2016 Feb Tech Considerations

App Development: Native vs. Cross-Platform

Last month we talked about how important it is to conduct market research prior to embarking on an app development project. It’s critical for success to begin with a clear definition of your value proposition and target customer, as the technical requirements for your app should be informed by market needs/desires.

Once those are understood, one of first technical choices you’ll make pertains to which mobile operating system to use. Will your app be available for Android users, iOS users, or both? Your research may make it clear that your target audience has a strong preference for one device type or the other. If not, you can consider other factors like OS market share or OS upgrade adoption rates.

This is an important decision because the answer influences the development tools used to create your app. iOS and Android apps are written using different programming languages, so an app by default will only run on one platform or the other. In many instances, it makes sense to develop for both platforms. When that’s the case, the discussion often turns to the topic of native vs cross-platform development. We firmly believe this is a topic worth discussing with your app development partner, but we’ll share our experience with you so you have a starting point for consideration.

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Tech Innovations to Watch in 2016

We enjoyed a relaxing holiday checking out new gadgets and thinking about what new innovations might make an impact in 2016. Our tech-savvy employees are excited about a wide range of things, including some renewed technology from years past. While an incredible number of amazing items were recently showcased at CES in Las Vegas, our list highlights items our team members might utilize personally. In no particular order, we present our list of tech innovations to watch in 2016.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). While this technology has been around for awhile, hype is building around new AR and VR products to be released this year. Oculus Rift, running on a high-end PC with a powerful graphics card, will be our first choice for experimentation. HTC Vive offers another highly-rated VR experience, and PlayStation VR, running off a PlayStation 4, is also a noteworthy system in the mix.

Apps for Owner’s Manuals. AR is not only for gaming, and we think some of the business oriented uses are pretty compelling. For example, Hyundai updated its Hyundai Virtual Guide with AR, potentially making owner’s manuals a thing of the past. Just point your phone at your car, and the app uses AR to display information that details what you’re looking at.

The Internet of Things. The IoT is “the network of physical objects or ‘things’ embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity, which enables these objects to collect and exchange data.” While IoT also has been around for many years, the use of connected things may rise 30% in 2016. Gartner forecasts that 6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide this year, and we anticipate daily life could be greatly enhanced as a result.

A $5 Computer. Since 2012 the Raspberry Pi Foundation has allowed computer hobbyists to create personal projects using its affordable boards. It recently announced its latest programmable board, called the Raspberry Pi Zero, will be available for only $5. The Pi Zero can be used to connect the computer to home devices, to build inexpensive robots, and to create games.

Smarter Smart TVs. Smart TVs have also been around for years, but have lacked a rich ecosystem of apps to run on them. That should change dramatically in the coming year, now that Apple has allowed the large community of iOS developers to build apps for the latest release of the Apple TV. We anticipate considerable advances in living room and board room TV experiences as a result.

Fitbit Blaze. This smartwatch offers a sleek design, color touch screen and interchangeable watch faces. With more features than the standard Fitbit, and an affordable price, it’s bound to make an impact for fitness and tech enthusiasts.

Podcasting. Serial, a podcast that debuted last October, introduced many new listeners to the medium, and fresh shows and subscriptions followed. The evolution of technology, and the ease with which you can listen to a podcast on your device or in your car, predicts that podcasts are here to stay.

Linux. We have a Linux enthusiast on our team who states, “The Linux Desktop has been solid and mature for a long time, but recently the efforts of polish have really started to show.” Additionally, Swift, a programming language created by Apple for iOS, OS X, watchOS and tvOS development, was recently open-sourced and is now available on Linux. We’re excited to see whether or not developers adopt Swift as a server-side programming language on Linux.

We are eager to see these – and more – new technological innovations come to fruition in the coming year.

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App Development: Market Considerations

The start of the new year tends to be filled with resolutions, and perhaps one of yours is to build that app you’ve been contemplating for so long. App development has exploded over the past several years, so if you have a great idea, it is tempting to rush headlong into a project. Before diving into the technical details, though, we encourage you to spend time clearly defining the opportunity, and reflecting it against existing solutions. This is necessary whether your target user is an internal team or a consumer external to your company. It’s even true for gaming apps, as differentiation is always valuable.

