Tag Archives: Application

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.

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.

Safety First: Mobile Security Is More Than Worth the Investment

Having established the top mobile app trends for 2016 with our blog App to the Future, the Mystic Media blog is currently exploring each of the top trends in greater detail with a five-part series. This week, in Part 3 of our Top Mobile App Development Trends series, we will be examining security.

2015 saw several major data breaches, including 87 million patient records from Anthem and 21.5 million security clearance apps from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. The European Union is currently crafting a General Data Protection Regulation designed to strengthen and unify data protection.

Gartner correctly predicted that over 75% of mobile applications would fail basic security tests in 2015. Many mobile companies are sacrificing security to attain quicker turn-around on smaller budgets, and the result has been disastrous for many. Even Apple hasn’t been safe from mobile app hacks.

Mobile application security is an integral part of the app development process worthy of the same level of attention as app creators give to design, marketing and functionality. With that in mind, here are some of the top app security trends for 2016:

DevOps Protocol on the Rise

In a recent RackSpace Survey of 700 IT manager and business leaders, 66% of respondents had implemented DevOps practices and 79% of those who had yet to implement DevOps planned to by the end of 2015.

DevOps is an approach to app development that emphasizes collaboration between software development, IT operations, security and quality assurance through all stages of the app development process under one automated umbrella. Utilizing a DevOps protocol improves app security by bringing the IT security team in at an early stage to guide the development process away from potential security threats. App Developers gravitate toward DevOps since it speeds up the time to market while increasing innovation. Like a conveyer belt, DevOps puts a system of checks and balances in place at all stages to ensure that the product will be sufficient for delivery.

By opening up the app development process, security team members can inject security into the code early in the development process and eliminate vulnerabilities before they become threats.

Security Risks In Wearable Tech

Wearable technology is on the rise not only in the marketplace, but as a major security vulnerability for businesses. With the technology in nascent stages, developers have been more concerned with creating a functional strategy for the wearable platform than they have been with improving security. Health and Fitness apps leave users the most vulnerable by constantly monitoring the user’s heartbeat, movement and location. With limited UI and an emphasis on usability, wearables severely lack in security features. App developers looking to create safe apps for this platform will have to innovate and dictate the trends in order to create apps that don’t put the user at risk.

IoT (Internet of Things) & BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device)

With the workplace increasingly becoming virtual, malicious hackers acting through the Internet of Things are targeting personal mobile devices in order to find vulnerabilities in businesses.

Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) has increased in popularity in work cultures, each of which represents a potential vulnerability . Smartphone owners generally don’t invest in security on their personal devices with the same thoroughness as a business would when issuing work devices. Due to the boon of mobile work apps, many app developers are cutting corners to meet demand by sacrificing security in service of quicker turnover.

Wise and experienced app developers know you can’t put a price on safety, and they take the necessary precautions to protect the integrity of the app for its users and the app owner.

Major organizations must understand IoT and how it can improve or threaten their business through their employees’ mobile devices. By encouraging a culture of collaboration and welcoming unique expertise into the app development process at an early stage, DevOps practices help ingrain necessary knowledge about IoT and mobile security into organizations.

That’s it for app security! Be on the lookout for part 4 of our series on the top mobile app development trends for 2016 next week when we explore the Internet of Things.

Can Cloud Integration Take Your App to the Next Level?

In continuation of our exploration of the top 5 app development trends for 2016, this week we will be exploring cloud integration. Check out our master list in our blog App to the Future and be on the lookout for next week’s blog when we explore Security.

While the ethereal nature of the cloud makes it a mystery to many consumers, the cloud has engrained itself in businesses across the globe. Studies show the global market for cloud equipment will reach $79.1 billion by the year 2018.

A lot has changed since we last tackled the cloud in our 2013 blog What Can Cloud-Based Mobile App Development Do For Your Company? The aspects which haven’t changed are the basics: the cloud reduces operating costs by taking the computing load off of local and dedicated servers, it improves collaboration, and it fosters a streamlined collaborative environment.

CLOUD FOR CONSUMER USE

In the past 5 years, Amazon, Google and Apple have all monetized clouds for consumer use. These cloud offerings break up into two categories:

PUBLIC CLOUD: iCloud, Google Drive and Amazon Web Services, in addition to Dropbox and Box, all offer public cloud storage offerings. These clouds are accessible to the public through the Internet.

