Tag Archives: Developers

How Wearables Help Fight Covid-19

Man hands with watch and phone with app health

The Covid-19 pandemic forced lifestyle changes to the global population unlike any other event in recent history. As companies like Amazon and Zoom reap major profits from increased demand for online ordering and teleconferencing, wearable app developers are taking a particular interest in how they can do their part to help quell the pandemic.

It’s easy to take a wearable device that tracks key health metrics and market it as helping to detect Covid-19. It’s much harder to create a device with a proven value in helping prevent the spread of the disease. Here’s our rundown of what you need to know about how wearables can help fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

WEARABLES CANNOT DIAGNOSE COVID-19

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In an ideal world, your smartwatch could analyze your body on a molecular level to detect whether you have Covid-19. Technology has not evolved, yet, to where this is possible. The only way to diagnose Covid-19 is through a test administered by a health-care professional.

Fortunately, there are several ways in which wearables can help fight the spread of Covid-19 that do not involve direct diagnosis.

WEARABLES CAN DETECT EARLY SYMPTOMS

Wearables make it easy for their users to monitor general health conditions and deviations from their norms. Although wearables cannot detect the difference between the flu and Covid-19, they can collect data which indicates early symptoms of an illness and warns their users.

Fitbit CEO James Park hopes the device will eventually sense these changes in health data and instruct users to quarantine 1-3 days before symptoms start and to follow-up for confirmation with a coronavirus test.

Oura Ring

Oura Ring

Another big player in the Covid-19 wearables space is the Oura ring. The Oura ring is a smart ring that tracks activity, sleep, temperature, pulse, and heart rate. Since the outbreak, it has emerged as a major tool for detecting early symptoms like increased resting heart rate. Most notably, NBA players in Orlando, Florida use the device to monitor their health and detect early symptoms.

WEARABLES HELP KEEP FRONTLINE HEALTH WORKERS SAFE

John A. Rogers, a biomedical engineer at Northwestern University, has been developing a wearable patch that attaches to the user’s throat and helps monitor coughing and respiratory symptoms like shortness of breath.

Wearable patch developed by John A. Rogers of Northwestern University

Wearable patch developed by John A. Rogers of Northwestern University

One of the planned uses of this wearable is to protect frontline health-care workers by detecting if they contract the virus and become sick.

In addition, wearables can help monitor symptoms in hospitalized patients. This will reduce the chance of spreading the infection and exposing infected patients to workers.

ASYMPTOMATIC CARRIERS ARE ANOTHER STORY

Although wearables can collect and identify health data that points toward potential infections, recognizing asymptomatic carriers of the Coronavirus is another story. When carriers show no symptoms, the only way to determine if they have been infected is through a test.

TAKEAWAY

Unless there are significant technological leaps in Covid-19 testing, wearables will not be able to detect infections directly. However, they can help catch symptoms early to prevent the spread. Their ability to assist the pandemic represents a major growth sector. We look forward to seeing how wearable developers will innovate to protect the health of users and our future.

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

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

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

DEVELOPING FOR SIRI

iOS 10 Siri Payment (via idownloadblog.com)

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

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

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

IMESSAGE EXTENSIONS

iMessage iOS 10 Gaming via 9 to 5 Mac

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

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

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

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

APPLE MAPS

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

PARTNERSHIP WITH CISCO AND IMPROVED COLLABORATION

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

TAKEAWAYS

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

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

Climbing Yosemite: Apple’s New OS Reaches New Heights

Apple recently released the long awaited OS X Yosemite. In Bite the Apple: Maximize iOS 8 to Vanquish Your Competition  and Tilting the Playing Field: iPhone 6 Technology Expands Possibilities for iOS App Developers, we covered  some of the highly-anticipated features in Yosemite, including a host of opportunities for cross-device Continuity. This week, we take an in-depth look at OS X  Yosemite and what it means for developers.

