a web browser often being one of them. 82% of smartphone users reference their phones when deciding what to buy. When it comes to eCommerce, mobile websites drive twice as much traffic as mobile apps.

Thus, while mobile apps are more expansive, mobile websites are in many ways more important to retailers. Utilizing both in tandem and playing to each platform’s strengths will maximize mobile presence to bring in revenue. Here are the top factors to weigh when deciding between building a mobile website or a mobile app:

DISCOVERABILITY

Due to the omniscience of Google, mobile websites are much more discoverable than mobile apps. Although it is good to have a presence in the app stores, it’s often more important to be discoverable on the web since the web is where the majority of customers go to find information. Mobile websites share a common publication format, making them almost universally accessible across smart devices. As we detailed in our article on Responsive Design & SEO, optimizing a website for mobile is not only a vital SEO practice, it also lowers the price of keywords in Google Adwords.

IMMEDIACY

The immediacy of mobile websites make them an asset to companies looking to disperse information about their products. Mobile websites can be found from any smart device with a single Google search. Mobile websites are quick, easy to find, and direct to the point. Mobile apps, on the other hand, require the user to go to the app store, search, download the app, then often sign up for an account. The distance between initial engagement and action/conversion depletes the chances of a mobile app acquiring new customers without a clever strategy, while mobile websites are more likely to pique new customer interests.

Many retailers have turned to mobile apps to manage loyalty points and increase customer retention through exclusive discounts.

Here are some popular third-party apps for increasing customer loyalty:

Shopkick: Shopkick offers customers rewards the moment they walk into a store. It is the most-used US shopping app connecting shoppers to retailers.

Flok: Flok is a customer loyalty and engagement platform which uses automated messaging, digital punch cards, and direct customer rewards to power lasting and rewarding relationships between merchants and customers.

Belly: Belly is a digital loyalty rewards program which serves over 12,000 businesses and has more than 6 million members across the US.

COMPLEXITY

While mobile websites are great for dispersing information, apps typically can do much more. Native apps are designed specifically for a device and OS, thus ensures maximum performance. With mobile commerce on the rise, apps can help make the check-out process seamless. The process of approval required by the app stores assures users that any given mobile apps will be safe and secure. The complexity of mobile apps also makes maintenance more expensive.

Mobile websites are easier and less-expensive to maintain since they have a common code across platforms. Developers can release and update without worrying about being approved by the app marketplace. Mobile websites can only utilize a limited scope of a given mobile device’s features, although mobile browsers are in the process of getting more powerful and enabling more power over the device.

COST

Mobile websites are less expensive to develop and maintain since they use common code across devices. While cross-platform app development tools ensure a cheaper way to make an app usable across Android, iOS, and other operating systems and devices, they also can dilute the functionality.

In our opinion, it’s often better to start with a mobile website which disperses necessary information and calls attention to the business before creating a mobile app to supplement with additional functionality.

Any given business or organization has unique needs which must be attended to when establishing a mobile presence. Experienced web and app developers should ask the questions which get to the root of what is needed and can design creative solutions which maximize functionality for any given platform in accordance with the project budget. Be it through a mobile website or a mobile app, the mobile platform allows for any number of possibilities which can make any business more efficient, attractive, and profitable.