PRIVATE CLOUD: While the public cloud is available on the public web, the private cloud is designed for a single organization. These offerings are often crafted by cloud providers such as Rackspace, VMware, Microsoft and OpenStack.

HYBRID CLOUD ADOPTION

One of the major cloud trends in the past few years has been the adoption of the hybrid cloud. The hybrid cloud uses a mix of on-premises, private cloud and the public cloud to customize storage needs. Hybrid cloud adoption jumped from 74% in 2014 to 82% in 2015. The hybrid cloud has gained popularity because it allows businesses to section off their storage needs and leverage the advantages of the private cloud and the public cloud while keeping the disadvantages at bay.

CLOUD INTEGRATION

One of  the most interesting trends in the cloud for mobile developers is cloud integration. Device integration entails that multiple applications share data in the cloud and communicate either directly or through third-party software.

A great test case is Apple’s use of the iCloud to promote device continuity. Apple uses the iCloud to make sure files and apps which are synced to the user’s MacBook are also synced to iPhone, iPads, and Apple Watch. This allows the user to alternate between devices seamlessly and encourages them to buy Apple products.

For app developers, cloud integration is a major trend within the industry. With Apple leading the charge, many app developers and their clients want their iOS apps to integrate with iCloud with the intention of luring users to download apps on multiple devices and use them seamlessly. Cloud-integrated apps represent an investment in both time and money for developers.  In order to justify the effort, the app should appeal to tablet, smartphone, and perhaps also desktop users. Cloud integration represents a major opportunity for developers to increase brand continuity by creating a user experience which is consolidated across devices and informed by data across the enterprise.

Learn more about device integration with the iCloud via Apple’s Developer website.

For those with their sights set on cloud integration, here are some of the best third-party cloud data integration software options on the market:

Jitterbit

Zapier

Microsoft Azure

Informatica Cloud Integration

Crossing Over: Best Cross-Platform App Development For Your Business

Over the next month, the Mystic Media Blog will be delving into the top app development trends for 2016. Check out our master list in our blog App to the Future and be on the look out for next week’s blog when we explore Cloud Integration.

Since the dawn of the iPhone, smart devices have become omnipresent. With Apple, Google, Microsoft, and more jockeying for position in the device and operating system market, many app developers will be investing in cross-platform development tools in 2016 to ensure their apps function on all operating systems and thus reach the widest possible audience.

Cross-platform development offers an extremely fast, simple and cost-effective method of creating an app. By building apps on a common code which can be easily ported to fit any OS, developers can focus more on a single universal app rather than divide their attention over multiple native apps. Developers also reduce the amount of maintenance necessary since they only have to update one app.

We have previously tackled this subject in our 2013 blog Should Your Company Develop Native Apps or HTML-5-Based Apps?

It’s important to understand that cross-platform app development also comes at a price. Developing for multiple platforms prevents app developers from maximizing the capabilities of any individual OS. Some apps may be too advanced to develop using a cross-platform tool, in which case, developing native is the best and only option. Android and iOS have different design schemes for apps on their respective Operating Systems. Customizing app design to match iOS or Android aesthetics improves ASO in the Apple App Store and Google Play. Apps can also have trouble integrating with devices due to the variety of storage options available on devices. We recommend you always discuss the project with your app developer before committing to developing using a cross-platform tool.

Ultimately, it comes down to a matter of resources. Developing an app natively for iOS and/or Android will yield a better product optimized to the device. While any company would love to be Facebook and have the money to invest in completely different native applications for iOS and Android, some have to be pragmatic about their budget. Once the decision to build cross-platform is made, the all-important question of which app development tool to utilize arises. Here are some of the best cross-platform development tools on the market in 2016.

PHONEGAP 

Adobe PhoneGap is one of the most popular cross-platform development tools on the market. PhoneGap is based on the open source Apache Cordova project, making it free to use. Adobe also offers an enterprise version of PhoneGap – it integrates with Adobe Marketing Cloud to not only focus on app development, but to ensure apps reach their audience and experience success. PhoneGap not only creates apps for iOS and Android, but also BlackBerry and Windows, making it an extremely versatile tool.