AESTHETICS

You shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but when it comes to operating systems, aesthetics matter (check out our article Impervious Appeal: How to Design Jaw-Dropping iOS Apps). Yosemite’s UI remains consistent with Apple aesthetics and makes an effort to push the concept of flat design further. It’s even more minimal; the icons are flatter; the windows are more translucent. A great example of the evolution from Mavericks to Yosemite is a comparison between their Calendar icons:

Yosemite Calendar Icon

Mavericks Calender Icon

 

 

(left is Yosemite, right is Mavericks)

via Apple Developer Library

Whereas Mavericks had a more skeuomorphic design on its Calendar icon, Yosemite is flat. The texture seems impossibly smooth. There’s a minor depth and shadow, but no effort to enumerate the pages, nor a two-hole binder holding the pages together. The Yosemite icon represents the calendar as a digital block. The colors are brighter and the text is crisper and more symmetrical throughout the Yosemite UI. The font is an optimized version of Helvetica Neue used throughout Yosemite, a big switch over from Lucida Grande of the past. Developers, take note and utilize these aesthetics to create apps which integrate seamlessly into the Yosemite environment.

SWIFT

iOS 8 and the iPhone 6 arrived with Metal, a graphics layer for iOS development. Yosemite launches with Swift, a multi-paradigm, compiled programming language optimized for iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite app design. Swift has been in development over the past four years and may replace Objective-C as the main language for app design on Apple’s OS X and iOS platforms. Several apps have already been built with Swift, including LinkedIn and Yahoo Weather.

Programmers, learn more about Swift over at The Guardian.

CONTINUITY

OS X Yosemite begins Apple’s push toward complete device Continuity. The concept of Continuity entails one should be able to switch devices and complete the same tasks on any Apple device without hassle. So if I’m writing an email on my MacBook, I should be able to go into another room and seamlessly finish it on my iPad without having to save or close the message. One of the simpler, but more effective ways in which Apple introduces this concept is allowing users to answer calls on their MacBooks when their phones are within a certain radius.

Another major push for Continuity in Yosemite is the Instant Hotspot feature. Instant Hotspot allows MacBooks to connect with the cellular network on their iPhones when no other Wi-Fi network is available. It also conveniently shuts down inactive iPhones when in-use. The big advancement for Continuity, however, is the application Handoff.

Handoff is among the most exciting new features of Yosemite and the major aspect of Apple’s push for Continuity. Once you get through the confusing set-up, Handoff proves to be a practical application of the concept. When you’re working on a task on your MacBook, an icon appears on your iPhone/iPad lock screen which allows you to immediately pick up whatever task you were working on using the MacBook without losing a beat. It also works the other way, with the Handoff icon appearing to the left of the Dock on your MacBook when you’re switching over from an iPhone/iPad. With Continuity, devices are constantly communicating to better serve the user. Continuity represents a major advancement designed to get users completely consumed in the world of Apple devices. Although Handoff has its kinks, it effectively executes the Continuity concept and ultimately proves to be the biggest, most exciting advancement in OS X Yosemite.

CONCLUSION

Overall, OS X Yosemite is a major step forward for Apple products and aesthetics. It retains a cool look, intuitive functionality, and its steps toward complete device Continuity are clearly indicative of technology of the future. Apple has already put together a featured list on their App Store of Great Apps for OS X Yosemite, it will be exciting to see how app developers follow Apple’s lead and take advantage of the latest OS to enhance their apps.

Mystic Media is an app development and marketing firm specializing in both iOS & Android development, and more. Learn more by clicking here or by phone at 801.994.6815.

Tilting the Playing Field: iPhone 6 Technology Expands Possibilities for iOS App Developers

The release of a new iPhone is always a major event. Apple is the most innovative and well-respected tech company in the world. This year, they’ve  already  released the iOS 8 (review our recent post Bite the Apple: Maximize iOS 8 to Vanquish Your Competition). Now, they’ve taken things a step further by unveiling not one, but two models for the latest iPhone: the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. The day Apple made the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus available, they were backordered for a month. Sales numbers aren’t in yet, but first weekend sales for the iPhone 5 were over 5 million. For iOS developers, it’s safe to say the playing field has changed. Here’s what you need to know about the new iPhones to stay ahead of your competition:

COMPARISON

For starters, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are separated by size and functionality. The iPhone 6 Plus is a phablet, teetering the line between smartphone and tablet with a larger screen (5.5 inch vs. 4.7 inch), more precise display (1920×1080 vs. 1334×750), better battery, and slightly higher price tag ($199 vs. $299) than the standard iPhone 6 counterpart. The iPhone 6 will satisfy the casual consumer, while the iPhone 6 Plus is a must-have for the hardcore techies and upscale buyers who need the latest and greatest.

