Since Apple launched the first iPhone in 2007, consumers around the world have downloaded more than 100 billion apps from app stores.
Gartner, the market research firm, predicts that by 2015 tablets will sell more than laptop and desktop PCs combined. And businesses now understand that this mobility transformation is happening much faster than the dot-com revolution of the late-1990s.
Companies are already developing 20 to 30 apps on average in the three core categories of consumer, business-to-business (B2B) and enterprise that will transform the way we live and work.
Making the most of the modern smartphone requires a very clear “mobile first” strategy. Yet Gartner believes that 60 per cent of the Fortune 1000 will not have a mobile strategy in place by 2014.
Dozens of daily tasks, at home or in business, are being improved by personal media technology.
Rail travellers can check timetables, air passengers can check-in and shoppers can compare prices using smartphone apps.
Financial services firms, such as American Express, have smartphone applications that let AMEX card members manage their accounts wherever they are, reducing call centre waiting times and improving service.
People now enjoy a richer “lean back” reading experience of well-established publications, such as The Economist, through apps with features including audio book-style transcripts. The Economist has seen its smartphone and tablet apps downloaded six million times and it attracts new readers who have never subscribed in print.
Often the best apps are not those that try to bring the whole business to the smartphone or tablet, but those that set out to do a few things very well
“The average UK family now has ten internet connected devices. If consumers can’t access your brand on multiple platforms, they will switch to one where they can,” says Nick Newman, managing director and head of strategy at Tigerspike, the software and user experience company behind a host of successful apps.
Creating mobile software that works well is not easy. It requires skilled software development, testing and user interface design. While some 60 per cent of organisations have consumer apps, few are happy with their quality. Often this is due to the user experience – how an application feels – rather than what it does.
A frequently cited statistic from Apple is that firms need to invest 70 per cent of their budgets in design, rather than the 10 per cent spent on the user experience in traditional IT.
Tigerspike has been working for ten years with customers who understand that user experience is about combining design and software skills with a deep understanding of how back-end systems operate.
“Our Kallide methodology merges our user experience and engineering skillsets, which enables the entire project team to think beyond the two-dimensional screen. With motion and sound, we are now thinking in four dimensions,” says Greg Taylor, Tigerspike’s head of user interface and user experience.
The commercial benefits come from increased revenues and increased customer loyalty. Data shows that customers who use mobile and especially tablet apps spend more than those who only visit a website.
“Apps have been key to increasing loyalty for both our domestic and overseas AMEX cardmembers in London,” says Dean Chadwick, vice-president at American Express.
Business also has an opportunity to communicate with other businesses through apps.
Some B2B companies have seen success through apps that support the sales process. Presentations made using an iPad, for example, can create a more engaging and personal experience.
Other companies, such as Shell, have built deeper, more personal relationships with their investors and journalists through apps. Shell’s award winning iOS and Android apps utilise innovative features and platform-specific functionality, while keeping a consistent user experience, to deliver the most relevant content.
Tigerspike’s delivery of the Shell investor relations app led to a two-fold increase in dwell time and a 300 per cent increase in downloads.
Delivering a consistent, multi-platform experience is complex, particularly where Android is concerned. Its multiple screen sizes and different operating-system versions can make an Android project two to three times more complex than on iOS.
Businesses have another area where they can build on mobile – applications for their employees. Gartner expect 80 per cent of businesses to support a workforce using tablets by 2014.
When asked about how mobile technology can most impact their businesses, the highest proportion of mobile leaders (38 per cent) said they wanted mobile to increase productivity.
Often the best apps are not those that try to bring the whole business to the smartphone or tablet, but those that set out to do a few things very well.
An example is BoardPad, a secure, electronic app for board papers developed with the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA). Companies adopting BoardPad reported that the app has been an instant hit with users, who are able to be more productive, while printing costs are reduced and security increased.
“BoardPad helped us make significant time and paper savings as we no longer produce paper board packs,” says Andrew Green, assistant company secretary at Marks & Spencer.
As technology evolves, it is essential for business that apps for staff are safe and secure. Tigerspike’s own Innovation Lab has recently received a patent for its quantum encryption mobile technology Karacell. Mr Newman comments: “Karacell will transform how organisations and individuals can keep their mobile data safe on personal technology devices.”
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
In the future devices will become so miniaturised and ubiquitous that they will be embedded in our clothes and our jewellery. We will not even realise they are there.
In fact, Gartner predict that by 2020 we will put more computing devices in our laundry in a week than we have used in our lifetimes so far.
Interfaces will evolve from 2D screens to 3D spaces. The way that users interact with these interfaces will evolve from basic touch to gestures to speech and eventually even to mind control.
With 30 billion devices connected to the internet by 2020, businesses will need smart middleware, such as Tigerspike’s Phoenix enterprise mobility platform, to ensure they can connect their back-end systems to all these devices.
“Over the last ten years, we have witnessed the beginnings of a mobile revolution that is only going to accelerate,” says Mr Newman. “Companies now have the opportunity to transform their business, build more rewarding relationships and more productive workforces, through the power of personal media.”