XAMARIN

Xamarin recently attracted a great deal of attention when it raised $54 million in its Series C round of investments. Xamarin is utilized by over 20% of Fortune 500 companies. According to IDC, those developers will be delivering almost $5 billion to the marketplace in 2017. Xamarin separates itself from the pack by using native UI components from each platform, allowing users to create their app with the native look app for each platform.

APPCELERATOR TITANIUM

Appcelerator Titanium uses Javascript to create native iOS and Android apps while giving developers the ability to reuse from 60% to 90% of the same code for all apps. Appcelerator is a major time saver. It’s also an open-source tool, meaning hundreds of developers are constantly adding to it and improving its functionality. In January 2016, Appcelerator was acquired by Axway, a software and services company. Axway plans on making it easy to integrate Appcelerator with their existing digital business enablement solutions.

For more great cross-platform development tools, check out these great curated lists by AppIndex and TechBeacon.

Keep Your Competitors Close: How to Leverage the Power of ASO to Crush Your Competition

At Mystic Media, we’re no strangers to App Store Optimization. Every app development project we take on has its specific ASO challenges. ASO remains one of the most vital processes in the marketing process. We’ve detailed our knowledge in our six part ASO series where we explored techniques for the ASO Basics, Title and Keywords, Increasing Downloads and Ratings, Getting Featured on the App Store, Differentiating between Apple and Google Play App Stores, and Changing Your Title.

In this article, we’ll detail how to get the most from researching your competitors, what to look for, and how to go about maximizing your analysis.

As with any aspect of marketing, understanding your competitors is vital to finding a search opening in the app store for an app. The app store allows for anyone to do detailed research on competing apps. Simply search the keywords you’ve selected for your app in app stores in order to find primary competitors.

It’s easy to see which app competitors come up in search results; however, it’s important to differentiate between which apps are significant and which have no competitive value. An old sub-par app may rank high in the app store, but it’s not in-competition with a well-designed app. Understanding the value of competing apps will allow you to narrow the list your true competition.

The following factors are vital in appraising the value of a competitor:

The app’s last update: Apps that are not generating revenue will not be updated frequently as it’s a futile endeavor. If a competing app hasn’t had any recent updates, it’s safe to deem them an irrelevant competitor.

App launch date: The app launch date not only dictates whether the app is still active, it informs you as to whether it’s ranking in the search results is being boosted by the “new app” factor. Apps get a boost in downloads and ASO at their launch. If the app has been around for a month or two and retains its ranking, then it’s definitely a competitor worth researching.

Amount of reviews since last update: With iOS apps, the reviews an app receives lose value after an update. This makes for hesitation every time an iOS developer decides to update their app. Evaluating the amount of downloads and reviews since the previous update will also give insight into the amount of traffic being generated by the keywords used.

Other factors include: The publisher of the app, the average user rating, the keywords targeted in the title, and what other keywords the app is emphasizing.

Subscribe to Gabriel Machuret’s Youtube channel for a bunch of awesome videos containing information on how to increase an app’s ASO ranking:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCG6A0qWOOJ0fGfzW48KCcXw

Here’s one on the best ASO tools available to developers:

When you’ve identified the apps with which your app is in direct competition, you can begin to analyze their strategy and decide what techniques you wish to emulate and where you might be able to counter them. This takes consistent monitoring of what techniques the app developers are using to improve their app’s ranking. Analyzing what demographics competing apps are targeting will help define where there might be an opening for your app to appeal to an audience. Knowing what share of the revenue competing apps have will give insight into which app store an app might appeal to (perhaps a competitor has Google Play locked down, in which case one would focus their energies on the Apple App Store.)

Tools such as App Annie,  Mop App, and more give app developers and marketers a time-efficient way of attaining the analysis they need to understand their competitors and adjust their strategy accordingly.

ASO is a thorough process with many ins and outs. Understanding both your competition and how each of the app stores rank apps in search results requires both experience and a great deal of research. Using the techniques given in this article, in conjunction with those outlined in our six-part ASO series and a well-designed app, you will be able to conquer your competition in the app store and rise to the top of search results.

