Mobile application development is a term used to denote the act or process by which application software is developed for handheld devices, such as personal digital assistants, enterprise digital assistants or mobile phones.
Mobile application development is similar to Web application development and has its roots in more traditional software development. One critical difference, however, is that mobile applications (apps) are often written specifically to take advantage of the unique features a particular mobile device offers.
For instance, a gaming app might be written to take advantage of the iPhone’s accelerometer.
Native or hybrid: Apps can be built either way and the correct answer depends on what you are trying to achieve. Each app format will be decided by how and where it will be distributed.
The trade off is that while native applications may add more functionality, they may be more costly to build individually and to continually update with each new OS version. Hybrid apps are generally easier to build and maintain, but may not have the same richness of features. You choose between ease and power.
Ideally, a mobile app development platform will equally support all development approaches – be it Web, hybrid or native – and provide the flexibility necessary to use the development approach that supports the business goals for every app.
One way to ensure that applications show optimum performance on a given device is to develop the application (app) natively on that device. This means that at a very low level, the code is written specifically for the processor in a particular device. When an application needs to run on multiple operating systems, however, there is little — if any — code that can be reused from the initial development. The application must essentially be rewritten for each specific device.
Major capabilities to consider when selecting a platform.
The right platform will help collect customer behavior, survey results, and applications store ratings – and then enable rapid revision of your applications.
You’ll need robust security features for mobile applications and data, as well as central governance with straightforward controls.
The most engaging mobile applications can capture, interpret, and act on multiple context sources in real time – such as making an offer based on buying habits and current location.
With the speed and scale of mobile, developers need the ability to connect efficiently with enterprise data, such as inventory levels.
Testing software needs to be fast, flexible, and powerful enough to continuously improve applications in the face of a staggering combination of platforms, operating systems, and releases. Performance can even vary based on the carrier network and connection quality. Testing options to consider:
Straightforward, but labor-intensive, and difficult to scale. You may have to buy all the mobile devices you plan to support and have your team follow a QA test plan for each.
Testing applications on virtual mobile devices, simulated on a desktop computer, rather than the actual mobile devices.
Use an agent program to run a series of automated tests so the script is followed exactly, every time. This offers the flexibility of using either real, physical devices or emulators.
What do you think about mobile application development? Share your thoughts below.
Geoffrey is an experienced software developer and open source evangelist. When not coding he writes and talks about current technology trends, small business tips and developer productivity hacks. He is no coffee addict.
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