Tag: history of the mobile phone

Backend as a Service: The Latest Market Trends & Drivers

kumulos-cloud

The global backend as a service (BaaS) market is set for phenomenal growth between now and 2016. The key driver in the adoption of BaaS technologies is the need to make app development less complex. Today we want to explore some of the factors that are creating this demand, such as the vast influx of smartphone and tablet devices. As consumers increasingly shift from desktop PC’s (sales have been down 15% on average, every year for the past 5 years) to mobile, the demand for mobile apps has skyrocketed.

As the demand for mobile apps and devices continues to explode, so too does the demand for BaaS technologies like Kumulos that make the whole app development process so much more intuitive and quick. When running a comparison of backend as a service companies, you’ll find the market has been flooded since 2009 with all types of offerings. With Kumulos, the pricing for using backend as a service is simple, scalable and you only pay a tiny amount when your app actually goes live. We’re tried and trusted by indie developers and app development studios from across the world.

One of the key things to look for when conducting a review of backend as a service technologies, is understanding how quickly and easily you can access your data. With Kumulos, there’s no minimum tie-in and you can access and retrieve your data whenever you like. But what will the backend as a service market look like by 2016? The mobile landscape and the demand for mobile technologies is growing at an astonishing rate. As the demand for mobile services, apps and devices becomes more vigorous, so too will the need for flexible, scalable and affordable backend as a service platforms.

Kumulos has been developed by app developers, for real app developers. We’re not VC backed and bloated – we’re profitable. Kumulos has been developed in a real world app development studio, helping a dedicated team of app developers to ace their projects, whilst enabling us to test and deploy lots of cool new features. What’s more, is that we have over 2000 app developers and app development studios using the platform across the globe. We’ve been doing this now since 2007, so we understand a whole bunch about successful app development and what’s going on in the backend as a service ecosystem.

The non-Nexus S4 and HTC One Are Almost Here

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So a short while ago at I/O, we all waited in tense anticipation of a new set of Nexus devices, and the blossoming of demand for Android Backend as a Service. With Apple announcing big things at the end of the year, could we perhaps see a Nexus device arrive early to snap up the (relatively) bored tech loving hordes? Well, turns out no. I/O came and went and we exactly squat to satisfy our Nexus lust. However, all wasn’t lost, as we did instead, get the announcement of the Galaxy SIV Google Play edition. An SIV, with all the power that that allows, without the piles of stuff that Samsung likes to pile in on top of Android. Shortly after that, HTC announced they were also doing a Google Play edition of the One.

Android fans rejoiced.

Now, it’s important to note that it isn’t a Nexus edition. Why is that? Well, aside from being Google’s own brand of phones, the Google Play editions aren’t running pure stock Android because these phones have features that won’t really work without the specialist manufacturer software. So, it’s almost stock, with a couple of little additions to keep the gears turning. That said though, both of these phones are big hitters in terms of performance and feature lists, and being able to grab them unlocked means that you can have them without ever worrying about getting tied into long and/or expensive carrier contracts.

So how much are these super phones up for sale for?

Well, the SIV is going for $649 and the One is just behind it at $599. So Nexus prices these are not, however if you’re planning on keeping the phone for a while they could very well still be the best deal in terms of long term value for money. There’s also some speculation that as these phones won’t be running the *ahem* “Manufacturer software” (read mostly bloatware), their already impressive performance will improve even more.

That remains to be seen however, as they’re not out yet but they’re set to ship starting July 9th.

Until then, well, there are always pictures.

Kantar Just Released Its Q1 Smartphone Sales Figures, Android Still Leads Globally

android-phone

As the first business quarter of the year ends, in the mobile world there’s a clear trend appearing. Android, powered largely by Samsung and other top tier OEMs, is still increasing its power. In their first big release of the year, Kantar have found that Android accounted for roughly 64% of all handset sales in Q1 2013, across nine different markets consisting of the UK, China, US, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Japan.

(UPDATE 2017: Still holds true in 2017, with Android’s share growing even more.) 