Shaken Not Stirred: Apple Watch’s Anticipated Impact on Wearable Platform

Last year was huge for Apple products. The company announced and released a number of very important advancements, including iPhone 6, iOS 8, OS Yosemite, and Swift. The one product Apple announced but didn’t release could prove to have the most significant impact: Apple Watch.

Wearables are the next big platform for app development. While they’ve already caught on in Toronto, wearables aren’t predicted to receive mass adoption in the US until Apple Watch begins shipping in April. The function of wearables in the user’s daily life isn’t widely understood by the public. As with tablets, until consumers have the opportunity to use the devices and experience first-hand what the fuss is about, they will remain skeptical and the technological and market potential of wearables will remain untapped.

With the release and impact of Apple Watch looming, a surge in relevancy for wearable devices is imminent. As an app developer, wearables present a major opportunity upon which to capitalize: a brand new platform with new rules and plenty of room for innovation.

While the iPad acted as a bridge between the laptop and the smartphone, Apple Watch will have the smallest screen, functional for receiving information and sending out responses via voice memo and dictated text. The screen-size and lack of keyboard mean the controls are extremely simple. One would imagine very few practical applications which would work, however, this summary of the Apple Watch announcement shows how much app developers can do within the simple control scheme: The Verge Apple Watch Announcement in 6 minutes

The Honeywell application allows you to control the temperature of your home. Lutron allows you to control the lighting. Keep up to date on the latest sports scores, check text messages on the go without losing your train of thought. One of the cliche jokes about smartphones revolves around how we use them to avoid eye-contact. They disintegrate our social interactions because we’re constantly getting pulled away from conversations and sucked into the digital world. Apple Watch represents an intermediary device which will allows us to complete the bare essentials of digital communication without losing a step. The user can subtly process information sent to them without appearing rude for pulling out his/her phone.

The simplicity of Apple Watch weeds out overly-complicated unproductive applications to emphasize ways in which technology can aid the user in their day-to-day. The purpose of a watch is to help its owner have a better sense of time and time management. Apple Watch will no doubt see a host of new productivity apps released exclusive to the platform. The ability to set reminders with subtle notifications will allow professionals with busy schedules to stay focused on the task at hand without missing a beat.

Apple Watch presents a potential breakthrough for healthcare apps. Fitness tracks your daily movements and Workout allows users the ability to set goals for themselves and change their habits. Apple Watch will track glucose levels for diabetics. The ability to track heart-rate and movement also offers a host of uses for clinical applications detailed in this report.

About 35 million people reportedly want to buy an Apple Watch within a year of its release, according to Business Insider. It’s expected to be the biggest Apple release of the year and will likely initiate the widespread adoption of wearable devices. With its release looming, we can only speculate and await anxiously the future of wearable devices.

Mystic Media is an app development, web design, and strategic marketing firm located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Contact us today by clicking here or by phone at 801.994.6815

How Sharing Economy Apps and Collaborative Consumption May Reshape the Future of Business

In recent years, the tech community has seen a surge in popularity of apps which utilize the latest technology to link supply and demand in previously impossible ways. These apps have been deemed “Sharing Economy” apps and are shaking up not only the tech sphere, but the verticals in which each app operates. In an article at Forbes, Joe Kraus (a general partner at Google) says: “The sharing economy is a real trend. I don’t think this is some small blip.”

Previously, if you needed a taxi in the city, you would have to either wave one down or call a taxi company. Now with Uber, not only is a certified driver a tap away: payment is paperless, you can rate your driver, track his progress to your pick-up location in real-time, and, on top of all that, you can DJ your ride using Spotify.

Uber is among the most popular and successful sharing economy apps. It recently received a $1.2 billion investment and is currently valued at $17 billion. As astonishing as these numbers are, Uber gets even more shocking upon closer examination. Uber revenue is doubling every six months. That revenue is coming primarily from only five cities in which the app is well-established. Uber has been introduced in 125 additional cities where it hopes to develop into a mature business.

Only four years after its launch, Uber has made a major impact in public transportation and has incited widespread protests both internally from it’s workers and externally from taxi drivers. While the exceptional growth of the company has caused controversy, one thing is for sure: users love it.

