Want Your Mobile App to be a Hit? Copy These Guys.

Mashable posted a great summary of mobile companies that are killing it right now – and suggests that if you want to obtain similar success, that you should copy what they’re doing. Well, maybe not copy entirely, but you get the idea. One example they gave was that of Path’s sliding navigation. Take a look:

One of the most common modern mobile and tablet UI conventions is the slide-out navigation panel. Rather than having floating menus or relying solely on upper or lower tabs, users can slide to the left or right of the screen to bring up an extended vertical menu of options or notifications.

The method was first introduced by Facebook in its iPad app, but since then, dozens (if not hundreds) of apps for iOS and Android have started to employ the feature. Ken Yarmosh details some common use cases of this design pattern on his blog.

For us, the prime example of the best way to use this sort of UI pattern is Path for iPhone [iTunes link] and Android [Google Play link].

What we love about Path’s approach is that the slide-outs work on both the left and right side of the app. Sliding in from the left brings up typical menus and user-level notifications. Sliding out from the right brings up friends details and search.

Path — like most apps that employ the slide-out feature — also aligns the slide animation to top buttons — which is great for users that don’t know how to use the feature, or for accessibility purposes.

Read the rest here >>>

Are You Suffering From a Mobile Addiction?

You can’t function without it – sleeping beside it every night and checking on it every couple of minutes. No, I am not talking about your significant other; I am talking about your mobile device.

Are you suffering from a mobile addiction? If you answered “yes” to any of the following questions, mostly likely you are:

  • Do you sleep with your mobile device in arms reach?
  • Do you check your phone every 30 minutes?
  • How about every 10?
  • Do you panic when you leave your phone behind?
  • Does the thought of being without your mobile device make you nervous?

A recent poll done by Time Magazine confirms that most of us do indeed have an addiction to our mobile devices. The study states that 1 in 4 people check their mobile devices every 30 minutes, and 1 in 5 check it every 10 minutes. In addition, three-quarters of those in their late 20s sleep with their mobile devices beside them.

As written by Nancy Gibbs in Time Magazine:

“A third of respondents admitted that being without their mobile for even short periods leaves them feeling anxious. It is a form of sustenance, that constant feed of news and notes and nonsense, to the point that twice as many people would pick their phone over their lunch if forced to choose.”

What are your thoughts on Time’s study, and how has technology changed your life? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

 

The Starbucks VS Dunkin Donuts Rivalry Goes Mobile

Most coffee drinkers know the decision-making process well; is today a Starbucks or a Dunkin Donuts day? As of today, despite which coffee chain you choose, the purchasing process is easier than ever. Both coffee chains have gone mobile with mobile payment apps.

The Starbuck’s mobile-payment app is a very popular one, and has been available for years, known as “Starbucks’ Mobile Coffee Card”. The app can find a Starbucks near you, let you pay for your coffee with your app and can access your loyalty and rewards points.

Now, you can also pay for your Dunkin Donuts coffee via mobile app, with the new Dunkin Donuts app for iOS and Android.

Al Sacco on CIO’s Blog says the Dunkin App could be a mobile payment game changer, but might not be 100% in-the-wild-friendly:

“The Dunkin’ apps are notable because Starbucks’ app is one of the few mobile-payment apps that consumers have embraced, and if the Dunkin app is similarly well-received, the two coffee-chains could prove to be significant motivators in the acceptance of mobile payments in general.

One potential problem: Dunkin’ Donuts locations must have the appropriate scanners and systems to process the digital barcode information. The Starbucks mobile app has been available for quite a while, and I still occasionally find locations that do not have the equipment needed to scan the mobile payment app. The Dunkin’ app is brand new, so I can only assume it will take some time for the company, or each franchise, to roll out the scanners.

What are your thoughts on mobile payment apps? Let us know in the comments section.

4 Apps Perfect for Shark Week

Shark Week Plus appShark week may be almost over, but there’s still time to submerge yourself even further into the salty deep populated by giant predators – and these apps will help you do it!

These first apps, highlighted by All Things D, are novelty and game apps that willl  help you get into the spirit.

Jaws Revenge (iOS)
In this addictive linear game, you’re the shark, and you’re out to kill — fish, people, buoys, boats — to keep your energy up, earn coins, and progress to the next level. A “frenzy” puts your shark on steroids for a fast-paced feeding session. The shark jumps high enough to catch birds flying overhead, and emits angry noises that make it sound more like a rabid dog than a giant fish, which is pretty much what you’d expect from a gamified version of a Hollywood-made shark.

Shark Bite Me (iOS)
This app applies gruesome shark-bite effects to any photo, with a variety of different bites available, like Tasty Tear, Chunky Chomp and Nasty Nibble.

The app, which is made by U.K.-based digital media company Moshen, also offers shark myths and facts (did you know that there are approximately 400 species of sharks?).