Whilst we all know that Android has managed to have an overall global lead in terms of handsets shipped, this is a clear indication that the shipped handsets aren’t just languishing in stores, they’re moving at a fair clip straight back out of them again. Android has a dominating lead in Spain, for example, where 93.5% of all handsets sold are Android. In fact, the only country that Android isn’t leading in out of those 9 is Japan, where iOS pulled ahead slightly to secure a 49.5% overall percentage, whereas Android is making do with 45%.

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As you can see above though, overall Android is doing incredibly well, and Kantar think that this will only continue further into 2013:

“We expect to see a further spike in [Android’s] share in the coming months, as sales from the HTC One start coming through and the Samsung Galaxy S4 is launched,” writes Dominic Sunnebo, global consumer insight director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. “This will pile pressure on Apple, BlackBerry and Nokia to keep their products front of consumers’ minds in the midst of a Samsung and HTC marketing blitz.”

Speaking of Apple, is it us or has Cupertino been very quiet this year so far? It is only early days of course, and the hype machine has already started to get the gears turning, if very slowly, with promises from Tim Cook of “big things” at the end of the year. But at the moment, without a new phone or even other product launch on the near horizon, Apple seem to be slipping from the public consciousness as Samsung pushes its latest and greatest Galaxy SIV and HTC stands shoulder to shoulder with Facebook to promote the “Facebook Phone” and of course, this spills over onto the One as well.

Android is now at the forefront of public consciousness, and despite Blackberry’s best efforts, it just can’t seem to make any kind of dent in the Android ship, with only 0.9% of sales globally last month. There is a surprising winner in all of this though, and that is Windows Phone, which has seen a small but steady amount of growth to 5.6% of global sales. Now that might not sound like a lot, but when you consider that Android has 64% and iOS has around 35% of sales, there’s not a lot of pie left to take; so 5.6% is quite respectable.

It is interesting that WP has managed to keep momentum up, and the main reason behind it could be that Nokia know how to make easy to use and good looking smartphones, and Windows Phone is less complex to use than Android or iOS if you’re coming from an older feature phone. WP is becoming the opening of the funnel into the smartphone world, and if they can keep their place their, they won’t get the ridiculous sales numbers of the two giants, but they will manage to gain and likely hold a place in the mobile market.

What will be very interesting is seeing what happens when Google inevitably announce some new shiny tech at I/O and Apple start pushing the hype machine up a few gears. An announcement, or even teaser, of a new iPhone will probably be enough to get Cupertino back in the spotlight. The telling results will likely come in Q4, so we’ll be back then to give you the next run down most likely.

Google IO: A Few Things We Hope We Get

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In recent times, Google have managed to become a very impressive force in bringing us interesting and sought after gadgetry. First, of course, there was Android, and well, we all know how that’s going. There was the Nexus 7 which helped kickstart the 7 inch tablet craze as we know it today, then the Nexus 4 which remains possibly the best value for money smartphone on the market in terms of performance capability to price.

And now of course, we have Google Glass, which is looking to single handedly get us all very interested in wearable reality augmenters.

It helps then, that Google’s I/O conference is under a month away, going from the 15th to the 17th of May, and there’s rumours abound as to what we can expect to be revealed to us. So we thought we’d do a little round up here at Kumulos of the stuff we think are the most interesting possibilities.

Nexus 4 update or even Nexus 5

The Nexus 4 is a great phone, and clearly quite popular as it sold like hot cakes over the Christmas period. Combining high performance with low price and vanilla, always up-to-date Android, it’s a pretty good package overall if you’re looking for a modern smartphone. That said, it has its problems. For one it’s only got 16Gb max of space and doesn’t have an LTE chip, meaning no 4G for you. However, there are strong rumours Google are either looking to update the 4 with LTE  and/or 32Gb of space, or perhaps announce a whole new Nexus 5 handset to combat Samsung’s current powerhouse, the SIV.