Like Uber, Airbnb is also among the leading sharing economy apps. Airbnb connects tourists who need a place to stay and locals with extra rooms. Airbnb not only cuts out the middleman of hotels, it also encourages the formation of connections. The idea of Airbnb creating a community is a major part of their marketing strategy.

Airbnb recently received a $13 billion valuation, making it the second most valuable private company in the Silicon Valley to Uber. Airbnb has also received it’s share of controversy. New York is a hotbed for both Airbnb users and residents frustrated with the patrons of the new service. San Francisco also represents a major beacon of Airbnb usage. SF mayor Ed Lee recently signed legislation which made short term rentals of 30 days or less legal with a 14.5 percent hotel tax.

While both Uber and Airbnb are among the fastest growing companies in the nation, The New York Times recently argued that the one thing they have in common is the willingness to take risks. The same article claims Uber employed a surge of drivers in their rise to prominence and asked them to push any damage claims through their personal insurance companies despite the fact that most personal insurance companies don’t cover commercial activity.

Airbnb recently announced they will offer free $1 million liability coverage for its tens of thousands of US listings in 2015; however, this insurance will be secondary. Like Uber, Airbnb expects hosts to go through their personal insurance companies first.

Airbnb and Uber aren’t the only sharing economy apps on the rise. In fact, there’s been a massive flood of sharing economy apps pushing “collaborative consumption.” Chegg allows students to rent or buy college textbooks on the cheap. Lyft, an alternative to Uber, is described by co-founder John Zimmer as: “Your friend with a car on demand.” ParkAtMyHouse.com allows people in the UK to rent out parking spaces in their driveways. Getaround allows you to search for cars in your area which you can rent hourly or daily. Timebanks allows users to trade an hour of work in their specialty for an hour of work in another’s specialty. In other words, a cook can trade an hour of cooking to a plumber for an hour of plumbing.

These sharing economy apps all run with varying levels of success, but the underlying idea of “collaborative consumption” is what has tech gurus inspired. Collaborative consumption is how each of these apps works. According to Greenopedia, collaborative consumption is: “a global concept that involves sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting, and swapping goods instead of buying them.” It’s disruptive to the standard business model of supply and demand.

The ideology behind the sharing economy and collaborative consumption is potentially revolutionary—especially as sustainability continues to rise in prominence as a global issue. It conveniently connects consumers to what they desire on the cheap, cutting out the middleman. Rachel Botsman claims it leverages technology to allow us to interact and transact in a way which is more natural to our species. It creates an economy of trust. And as evidenced by Uber and Airbnb, if one can find the right niche, it can also mean big business.

For more on Sharing Economy apps and the idea of “collaborative consumption,” check out these incredibly insightful 2010 and 2012 Ted Talks by Rachel Botsman.

At Mystic Media, we are constantly on the lookout for the next big vertical. We’re experts in all things web, mobile, application, social media and marketing. To learn more about our services, contact us today by clicking here, or by phone at 801.994.6815

Android Lollipop Vs. iOS 8: The Battle of the Operating Systems

It’s been a good year for operating systems.

Back in June, Google announced their new operating system “Android L,” which has since been dubbed Android Lollipop. In our post  Android L Beta Preview: First Impressions of the Latest OS, we covered what we knew about the OS based on the announcement at the Google I/O 2014.

On the iOS side of the equation, this year saw Apple release iOS 8, which Apple hailed as the biggest iOS release ever. iOS 8 didn’t reinvent iOS aesthetics, rather it pushed forth the flat design introduced with iOS 7 and added a host of new features, including Apple Pay, Touch ID, and Device Continuity.

Both platforms represent dramatic technological advancements. The question now becomes: iOS 8 or Lollipop?

AESTHETICS

Steve Jobs majored in calligraphy at Reed College before dropping out. Jobs always held aesthetic design to be among the top priorities in his vision of Apple products, and Apple has always held a strong edge over Android in the aesthetic department.

iOS 7 saw Apple straying from Jobs’ skeuomorphic ideology in favor of Flat Design: a more stylized, minimal, bright look. iOS 8 refines Flat Design with more consistent iconography and UI. It also makes better use of gestures including swiping left to go back and double tapping the home screen to slide the screen down, allowing for better reachability on the large screens of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

While Apple refined their current look, Android elected to enact a complete aesthetic overhaul. They may have shaken up the OS aesthetic game with Material Design.