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Holiday Greetings 2015

Wishing you a festive holiday filled with joy and inspiration!

Our designer, Stephanie, snapped the beautiful photo above. We invite you to download the image as a background for your device.

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Blog Dec 2015 Apple TV

A Developer’s Perspective on Creating Apps for the New Apple TV

Apple TV, a digital media player that can receive content from multiple sources and stream it to a TV, was first released almost nine years ago. In October of this year, Apple released the fourth generation of the device with its own “tvOS” operating system. Numerous changes occurred to the platform, and one of the most exciting was Apple’s creation of the Apple TV App Store and the unprecedented invitation to outside developers to create apps for it.    

We couldn’t wait to experiment with coding on this new device, and two of our app developers jumped right in to test out the experience. Apple hopes to see the new Apple TV impact everything from entertainment to gaming to business, so we explored some simple apps in two of those areas.

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NewCo Boulder 2015: 8 Lessons Learned

NewCo took Boulder by storm last week and the team at InspiringApps enjoyed participating in the varied presentations around town. We were encouraged at QuickLeft to be intentional about diversity, and glad to see others such as Pivotal Labs committed to lean methodologies. We also enjoyed a tour at eTown, got recruiting tips from Turning the Corner, and one of us even tried brussels sprouts for the first time at the Made in Nature session!

Not only did we learn about our neighbors and the cool and innovative things they’re working on, but we also hosted a session in our office. Our CEO, Brad Weber, presented “8 Lessons Learned in 8 Years of Making Mobile Apps.” As Brad shared a few pivotal stories from our history, he drew out key concepts and provided some salient wisdom for any entrepreneur or business leader:

Don’t partner when you can hire. Although starting alone can feel daunting, hiring may be a better way to begin. A partnership is a serious and long-term relationship and, as the team at TechStars also noted, it’s important to know as much about a potential co-founder as one does about a potential life partner.

Hire with an eye toward the future – but not the distant future. Resources are limited in the early days, so it’s important to be thoughtful about what skills can take the company to the next horizon.

Building a team of employees is hard work, but worth it. Using contractors seems to offer the promise of less risk, but it has its own set of challenges.  Investing in an all-employee team can lead to better cohesion, mutual commitment, and lots of fun!

There is value in working under one (leaky) roof. Flexible out-of-office hours are a key part of our culture, but we gain a lot by also having one space in which to collaborate together.

Without project management, there is chaos. It’s tempting to forego the overhead of project management, but a client-based business benefits greatly from such leadership.

Lean is a better approach to development. A desire to get things just right causes many companies to invest too much and wait too long to release a product. Using small, iterative steps enables a company to be more nimble – and gain better market feedback along the way

Align costs and revenues to bid projects. Instead of fixed bids, we often found it better to use high-level estimates for the whole project, then time and materials for a given sprint.

It’s a delicate balance between product work and custom development work. Client work pays the bills, but it can’t drive all the priorities in resource allocation. Maintaining steady progress toward other goals (in our case, product development) is required to keep the momentum going.

If you’d like to learn more details about what Brad shared, contact us and we’d be happy to share. 

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InspiringApps Wins a Prestigious Tabby Award

We’re excited to share that the retail merchandising app we created for SmartWool was named the 2015 winner of the Tabby Award /Business in the iPad App: Data Access & Collection category! We are thrilled to join ranks with other companies who have been in the winners circle like Citrix, SAP, Morningstar, RosettaStone, and Adobe.

The Tabby Award /Business is the only global competition that recognizes the top enterprise and business apps in the industry. Apps are evaluated on numerous criteria, including overall business value, user experience, design, innovation, tablet optimization, and performance. As a company that strives to demonstrate best practices in leveraging technology, we are honored that other industry leaders recognize our commitment to excellence.