This could risk current Nexus 4 owners feeling a little burned, but in this modern mobile world, it’s not exactly unexpected that whatever tech you buy is quickly going to go out of date.

Key Lime Pie 5.0

Android Version 4 has certianly taken the little green robot into a whole new area of quality. With the improvements that ICS and JB brought Android could, for the first time, stand up against Apple’s ever pretty iOS. But we’ve been on v4 for a while now, and many are starting to ask what’s next. Well, considering last I/O we got Jelly Bean, it would make sense that now we’ll get KLP 5.0. What improvements are expected aren’t entirely clear right now, but Google Now is said to be a big part of it all.

What’s going on at Motorola

Google quietly acquired Motorola back in 2011 and the company has been largely silent since then, turning out medium tier handsets but nothing that’s caused any waves in the mobile market. That could be, until now. The rumour mill has been kicking up a gear recently in relation to the X Phone. Specifically, if what’s being said right now is to be believed, the X Phone line may be a game changer in the current market. There have been quotes talking about its potentially being the most powerful, capable handsets ever seen, with new, never seen before features. Of course this kind of hyperbole is common when there’s no real facts to go on, but where there’s smoke there’s normally fire; so we’ll be eagerly paying attention to this one.

Google Glass

Now we all know what GG is all about, but so far we’ve not really heard much about developers or the potential apps that are coming to Google’s wearable reality augmentation. It makes sense that they’d give us a look into the future of GG at I/O, and it will be very interesting to see where they can imagine taking the technology.

(UPDATE 2017: Google discontinued selling the Google Glass prototype in January 2015.)

New Nexus 7?

The Nexus 7 is now the grandaddy of modern tablets in terms of age. It’s already a year old, which is about 65 in mobile technology years, and definitely ready for retirement. But what to replace it with? Well, a shinier, better Nexus 7 most likely. Google are being tipped to be working with Asus again so we can probably expect another high quality, ferociously low priced tablet if there’s one coming. A few of us at Kumulos (Backend as  a Service) have Nexus 7s, so it will be interesting to see what comes of it.

Surprise project?

Now, we know that this is unlikely, after all, this is the age where a company can’t even attempt to make a new handset without it getting leaked so heavily the announcement is more of an official stamp of existence rather than an exciting reveal.

But still, it would be very cool if Google could bring us another announcement like Google Glass again, after all, what’s more fun than getting something good you didn’t ask for?

 

Symantec: Android Has Most Malware, But iOS Has More Vulnerabilities

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It’s no secret that Android is definitely the most popular mobile OS for malware. Last year it was found that 96% of all mobile malware was made for Android, and up to 30% of all Android devices are infected in one way or another.

Most of these infections are looking to steal users data (usually contact details or geolocation) or to act as adware. Also on that list are the more traditional premium texting or premium calling malware that we’ve had on mobile phones for years now. It’s also true that in the vast majority of cases, these infections don’t actually do a great deal of damage in the grand scheme of things.

That’s not to say that Malware isn’t a problem, but compared to desktop OSs, it’s still a small piece of the puzzle.

Symantec recently released a report saying that Android remains the biggest platform for mobile malware, despite it not having nearly as many vulnerabilities as iOS does. What’s the difference? Well, Symantec say that they have found 13 vulnerabilities in Android, which isn’t great, but iOS? 387. Yes, you read that right, 387 vulnerabilities on Apple’s premium mobile operating system. Now they haven’t specified what these vulnerabilities actually allow a potential hacker to do, but having that number of weak points in an OS is somewhat scary.

On the other side of things, they also report finding 108 new and unique threats (rather than just counting in existing threats) for mobile platforms in 2012. 103 of those were aimed at Android, Symbian had 3, with Windows Phone and iOS each sharing one each to make up the total. So clearly, despite Android being the more secure OS, it is still the heavy preferred option for those creating malware.

The main reason for this is probably partially a numbers game, after all Android is the market leader in terms of sheer number of active devices, then factoring in the openness of the system (which allows sideloading and 3rd party app stores) and finally the fact that whilst Android versions past 4 have had a great number of security improvements, the vast majority of Android devices don’t currently have access to them.