Material Design is not an easy concept to grasp and can better be explored in practice. The idea is that the digital world should have its own intuitive physical rules. Buttons must react specifically to the touch, there must be multiple easily decipherable UI layers, animations must trigger and unfold in a specific, consistent manner. All Material Design aesthetics are in favor of creating the most intuitive, easily understood experience for the user.

Material Design is much more intricate than Flat Design. It’s both showier and more practical. It’s a more evolved, complex version of Flat Design. Thus, Android has taken the crown with regard to aesthetics. It’s likely Apple will follow suit and copy Material Design aesthetics for their next iOS overhaul.

Check out this video demonstrating the ideas of Material Design posted by Google Developers Youtube account.

FEATURES

Both Lollipop and iOS 8 offer new features, in addition to minor UI tweaks, for their devices. Most of these features either mirror their competitor’s counterpart, or replicate a past feature of their competitor.

Lollipop and iOS 8 both push to integrate with cars with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Both offer integrated navigation systems, hands-free calling and texting, and control of entertainment; however, neither will have a major impact until they are adopted by a greater number of cars.

Lollipop and iOS 8 both feature health apps (Google Fit and Health respectively). Both function similarly with certain apps offering exclusive partnerships. The big factor could be whether/which major health apps make the commitment to either Lollipop or iOS 8. The anticipated forthcoming popularity surge in wearables could be a game-changing variable in health apps. At the moment, neither app has a major edge over the other.

iOS 8 now offers Apple Pay combined with Touch ID, a replication of Google Wallet which was introduced in 2011. While Google Wallet is the older system, Apple Pay currently has the momentum. Both offer touch payments via Near Field Communications, but Apple Pay refuses to store physical credit card details, making it the safer system. The popularity of Pay could cause a resurgence of Google Wallet, but at the moment, Apple Pay has a definite edge.

Aside from the aesthetics, perhaps the biggest differentiator between iOS 8 and Lollipop is Apple’s push for the concept of device continuity embodied in Handoff. We covered device continuity in both Climbing Yosemite and Bite the Apple: Maximize iOS 8 to Vanquish Your Competition. Handoff allows the user to easily complete tasks while transitioning  between Apple devices seamlessly. Instant Hotspot, one of the coolest features of iOS 8, allows users to connect to their iPhone’s cellular network when no other Wi-Fi networks are available. Lollipop comes up empty in this department and Android will surely be playing catch-up when they release their next OS.

BATTERY

iOS bolsters a reputation for retaining a more efficient battery than Android. With Project Volta, Android has made a strong attempt to optimize their OS to defeat this notion.

Lollipop features a built-in task manager designed to prevent unnecessary operations from waking the phone up, running app house-cleaning necessities in batches when plugged in, and preventing network requests from Android and third party apps in spots without network connectivity. Lollipop also has “Battery Historian,” an analytics tool designed to track and tweak battery consumption.

iOS 8 did not make any dramatic attempts to improve it’s battery life, but still competes with Android with an extremely efficient standby mode: leaving an iPhone 6 or 6 plus unplugged overnight will only lose 1-2% charge.

Overall, the OS battery competition is fairly neck-and-neck, which is a big improvement for Android considering in the past they have gotten smoked in this department.

Check out this video Introduction to Project Volta from Google I/O 2014 for more information.

AVAILABILITY

One of the major factors which elevates iOS 8 over Lollipop is the limited availability of the OS due to device fragmentation.

Google allows third-party developers to build hardware for the Android OS. This causes device fragmentation, in which the variety of hardware makes it harder to optimize software for each device. As a result, different devices will have access to Lollipop at different times. Lollipop is currently available on Google’s Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 phones with a staggered launch planned for other Android phones.

Device fragmentation is also troublesome for app developers as it means there’s no way to optimize directly for all the hardware considering the diversity.

iOS’s iPhone exclusivity means it runs well across devices and updates are immediately accessible on Apple hardware. The user is guaranteed at least three years of upgrades. App developers can optimize for each platform which remains relevant.