An international panel of 24 judges reviewed over 150 apps before selecting the winners. With more than 300,000 business apps collectively available on Android and iOS devices, winners are positioned in the top 0.01% of all apps. “The lineup of apps this year was incredibly impressive,” noted judging panel chair Carson Conant, CEO of Mediafly. “The slate of apps this year brought the perfect mix of business utility and the clean interfaces that you see in the best consumer apps.”

The SmartWool app leverages the extensive experience we have in helping organizations of all sizes to collect, access, and successfully employ business-critical data. This expertise was recognized by the judging panel, who stated, “We immediately recognized the value of the SmartWool FSR app for streamlining field data collection, decreasing reporting time, and improving store service. We found the app to be highly intuitive with clear dashboards and reporting.”

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As you may recall, a sales presentation app that we developed in conjunction with Gulfstream Aerospace was also one of two finalists for a different Tabby Award.  In this case, we must tip our hat to Adobe for winning the iPad App: Marketing & Presentation category. Congratulations!

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The Tabby Awards: Honoring the Best in App Development

We are so excited and humbled to have our work commended by The Tabby Awards! The Tabby Awards /Business is the only worldwide competition designed to honor the best mobile apps for businesses and professionals. 

Over 150 apps were evaluated this year and just 40 iPad-optimized apps were selected as nominees for the final round. Submissions are judged on a number of factors, including user experience, innovation, design, performance and reliability, and the business value that they add to an organization. Only those that excel in multiple categories move forward. Nominees and winners are selected by an international panel of independent app experts.

An app we developed for Gulfstream Aerospace was nominated in the Marketing and Presentation category. Gulfstream is renown for creating and delivering the world’s finest aviation experience, and they wanted this client touchpoint to reflect their commitment to excellence. Built as a sophisticated mobile education tool, the app showcases the aesthetics of the jet’s interior and exterior, explains Gulfstream’s technological advances, shares critical performance characteristics, and introduces the company’s award-winning customer support. 

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Another app, developed for leading outdoor brand SmartWool, is a contender in the Data Access & Collection category. The app is used by SmartWool’s field sales reps to improve their effectiveness at retail merchandising.  Merchandising plays a critical role in the sell-through of products, but is time-consuming and error prone. Reps are able to use the app to quickly capture and share information about point-of-sale (POS) signage, displays, and stock levels. In addition to cutting reporting time in half, the app helps them to service accounts more quickly.

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While different in their function, both apps are valuable sales enablement tools that are making a difference to those who use them.

Learn more about these projects and others by visiting our Clients page.

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Chat with the Google Small Business Community

Brad led a lively online discussion with the Google Small Business community, fielding questions ranging in topic from the “app graveyard” to a frequently asked question about the cost to build an app.

It was a first for InspiringApps to participate in this type of forum and we had a lot of fun with it. The Google moderator, Berrak, started the discussion off with a question to distinguish between a mobile app and a mobile website and we kept rolling from there. Participation from the community included questions about the Upbeat Workouts app to “going big” with your app right out of the gate.

Thank you to all who participated and to our Google moderator, Berrak Sarikaya. You can read the full hour’s worth of discussion here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/events/cenmae20j1522psnqvifhs2idd0

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Mobile Apps 101 with Google

Need to learn some basics about app development and whether it makes sense for your company? Our CEO will be speaking with the Google Small Business Community on Wednesday, June 17 at 2:00 MDT.  Google has numerous community forums, and this one was created to help small businesses get the help they need to succeed on the web by connecting with experts and each other. They provide ongoing training, compelling discussions, and insider tips.

The group describes the upcoming event this way: “The average smartphone user has 33 apps installed on their device. Should your business be their next download? During our June #Mobile #OfficeHours, we’ll be discussing the differences between mobile websites and mobile apps, and the potential value a mobile app could bring to your small business. Join us as we speak with Brad Weber from InspiringApps, a mobile app developer for small businesses.”

We’re looking forward to the discussion around the topics that arise during this hour and encourage you to join in. Check out the event here.

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