Additions by manufacturers are also creating security problems, for example the security exploit that appeared on Samsung’s platform in 2012. They did fix it pretty sharpish, but it was still there, and it wasn’t something that the Google team did that caused it.

Overall in the mobile malware world, we’re looking at increasing growth in mobile malware across the board.

As the graph shows, since the start of 2011 we’ve seen a massive rise in the amount of of mobile malware, with everything looking to increase as the mobile world only grows larger. Symantec reckon the two biggest threats are going to be “ransomware” and “drive-by infections from websites”.

The mobile world is changing, but in some ways it’s mirroring the rise of the PC before it. A massive spurt of growth that is then slowly being caught up with by the problems that come with rapid expansion and adoption. Whereas at first you can leave behind the negative aspects of it through sheer forward momentum, they will eventually catch you, and that’s what’s happening now in the mobile world.

So as an app developer, how can you help slow this curve? Well, by developing solidly designed, well coded apps that don’t leave any doors open for hackers or malware to in behind the walls.

Fragmentation And New App Stores, The Future Of App Development?

fragmentation

E-reader company Kobo, who are a Canadian tablet and e-book manufacturer owned by Rakuten, a massive Japanese e-commerce corporation, just announced the release of a limited edition e-reader with, they say, the highest resolution screen of any e-ink device. It’s being priced at $169.99 and will only be produced in limited numbers. Kobo have also announced along with this release that they plan to open their own app store soon, following on from a decent track record of sales until now.

Now, does it not seem that this is yet another new app store arriving on the scene?

Alongside Kobo, we have Firefox OS recently announcing their own app store, then right beside them is Ubuntu, and then we have Sailfish from Jolla and Tizen from Samsung. Then we have the individual app stores for Smart TVs and the various smaller app stores for individual devices like Nook e-readers.

There have always been more App Stores out there than most people realise, but in this modern mobile age it seems like they are popping up all over the place.

This isn’t necessarily a problem, after all the more stores, the more choice for consumers and the more competition there is in terms of pricing and product quality. It does, however, create a problem that all developers dread; fragmentation.

Android developers have had to deal with it more than perhaps any other mobile developer. There are thousands of different types of Android handset out there, all with different screen sizes, different performance capabilities and of course, different versions of Android. It’s taken until 2013 for Gingerbread to start being beaten out by the much more modern Jelly Bean in terms of number of active handsets. Even in iOS there are now different screen sizes and performance capabilities that developers are increasingly having to work with if they want an app that can work across the iOS range.

Then of course, as app developers, you might want to get your app onto multiple OS but that of course creates further problems as you either port or rebuild your app onto the other OS, and then you have to maintain multiple apps across different code bases.

It raises the question, do we need, or indeed want, more and more mobile OS and app stores?

It’s an interesting dilemma.

On the one hand, it will create more opportunities for app developers than ever before. Now you don’t need to compete in the flooded markets of Android and iOS, you can target a smaller, niche user base. New OS like Firefox and Sailfish give small and new developers an opportunity to cut their teeth in an environment that isn’t swimming with sharks and the giants of the app world and it lets more experienced app developers try out new ideas in a place where they’re more likely to be found.

On the other hand, the relatively small user bases could work against developers. They may be creating amazing apps and getting good traction, but they may just not be getting the numbers they need to be sustainable in a business sense. The newer platforms are also relatively untested and in the economic climate we have right now, it wouldn’t be the most unexpected thing to see a small OS go under or be swallowed by a larger cousin, taking all its apps with it.

 

The Sticky Situation Of “Unauthorized” In App Purchases

in-app-purchase

We’ve talked often here at Kumulos about the importance of choosing an app monetisation scheme that works best for your business and your app, and also the difficulty involved in that choice. With trends constantly changing and with different types of payment and monetisation going in and out of fashion nearly every week (at least that how it can sometimes feel), app developers are hard pressed to select the correct one for them.