SCREEN DISPLAY

For developers, among the biggest changes will be the screen size. Android developers have been dealing with device fragmentation for years. Unlike the transition from iPhone 4 to 5, in which the aspect ratio changed from 3:2 to 16:9, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus increase screen size from iPhone 5 while maintaining a 16:9 aspect ratio. This means there’s no black bars at either end of the screen when viewing content optimized for iPhone 5.

iPhone 6 and 6 Plus screens are not only larger, they are also better. Screens will now boast the notorious HD Retina Display currently available on MacBooks. For more on Retina Display, check out this article over at Tech Radar summarizing the details.

Another of the major factors which may cause developers to redesign their apps the latest models is the iPhone 6 Plus’s enhanced ability to display in landscape mode. Previous models didn’t have the screen space to effectively display much in anything other than portrait mode. The 6 Plus allows for the home screen to display in landscape mode in an iPad-like split view. Developers will have to take note of the increased screen real-estate and perhaps redesign their apps to creatively utilize the landscape mode.

TECHNOLOGY SPECS

Both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are fully loaded with an A8 chip featuring second-generation 64-bit desktop-class architecture, enhanced by an M8 motion coprocessor designed to efficiently measure user activity using advanced sensors. This allows the user to do more for longer periods of time. The A8 boasts 50x faster CPU performance and 84x GPU performance. The increased battery life on iPhone 6 can browse the web using LTE and 3G networks for 10 hours on standard models and 12 hours on iPhone 6 Plus.

METAL

Here’s the literal game-changer developers: in order to maximize the graphics performance out of the A8 chip and iOS 8, Apple is introducing Metal, a state-of-the-art program allowing CPU and GPU to work together to deliver top-tier graphics and complex visual effects. Metal provides the lowest-overhead access to GPU, features a streamlined API, compiled shaders, and support for efficient multi-threading. We’re excited to get working in the new program.

For more info, check out Apple’s Metal developer guide and this informative article over on GameFromScratch.

CAMERA

On their website, Apple boasts “The camera that changed photos now does the same for video.” It is quite a bold statement. The iPhone 6 iSight cameras now shoot real-time 1080p HD video at 60 frames per second, in addition to slow-motion video at 240 frames per second. The larger screen and HD Retina display certainly makes for a better viewing experience. The iPhone 6 Plus offers optical image stabilization, which stabilizes recorded images by varying the optical path to the sensor, making for smoother motion in video.

The iPhone 6 camera resolution remains at 8MP with the same sensor dimensions, pixel size, and lens specs found on iPhone 5s. The larger screen makes for a more detailed viewing area, but many Android users also enjoy larger screens. Apple has also made a major improvement to the iPhone’s ability to shoot at night with higher aperture and wider focal length, making for more crisper images. Compared side-by-side with the Galaxy S5, iPhone 5s, and Moto X, iPhone 6 takes the cake with most consistent results.

TOUCH ID and APPLE PAY 

Much has been said about Apple’s attempts to utilize fingerprint scanning technology as a security measure. The iPhone 6, in conjunction with iOS 8, puts into effect Touch ID: a fingerprint scanning technology which allows the user’s unique fingerprint to be used as a passcode to enter the iPhone, as well as to approve of purchases when used in conjunction with Apple Pay.

Apple Pay, expected release coming later in October, will scan your credit and debit card information to store it in your phone,  utilize Near Field Communication to make transactions in-stores, and allow users to approve purchases through Touch ID fingerprint scanning. The efficient combination of Apple Pay and Touch ID  may revolutionize check-out lines across the world.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

Overall, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have improved in every sense over the iPhone 5. The increased screen-size and graphics capabilities provided by Metal have opened the door for developers to create high-tech graphics on a larger canvas. The camera shoots better in low-light and the optical image stabilization makes for smoother video. The slow-motion video capabilities are sure to light up the social media landscape. The combination of Touch ID and Apple Pay make the process of purchasing, both online and off, indelibly easy. Apple has once again changed the playing field for hardware. Now, the question is how iOS app developers and their competition will keep up.

Mystic Media is an app development, marketing, and web design firm providing a host of services to clients, from Android and iOS Development, Strategic Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, and more. 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