BOTTOM LINE

Overall, iOS 8 is the more practical operating system. While Material Design represents an exciting leap forward in software aesthetics, iOS 8’s device continuity features trump all of Lollipop’s functional additions. The widespread availability of iOS 8 and lack of device fragmentation makes it the better optimized package.

While iOS 8 wins this battle, it will be exciting to see how the platforms influence one another in the next round of OS updates. Expect Apple to adopt Material Design aesthetics and Android to begin a push for their own version of device continuity.

At Mystic Media, we’re constantly engaged in various app design projects. Our expertise reaches across all facets of the industry, be it iOS design, Android design, web design, strategic marketing and beyond. Contact us today by clicking here or by phone at 801.994.6815

App Store Optimization Part 3: Boost Your App’s Profile, Increase Downloads and Generate Better Ratings

In an effort to emphasize the importance of App Store Optimization, the Mystic Media Blog is applying its expertise into a six-part series on the topic. In our previous entry “Master the Art of Writing a Catchy Title and Effective Keywords”, we detailed the ins and outs of the two primary factors in ASO: Title and Keywords. This week, in Part Three, we will focus on the other factors which have less of a direct impact on ASO, but nonetheless are vital to how an app store user perceives your app.

You can control the title of your app, the keywords, and the content of the app itself; however, the amount of downloads and ratings & reviews your app receives might seem out of your control. While they have less of a direct impact on ASO than what we’ve identified as the primary factors: title and keywords, downloads and ratings still retain a big impact on the viewer. A poorly reviewed app is not likely to get downloaded in a competitive environment, and an app with too few reviews and downloads is easy to dismiss. So how do you boost your app’s profile? There are a few tricks we’ll list here, but there is no easy method. Ultimately, a smart, efficient marketing campaign combined with well-executed ASO will boost the profile of your app and create a snowball effect leading to increased popularity.

If an app ranks highly in the app store AND has excellent reviews, regardless of the amount downloads, a user is likely to take a chance on it in hopes of discovering something new and unique rather than settling for the most popular incarnation of the app function they seek.  Studies also show apps with more positive ratings rank higher in the app store. Thus, it’s important for developers to harvest a wealth of positive reviews for their app as they launch an external marketing campaign. The baseline any developer needs to generate positive reviews is a good app, but assuming the app is functional, useful, and intuitive, the trouble becomes coaxing the user into rating your app without coming across as too pushy.

There are a variety of tactics to tackle the ratings problem. Any given developer likely will use social media for promotion, asking their friends and followers to download and rate the app. Many app developers choose to install a code which prompts the user to rate the app. When installing such code, one should make sure the message doesn’t prompt the user until the user has had the app installed for a sufficient amount of time (we recommend at least one week). This increases the likelihood the user enjoys the app and simultaneously eliminates users who install the app briefly.

The developer also has the choice of using either a boring, more standard prompt such as “Would you please rate [insert app name]?” or a more colorful one. Apptentive offers an intelligent ratings prompt which uses messages like “Do you love [insert app name]?” A cheeky message like this only redirects users who have positive feelings about your app to the app store ratings section (if they tap “no”, they are not redirected). Developers are also known to use incentives to boost ratings, such as free points or an alternate avatar in a game.

The app’s profile is ultimately one of the major factors in app marketing which influences the amount of downloads an app receives. The creation of an app’s profile in the app store should be directed with the goal of creating the most enticing presentation for viewers. An app’s profile includes the app icon, screenshots, description, and a video in Google Play. An app icon is worth making a solid investment. App icons should not use words, but should present a compelling image consistent with the UI design and color scheme in the app. Screenshots should demonstrate the most eye-catching visuals as well as display how the app functions. Description should be a concise, attention-grabbing detail of the app’s function and features. As we covered last week, it’s important for descriptions in Google Play to utilize keywords, while curators in Apple’s App Store don’t necessarily search for keywords in app descriptions.

Boosting an app’s number of downloads in service of ASO is tricky. ASO will increase the amount downloads you receive, and yet the amount of downloads will in turn raise your ranking in the search strings. A good marketing campaign backed up by an optimized profile with a top-tier icon and an enticing description will draw viewers in and increase their chances of downloading your app. One of the best ways to improve the profile of your app is to become featured in the app store’s landing page, a prime position which gives your app the most visibility possible. The trick to that… will be covered in the next installment of our ASO blog series. Stay tuned!