One of the most popular is definitely the free with in app purchases model. It combines the user drawing aspects of the free model, but adds the potential to gain a decent income through in app purchases if your app is well designed. This design is typically used with games as they have the addictive quality that will bring people to their app store purchase, but it’s not unheard of in other types of app like, for example, buying upgrades and extra features for the app.

This type of monetisation is successful yes, but it also has brought a big, or perhaps little depending on how you look at it, problem with it.

Due to many of these in app purchasing schemes not requiring the iTunes password before finialising the payment, children have been racking up extortionate bills on their parents iTunes accounts because they have bought hundreds of in-game items whilst playing a mobile game. Not too long ago an 8 year old bought £980 (roughly $1500) of virtual donuts in a Simpsons game, and a 5 year old spent £1700 ($2611) in Plants vs Zombies.

Obviously this is a problem for the parents and a headache for the publishers and developers of these games. The games are clearly doing their job right as they’re incentivising in app buying, but with children having no real concept of money, especially virtual money, they are literally bankrupting their parents with in app buying. For the publisher, Apple, it’s a headache because they have to investigate each case and refund the money if it is found to be an “unauthorised” purchase. And for the developer it’s a pain because regulatory bodies like the Office of Fair Trading in the UK have got involved to look into whether these apps (and others) in app purchases are “misleading, commercially aggressive or otherwise unfair.”

Do you remember a short while ago we talked about “Dark Patterns” and “UI anti-pattern”?

These unauthorised in app purchases are a classic example of UI anti-pattern. It seems unlikely that the developer for say, Zombies vs Plants, sat down and designed their in app buying to lure children into spending thousands of dollars on extra weapons to fight zombies (no doubt twirling their moustache and laughing maniacally as lightning flashed overhead). It doesn’t mean, however, that they’ve not been careless in their design. Despite it being initially great for business, no user should be able to rack up a bill of thousands without at least being asked for a password.

Not only is it irresponsible of the developer to leave that open to happen, it’s also dangerous for the customer. Sure, it’s just been kids so far, but that no passworded gate is also easy access for hackers and criminals who may want to access your iTunes account. If your device is stolen, who’s to stop them doing just as the kids have done and drain thousands out of your bank account?

This is why we at Kumulos like to bring these topics up, to remind app developers that good design isn’t just about having an easy to use, great to look at app, it’s about getting all the nuts and bolts of the underlying system working as well. You have to make sure that your app is secure, and that UI anti-pattern is minimal to non-existent or it could come back and bite you.

The Rise Of The “Dark Patterns” In App Design

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When we use apps, we like to think that they are designed with our best interests in mind. We assume that when the designers created the app, they were concentrating on making the best user experience possible for us and that they wanted us to share that we were using their app on its merits alone. It seems like a good way to do business, and an honest one. It’s the type of app development that we at Kumulos push, and many other blogs online about app development will tell you the same.

After all, you should be thinking about the user first right? You want them to have a great experience so that they’ll share it with their friends and tell them to also use the app.

A good product, we’re told, will create its own viral marketing. There are multiple examples of this, from Angry Birds to Draw Something to Instagram. They all created great user experiences and beat out the competition to become legends in the mobile app world. This type of viral spread is sometimes quite slow though, at first at least, and can take a lot of marketing effort from the developer to generate enough traction to really get things moving.

And yet every other week we seem to be hearing about new app success stories through the viral market, so how is this possible?

Well, it could be that so called “dark patterns” are starting to creep into everyday app development.

What are dark patterns?

Well, darkpatterns.org describes them as:

“A Dark Pattern is a type of user interface that has been carefully crafted to trick users into doing things, such as buying insurance with their purchase or signing up for recurring bills.”

We’ve all felt their effects, with, for example, trials that require you to input your payment details and you have to actively opt-out of the subscription (we’re looking at you Netflix).

They are designs that are meant to trick and misdirect users into doing things that they don’t intend to but are beneficial for the business that’s created the design in the first place.

Now, dark patterns are created by those with intent to deceive, so what about creating accidental patterns?

