Tag Archives: IOS

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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

How Mobile Commerce Is Changing Retail Sales

Smartphones have brought about unparalleled convenience in our daily lives. We are constantly connected to our rolodex of contacts with a variety of methods of communication. We can access all the information available on the world wide web anytime. Consumers looking to make purchases on the go can find the nearest store with ease. For businesses, the mobile platform represents not only a major avenue for advertising, but an opportunity to give customers the ultimate convenience when purchasing products.

According to Internet Retailer, mobile commerce represents 30% of all US e-commerce and rose by 38.7% from 2014 to 2015. According to The Mobile Playbook, the absence of a mobile presence is the financial equivalent of closing a store for one day a week. Mobile commerce drives sales, and businesses lacking a mobile strategy are missing out on a major opportunity to increase revenue. Here are the top mobile commerce trends for 2016:

INTEGRATING PHYSICAL WITH DIGITAL

Although the digital world is virtually omnipresent in households, the appeal of immediately receiving one’s purchases by shopping in store remains attractive. Retailers are increasingly offering a variety of online + in-store options to capitalize on the convenience of digital and the immediacy of making a physical purchase.

Apps like Curbside have partnered with Target & Kroger’s to enable customers to reserve their purchases and skip the line when picking up products.

Beacon-enabled features like geo-targeted offers and loyalty rewards are becoming more and more popular. Geo-targeted offers can drive in-store traffic when delivered effectively. According to Target Marketing Magazine, 85 of the top 100 retailers are planning to adopt beacon technology by the end of 2016. Business Insider has predicted beacons will directly influence over $44 billion in US retail sales in 2016.

PERSONALIZED MOBILE PAYMENTS DRIVE LOYALTY

Although services such as Apple Pay and Android Pay were once hailed as the future, they have had a hard time receiving mass adoption. While mobile payment services haven’t gained popularity, the mobile wallet has made a major impact on commerce. Starbucks drives 16% of transactions through its mobile app. Walmart Pay arrived in December 2015, and now Target is next in line to develop their own payment app.

WEARABLES ON THE RISE

According to Arc, there will be a 61% growth in wearable ownership in 2016. App developers and retailers are still plotting on how to capitalize on wearables. Many anticipate a hands-free shopping experience in which one can simply walk out with their purchases and have automatic charges through wearable devices. Malls and large stores like Walmart may use wearables to make it easier for consumers to navigate stores. Wearables represent a major avenue for retailers to create innovative strategies and dictate trends to come.

THE MOBILE WEB DRIVES PURCHASES

While about 85% of time spent on mobile devices occurs in apps, the mobile web has actually proven to be a more successful in driving website traffic. While app usage is prevalent, consumers spend 80% of their app time on their top 3 apps. The mobile web drives twice the amount of site traffic than mobile apps. With 82% of smartphone users looking to their phones in stores when deciding what to buy, many anticipate the mobile web to surpass apps as the largest revenue driver in the next few years.

HOW CAN MOBILE COMMERCE HELP YOUR BUSINESS?

With technology in constant flux, the potential to drive revenue with a refined mobile strategy is constantly growing. Mobile strategies must be created, enacted and reevaluated with every new OS and device. Mobile is an ongoing investment. Understanding the value of a mobile strategy and how each device can enrich a customer’s interaction with your business will lead to long-term revenue growth.

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.

5 Essential Mobile Game Monetization Strategies to Keep Your Pockets Full

A recent study by Venture Beat showed that less than 1% of mobile game players contribute 48% of total revenue to game publishers. Inability to effectively capitalize upon this hyper-concentrated group of revenue drivers leaves many mobile game developers in the red. The rise of the Freemium model has essentially killed the paid gaming app, leaving many developers scratching their heads on how to turn a profit out of their passion. Here are some of the best methods for mobile game monetization:

1. SEGMENTATION Without a price to download, app publishers can no longer rely on a single method of monetization. Thus segmentation, the division of profit streams, is key to any mobile game monetization plan. 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 use their understanding of each of these revenue streams and how they relate to their target audience to leverage multiple revenue streams within their games.

2. 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. In exchange for watching full ads during breaks in gameplay, users receive in-game rewards, power-ups, lives, etc. The incentive increases video completion rate, as well as ad revenue, and preview premium features to entice 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 base will find the content of the ad interesting will increase completion rate. Strategic rewarded ad placement is also key to keeping users engaged. Rewarded ad overkill will alienate users and prevent them from playing the game. For more tips on rewarded ads, check out this awesome article by InMobi.

Castle Clash Rewarded Ad via AdWeek

3. FREEMIUM The popular Freemium monetization method entails developers offering a free download of the most basic form of the app to entice the user, then premium services and features available for purchase or through a subscription fee. The Freemium model drives revenue through in-app purchases, premium features available through subscription fees, and ads. Apps like Tinder and Candy Crush have capitalized on their massive user base by enticing users to make in-app purchases and update to premium accounts. Candy Crush also uses social media to allow users to receive premium features in exchange for sharing with their friends.

4. NATIVE ADS Native ads are advertisements designed to match the form and function of their surroundings. TwitterFacebookGoogle, 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. Some say native ads are unethical and deceptive, while others praise the improved customer targeting and enhanced content. Effective native ads blend seamlessly with the surrounding UI. The number one rule of native ads is to know your audience. If the developer can incorporate relevant content rather than ads for products that do not interest the user, 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:

Native Facebook Ad via The Next Web

5. 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 game the developer intends to monetize, developers can turn viral feeder apps into profits. This comprehensive article by Scientific Revenue offers a great example of how feeder apps can function effectively. ZeptoLab cross-promotes their featured app King of Thieves through their feeder app Cut the Rope.

CONCLUSION 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 developmentpromotion and strategy, mobile game developers can capitalize on their user base to rake in the big bucks.