Shark Week Bingo
This free Web app from Discovery prompts you to log in through Facebook, indicate which Shark Week program you’re watching, and from there, play a fun, competitive game of Bingo with other viewers. …

 As items appear on the screen during the program, you select a box with that item — a shark fin, or a life jacket, or a seal, for example — the goal is to get five boxes in a row checked off.

Read more at All Things D >>>

If you want the official experience, check out Discovery’s Shark Week Plus (iOS only). The app features behind-the-scenes notes and videos, exclusive photos and interactive features like trivia, polls and games. Happy Shark Week!

Don’t Rely On Apple’s Baked-In Security

All the eggs in one basketNot that there’s anything wrong with Apple’s built-in mobile security features – it’s the opposite actually. It turns out that developers are relying almost entirely on the OS’ security and not bothering to build out security at the app-level, according to a CNN article. Putting all your eggs in one basket makes it pretty easy to break a lot of eggs at once. From CNN Money:

With thousands of apps in the iTunes App store all featuring the same exact security features, one single vulnerability could have a domino effect.

“Security is now an afterthought for many app developers,” said Jonathan Zdziarski, senior forensic scientist at viaForensics, in a presentation at the Black Hat cybersecurity conference in Las Vegas on Thursday. “That means if you hack one, you can hack them all.”

Read the full article at CNN >>>

It’s not likely that someone will hack all the apps on your phone at once (they’d need to have access to your phone then find and exploit a security hole within iOS), but the point is that app developers shouldn’t rely on something that is totally out of their hands. App developers have nothing to do with iOS security testing and thus have no insight into what is done, how it’s done or anything that might have been overlooked. If a vulnerability is discovered (which isn’t common with iOS but isn’t unheard of either) developers have no control over how quickly a patch is pushed. Essentially, you’re letting someone else control your fate.

By not building security into your app, and thoroughly testing that security, you’re leaving your users susceptible to hackers – and wronged users aren’t going to point the finger at Apple if a vulnerability is exploited and their information if exposed through your app, they’re going to blame you. Would you leave your doors unlocked just because you have a fence around your house? Sure, it may be a high fence, but a determined robber will find a way around it.

uTest Acquires Mobile Testing Tool Apphance

In case you missed the biggest news of the day, uTest (the brilliant, talented and incredibly attractive people behind this blog) acquired Apphance – an awesome mobile testing tool.

Since this is a mobile app testing blog this is definitely something you’re going to want to learn more about. Here’s an overview of some of Apphance’s coolest features.

Over-The-Air App Distribution

This one is huge for anyone developing a mobile app where build updates happen frequently. With over-the-air app distribution, you can upload a new build and your testers will be able to download an update either within the app or via email. That means they’re not wasting time testing an out-of-date version of your app or trying to get updates installed on their device.

Devices in ApphanceWhile app distribution is just for pre-production apps, having Apphance track your builds can be very useful for everyone from pre-production to production users. Apphance will keep track of your different builds, so it can tie crash reports and bug data to individual app versions. That means that you’ll be able to see how a given version of your app is performing in testing and in-the-wild. You can even choose to ignore reports from older versions of your app and just focus on data from the latest builds, which is perfect for production apps where there are always users who forget to upgrade from their app store.

Crash Reporting

Apphance Crash ReportNobody likes it when their app crashes, but figuring out why it crashed can be incredibly challenging. Even if the developer is holding the device in their hands, the exact reason the app crashed may not be apparent without extracting the buried system and crash logs.

Apphance solves this by detecting crashes and sending crash reports to the Apphance servers in the cloud. Developers can not only see which versions of their app have crashes, but they can even see the details about why the app crashed. Apphance also lets the developer manually log their own status messages, making it easy to track activities that are significant to individual apps. A developer can then go back and review the steps leading up to specific crashes.

Along with the crash report, Apphance will also send some additional data about the state of the device and the app. The exact data it sends depends on whether Apphance is running in pre-production mode or production mode. In pre-production mode, Apphance will send as much detail as possible, while in production mode Apphance sends a more limited amount of detail out of respect for the users’ privacy. You can learn more about the exact details Apphance sends from our help topics.

In-App Bug Reporting

Apphance Bug ReportWhen testers discover bugs in mobile apps, it can be difficult to capture the needed screenshots, write notes about the steps to reproduce the bug, and then enter all that into a bug tracking system that’s usually opened on a completely separate device. Apphance changes all that, allowing testers to report bugs from within the app itself. All the tester needs to do is shake the device (or any other mechanism the developer can specify), and Apphance will begin the bug reporting process. Apphance will take screenshots and get the details from the tester, all without ever leaving the app.

When the bug gets submitted, Apphance includes the same information as a crash report. That means developers can see the state of the device and the app, along with any additional logging information they add manually.