Well, that comes under “UI anti-pattern”, which is a UI that hasn’t been purposely designed to misdirect the user, but through laziness, sloppiness or plain oversight, the user is much more likely to do something that can, say, vastly increase the social footprint of the app by accident.

How would this happen? Well, many apps these days have a “connect with your contacts” or “invite your friends to use this app” feature, and most of them, when you use this, will let you choose which people you want to send invites to. But some do it the opposite way, where they’ll auto-select all of your contacts first and then you have to unselect the people you don’t want to invite. This can lead to many users inviting all 300 of their contacts to use an app, which can cause an explosion of users of an app in a very short amount of time, but many of these users will not become real active customers.

This spike and crash scenario is becoming more common, which perhaps points to these dark patterns slowly coming into use as developers try to find new ways to attract customers and encourage growth. Remember, growth is good, but too much too soon is going to cause a burn out rather than a proper establishment of a strong user base.

As app developers, it can be tricky to walk that line between wanting success but also wanting to not be a flash in the pan. Natural growth is the best way to make that work, and it may be more effort and more time, but it will be worth it on the other side.

The Mobile Phone’s 40th Birthday

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As of the 3rd of April 2013, the Mobile Phone is 40 years old. On this day 40 years ago in 1973, the world’s first mobile phone call was made by Motorola engineer Martin Cooper on the Motorola DynaTAC in New York. The phone at that time was 9 inches long, weighed about 2Kg, had an external aerial, a calling battery life of 25 mins and a recharge time of 10 hours.

At the time it was the most advanced piece of mobile technology to exist in the world, and it signalled the beginning of the Mobile Information Age. It took another 10 years before mobile phones started to see any adoption, and even then they were the toys of the rich and the incredibly busy. It wasn’t until the early 90s that consumerisation of mobile phones really started to happen, and not until the early 2000s that mobiles became ubiquitous.

The introduction of 3G created the third surge of mobile adoption as the “always on” culture started to emerge in the mid-2000s and then in 2007, the iPhone came along and changed everything. There was actually a full touchscreen smartphone before the iPhone, made by LG, but it was lost in the tidal wave of hype that followed Apple’s seminal release.

Now, four decades on from the first ever mobile phone call, we have a myriad of interconnected Smartphones and a “Game of Phones” as one TechCrunch article called it. Where once it was PCs that created the richest people in tech, now it is smart-devices and the entire ecosystem they have created and are part of.

Worldwide the telecoms industry is worth around $950 billion and that number is only growing at a rapid pace. In fact, despite the woes of the economic world, IT and the mobile tech industry are seeing continued strong growth.

Mike Short, from the Institute of Technology and Engineering says:

“In the early days of mobile, consumerisation was not considered. It was made for men in suits in business, whereas consumerisation followed much later. And then access to the internet followed much later again. The first smartphones weren’t until about five years ago. So the pace of change has actually sped up over the 40 years, particularly in the past 15 to 18 years.”

In the last 50 years, technology has advanced faster than any other time in human history and it’s very visible in the mobile phone industry. The newest, latest, most powerful smartphone is made obsolete by a competing phone in 3 months. And smartphones are now being tipped to beat consoles in terms of computing power in the next few years. We’re already getting close to current generation consoles in terms of graphics quality, and the mobile gaming arena is only going to get bigger as the phones get faster.

Where are we going to see the mobile phone go in the next 40 years?

Tough to say really, but it’s very likely that the trend that’s moving them into becoming “one-device-fits-all” computers that, depending on the situation, are a mobile phone, a tablet and when placed in a dock, become fully fledged PCs. Ubuntu is already trying to do this with their mobile OS and it’s likely if customers show interest in this that other companies like Samsung will at least dabble in this area.

The easiest thing to say is that the future of mobile computing looks very bright, and that app development has been the river that has kept the wheel turning. So if you’re an app developer, remember that you are part of the driving force that is pushing our industry forward; and to continue to do that there are always more great apps to create.