Jakob Nielsen on the Problem With Native Apps

Despite the overwhelming evidence that shows native apps are more popular than the mobile web, we should remind ourselves that native apps are not without their flaws. Here’s noted usability expert Jakob Nielsen on the problem with native apps:

Apps have the obvious downside of requiring more development resources, especially to be truly optimized for each device. If a company doesn’t have enough resources to do this right, it’s better to have a nice mobile site than a lame app.

A second downside of apps is that users have to install them. Our testing shows poor findability and usability in Apple’s Application Store, and many users won’t even bother downloading something at all for intermittent use. So ask yourself whether you’re really offering something within the hardcore mobile center of need: time-sensitive and/or location dependent, and whether your offer is truly compelling in this crowded space. Most companies are never going to make it big in mobile. In some cases all they need is to make their main website somewhat mobile-friendly. Many others should deliver a dedicated mobile site but not bother with apps.

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What You Need to Know About iOS 6

Apple’s iOS 6 is coming this fall, and the new operating system intends on improving existing features and adding a few interesting new ones. So what will be different? Thomas Claburn of InformationWeek pulled some major changes worth knowing about. Here are some highlights:

  • Adois, YouTube: Apple will not be including the YouTube app in their new OS.
  • Goodbye, RSS: There will no longer be RSS feeds in iOS 6 Safari.
  • New Call/Text Capabilities: The new changes allow you to decline a phone call with preset or custom text messages.
  • FaceTime Wifi-Free:The iOS video messaging service, FaceTime, will also function over a cellular data connection- which means it will probably cost money.
  • Improved Siri: In iOS 6 Siri will be more useful, and will be able to interact with tweets and launch other apps – among other things.
  • New Maps: Apple has purchased three online map companies in the past few years, and iOS 6 maps will depend on apple’s own geographic data.

Heard any other news about iOS 6? Let us know in the comments section.

10 Apps for Improving Your Health

Looking to improve your health? There’s an app for that – actually several.

A recent post by Doctor Joseph Kim, in Network World, presents a list of the top 10 mobile health and wellness apps:

  1. Pedometer – Start quantifying your level of activity and track how far you walk
  2. Endomondo Sports Tracker - Track your workout progress, heart rate and burned calories
  3. Fitness Buddy – Learn how to exercise properly with the right form, or learn new workouts from a library of more than 1,700 exercises
  4. White Noise Lite – Drown out distracting sounds with white noise so you can sleep soundly
  5. Calorie Counters - There are loads of popular calorie counting apps such as Calorie Counter, Lose It!, MyPlate, and Tap & Track Calorie Counter
  6. Meal Snap - Snap a photo of your meal and find out how many calories are in it
  7. WebMD - This app is a comprehensive health app with features like Symptom Checker
  8. iTriage - Find the nearest hospital or care using this app,  and even check wait times in different emergency rooms
  9. Pill Reminders - This app provides set reminders for remembering to take your pills
  10. My Medical - Keep track of your medical history with this application

What’s your favorite wellness app? Let us know in the comments section.

 

Common Mobile App Mistakes to Avoid

Believe it or not, there are actually mobile app mistakes that don’t involve testing. Radar O’Reilly lists ten of them in this great article. Here are the first three:

Mistake 1. Begin coding immediately

Many fail in the mobile space because they start developing their app as soon as they have an idea. In the extreme case, those with programming skills will actually start coding the app immediately. The first steps, however, should be focused on business and strategy aspects; pixels and design or coding and development come later in the process.

Mistake 2. Ignore competitors and alternatives

One of those business and strategy aspects that many pursuing apps ignore is to identify and use competitor apps. Understanding what competitors do well and where they’ve come up short will provide guidance on what features to develop and how to differentiate an app. Similarly, learning from top apps in app stores or even real-world alternatives, can reveal opportunities for innovation.

Mistake 3. Be purposeless

Wanting a million dollars shouldn’t be the sole motivation for building an app. At the same time, app stores are likely one of the best places to pursue a new venture right now. Ultimately though, it is still a new venture and any new venture comes with a certain amount of risk. Outlining clear short- and long-term goals, that are aspirational yet attainable, will provide a much better foundation for success.