At Mystic Media, we have the cross-functional expertise and experience in marketing, mobile application design, and search engine optimization necessary to both create, optimize, and market a hit application. Contact us today by clicking here or by phone at 801.994.6815

Stay Connected: Best Mobile Phones of 2014

Since our post on the top tablets of 2014 was so popular with our readership, we’ve decided to follow-up with an article on the top smartphones of 2014.

The term “mobile” in our industry does not refer to cellular phone, it refers to wherever you are, wherever you want to be.  We live in a world of mobility, where an individual is expected to check his/her email throughout the day, whether they are near a computer or not. Mobile internet access puts a seemingly limitless amount of information and general knowledge at one’s command at any time.  The smartphone has become such an integral part of our daily lives, it’s vital to be equipped with a device capable of boosting one’s general ability to work, post, and consume information on-the-go.  When one understands the device, he/she can make best use of the applications and design.  Here are the leading smartphones on the market right now.

We have dubbed iPhones as the “gourmet” smartphone because of their price and popularity in the US.  One of the major advantages of the iOS operating system with regard to smartphones is the autonomy.  Whereas the Android OS is used for a plethora of devices, Apple limits iOS smartphones to iPhones, assuring all iOS apps will run smoothly on the only device.  The Apple iPhone 5s continues Apple’s reign of dominance in the smartphone field.  While the iPhone 5s has a comparatively slow processor speed (1.3 GHz), screen size (4 inches), and battery life (9 hours, 59 minutes), it is the exclusivity of the iTunes App Store, the intuitive simplicity of the UX design, and the potential of the A7 Processor chip with 64-bit architecture which makes the iPhone 5s THE smartphone to own.

Android is the most popular OS platform and also has the largest variety of devices.  As a result, any given Android app may perform differently on different platforms, unless the app features expert design.  Recently, the Samsung Galaxy S5 has made waves with its ultra-fast 2.5 GHz processor speed, 1920-by-1080 pixel screen resolution and 5.1 inch screen size.  The Galaxy S5 is revered as the most powerful smartphone on the market at the moment.  Alternatively, Samsung also offers the Galaxy Note 3, a “phablet” or phone-tablet hybrid.  The Galaxy Note 3 has a 5.9 inch screen size, 2.3 GHz processor, 1920×1080 display, 18 hour battery life, and uses an S Pen active stylus for handwriting and easy touch screen navigation.

The hottest, newest phone on the market is the Amazon Fire. First launched in Seattle on June 18th, the Amazon Fire phone is currently available for pre-order with expected shipping date of July 25th.  The internet has been buzzing about it, and honestly, it’s not all good.  While the five camera “Dynamic Perspective” tracks your head and to produce 3D-like graphics, many are claiming the phone does more good for Amazon than it does for its user with one of its central features “Firefly” allowing you to scan objects and media and buy them instantly (on Amazon).  Although the consumers have yet to weigh in on the Amazon Fire phone as it has not hit shelves, it’s safe to say it’s not worth the wait.

As we mentioned in our post on top tablets, the Windows OS is best suited for professional use as it seamlessly integrates with Microsoft Office.  At the moment, Nokia has a bit of a monopoly on the Windows OS smartphone market, although HTC has developed a couple phones for the OS.  While HTC’s Windows Phone 8x was the signature device in Microsoft’s roll out of Windows 8.1, the Nokia Lumia Icon is not only the premier Windows phone, it’s also a good value starting from $49.99.  With full 1080p HD video and four high performance microphones, the Nokia Lumia Icon offers an exceptional video and audio recording package. The Lumia Icon also features a 2.26 GHz processor 5 inch screen display, and nearly 15 hour battery life. Of the many Lumia models Nokia has put out, there’s no question the Icon is the way to go.

A smartphone is a tool which strengthens you as an individual, an intellect, and a worker. Those not equipped with the latest technology are at a disadvantage. Rather than be parsimonious, consider a smartphone an investment in a lifestyle and an extension of one’s personal brand.

At Mystic Media, we keep our ear to the ground on the latest hardware and stay up to date on the benefits of each device to ensure we make the most of every application web design.  Contact us today by clicking here or give us a call at 801.994.6815