User Feedback

Even the best apps can have frustrated users, and inevitably frustrated users write negative reviews. Apphance gives developers a new tool to listen to user complaints from within the app. When a user is frustrated or having trouble, they can send their concerns directly to the developer using Apphance’s user feedback feature.

Conclusion

All this adds up to Apphance being one incredible mobile quality tool. Developers for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Kindle, and Nook now have a tool that can distribute their builds to testers, track crashes and bugs in the wild, and get feedback from customers. To learn more about Apphance, check out the website or read the online help topics.

Protecting Your Digital Life From Hackers

We use mobile apps to access just about everything, including linking them to our online accounts. Good developers use thorough testing to keep our personal data safe, but not all developers are “good developers”. By linking our accounts to mobile apps without knowing the app is trustworthy and has been tested, we put ourselves in line to be hacked.

Wired reporter Mat Honan saw the worst of it when his digital life was destroyed by hackers:

“In the space of one hour, my entire digital life was destroyed. First my Google account was taken over, then deleted. Next my Twitter account was compromised, and used as a platform to broadcast racist and homophobic messages. And worst of all, my AppleID account was broken into, and my hackers used it to remotely erase all of the data on my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook.”

Security testing is necessary. Hackers exist just waiting to try to find a good security hole in a mobile app. As we move towards the cloud, it is more important than ever to make sure our accounts and the ways we access them are secure.

Have you ever been hacked? Tell us your story in the comments section.

Bye-Bye Flash for Android

Flash for Android DiscontinuedAs of today Adobe Flash for Android is no longer available for download through Google Play.

If you haven’t already downloaded it you’re out of luck. If you do have Flash already installed on your Android you’ll continue to get security updates, but that’s about it. And the reprieve for those who already have Flash will only last for so long. Google opted to not include Flash support in its newest OS version, so as users upgrade to Jelly Bean 4.1 (and eventually beyond) Flash will cease to work at all.

For now Adobe has released a list of device/OS combinations that still support Flash. The list contains more than 500 Android options sporting OS versions ranging from Froyo 2.2 to Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0.

This development isn’t out of left field. With the rise of HTML5, and Apple’s refusal to make their devices Flash compatible, Adobe had a harder and harder time keeping the software pertinent within the mobile world. The official announcement of Flash for Android’s demise came earlier this summer and gave interested users some time to download Flash before it disappeared from Google Play for good. But not that date has come and gone.

QWERTY Keyboards Popular Outside US

Nokia Survey GraphIn what appears to be a fairly informal survey, Nokia has discovered that mobile users prefer a keyboard over any other data input methods. Nokia conducted the survey on its blog and apparently got enough feedback to be able to determine that while users in the United States are partial to touchscreens, the rest of the world would rather use a QWERTY keyboard. In fact, the stats are almost mirror images.

Overall:
48.64% QWERTY Keyboard
34.69% Touchscreen

US:
47.22% Touchscreen
33.3% QWERTY Keyboard

In case you’re wondering, the other options presented in the survey were numerical keypad and voice command.

Here’s a bit more about the survey, from Gigaom:

The results are a little surprising to me although it’s difficult to put too much stock in them. Nokia doesn’t say how many poll responses it received and let’s face it: Nokia was among the last to adopt full touchscreens on its phones and didn’t seem to want to bulk up many prior models with full QWERTY keyboards. Instead, it relied upon numeric keypad entry for the bulk of its devices in efforts to keep devices smaller.

So while you would assume that the majority of survey participants are Nokia users (the survey was conducted on Nokia’s blog after all) it doesn’t appear that they are defaulting to the features Nokia itself tends toward.

To read more about the survey and its results, check out the Gigaom article >>>

This does bring up an interesting implication though. If the results are true and users outside the US prefer physical keyboards, that will effect how apps work in different target markets. Whether your initial target market is outside the US or you’re localizing a pre-existing app, be sure to test using both touchscreens and keyboards.

Will Smartphone Technology Replace Medical Devices?

Picture this – you walk into your doctor’s office for your yearly physical and instead of the classic stethoscope, the nurse measures your heart rate with an app. It might sound crazy, but this could be the future of health care.

There is a new mobile app, called Cardiio, which measures your heart rate. The app doesn’t require any contact aside from positioning the phone so that the camera captures your face. The app’s camera picks up changes in the color of your face, therefore assessing your heart rate.

Kim-Mai Cutler of TechCrunch tested the app out herself:

“‘We can measure the amount of light reflected across your face,’ said co-founder Ming-Zher Poh. ‘The more blood that flows into your face, the more it absorbs light. This is reflected off your face every time your heart beats and the camera is actually good enough to pick it up.’

In a few tests of my own, it matched the resting pulse I was able to pick up by counting my heart beats for one minute.

The company hopes to expand out to other contact-free software that measures other health information.

What do you think? Will mobile apps replace medical devices? Let us know in the comments section.