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Reality TV Voting App Crashed By Load

Please Stand ByPeople love reality TV. People also love an underdog story. So it it any wonder that viewing audiences flock to talent contest-esque shows that let them vote for their favorites? This phenomena is nothing new, but what was new a few years ago was the option to text your vote instead of sitting on an old fashioned phone line. What’s the next logical step after text-to-vote? Why, an app of course! Except apps require quite a bit more testing than the time-tested texting network. Unfortunately, a TV company in Britain didn’t take that into account. Here’s what happened (from Paid Content):

When UK commercial TV leader ITV announced it would take voting for its Britain’s Got Talent show via mobile app this May, it was supposed to herald the next step in the premium mobile TV participation phenomenon.

But insufficient testing meant the broadcaster could not process half of votes paid for by mobile users, and ITV had to abandon the app mid-series. In a complaint adjudication published by Ofcom on Monday, ITV said it had lost 51 percent of votes which came in via the mobile app.

A lack of load testing and insufficient network capacity was officially blamed for the blunder. ITV, the television network whose app failed mid-season, point-blank says the app’s creators did not perform enough testing before launch. It also announced that it will have more hands-on involvement with all future app testing (a good approach since it’s ultimately ITV that people will remember when they think of the disappointing app). Here’s their official statement:

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The End of Cash as We Know It?

The following is a guest post on mobile payments from Michelle Ma. Michelle is a marketing specialist and occasional blogger at Fueled, a mobile design company in New York City.

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In today’s world, when you want to buy an iced coffee, they ask you, “cash or credit?” In a few select locations around the country, though, there’s an additional option: mobile payment.

Think of all the hassle that comes along with paying for your purchases in the traditional ways: you fumble around for your wallet, probably deep within the clutter of your purse or pockets, finally reach for it and fumble around some more to find your credit card. If that particular merchant happens to not accept credit, you have to do some additional fumbling for cash (perhaps dropping a few coins along the way). Not to mention the additional time you spend waiting for change.

The Big Players

With this new trend in mobile development, you can buy a drink without taking out your wallet (or even your phone with the Square app). And for merchants, long gone are the hassles of applying and waiting for approval after a lengthy credit check; Square allows small businesses everywhere to get on the credit card bandwagon with their Square Card Reader and Square Register. The card reader is free and connects to any Android, iPhone, or iPad, and all you need for your own professional register is an iPad and the free Square Register app.

Beyond Square, many other companies have launched their own forms of mobile payment, from the ubiquitous Google Wallet to eBay’s PayPal. An increasing number of credit card businesses and financial giants are trying their hand at e-payments, but the irony in this is that the more different forms of payment that exist, the less likely merchants would be willing to convert to mobile payment. Without a universally accepted format, both consumers and merchants will be slow to convert, especially since cash and/or credit are readily accepted everywhere.

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Video: How Facebook Develops Mobile Apps

The new direction Facebook is taking is further proof that the tech world is focused on mobile app development. As covered by Alex Williams of TechCrunch, Facebook’s Peter Deng recently spoke about the company’s new mission to focus on mobile development. In the video below – from the stage at the TechCrunch CrunchUp yesterday – Deng says, “It’s a start of a new journey for us… we’re set up to shift very quickly on mobile, now.” Throughout the clip Deng emphasizes that smartphones are now the most important personal computing devices we own. Check out the video below:

Ice Cream Sandwich Finally Gains Market Share

Android's Ice Cream SandwichGingerbread has been the dominate Android platform for a while now, retaining its title through the releases of Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean. But the ranks are shifting and interestingly it’s not because of the latest release – Jelly Bean. Instead, it looks like things are beginning to pick up for Ice Cream Sandwich.

In June, (when uTest published 8 Tips for Android App Testing) this is what the Android platform usage stats looked like:

Gingerbread: 64%
Froyo: 19%
Ice Cream Sandwich: 7%
Eclair: 5%

But now, Ice Cream Sandwich has jumped a whopping 9 percentage points and to claim 16% of all Android share. The share shift dropped Gingerbread down to 60%, dipped Froyo to 15.5% and (finally) left Eclair far behind with only 4%.

As far as Android’s newest confection, Jelly Bean is sitting at a measly .8% – but that’s sure to change as more devices get the roll out. Besides, it took Ice Cream Sandwich awhile to gain traction.

Are Android or iOS Apps Easier to Test?

Mobile apps are a big deal, and by 2015 IDC predicts that 182.7 billion mobile apps will be downloaded. This makes testing apps early on to identify technical, design and functional challenges that much more crucial.

One of the biggest testing challenges is testing apps across platforms. Apps on both Android and iOs devices need to be tested differently, and both present very different challenges. In this webinar, Mobile Test Expert Elena Houser, presents mobile app testing best practice tips – and breaks down the major differences between testing for Android or iOs. Check out the presentation below: