The Future Of Mobile App Development & The Curse Of Fragmentation

Kobo are a Canadian e-reader company that also manufacture. Kobo are owned by a company called Rakuten who are a massive Japanese ecommerce corporation. The company has recently announced the release of a limited edition e-reader that boasts, allegedly, the highest resolution screen of any e-ink device. Naturally the launch of the new technology, will coincide with the launch of a complementary app store to deploy content. So as another company launches a new mobile app store ecosystem, we want to explore the future of mobile app development and how to overcome the challenges associated with platform fragmentation.

App Store Fragmentation

So alongside Kobo we already have Firefox OS who are set to launch their own app store, Ubuntu, Sailfish (Jolla) and Tizen (Samsung). This is in addition to the many different app stores for smart tv’s and smaller platforms such as Nook. This is on top of the already well established app stores like iOS, OSX (Apple) and Google Android. The concept of the app store itself is not new and nowadays it seems there’s an app store for every platform.

So is this a good thing? Essentially, yes, it should be. The more competition that exists between each app store and platform, the more choice there is for consumers. This helps to increase the quality of apps, as developers work frantically to outdo one another. The competition is also helpful as it helps to drive prices down. Lower prices and high competition is healthy for consumers. So what’s the catch? The catch is fragmentation, the one thing app developers dread.

Android & iOS App Developers

To date it’s probably Android developers who have suffered the most from fragmentation. There are tonnes of different handsets that run Android. This can be challenging for developers as each version of the app requires a customised approach, specific to the device itself. Even within iOS there are now more devices and screen sizes to consider.

Native App Development v’s HTML5

So here’s the deal. If you’re looking to develop an app for your business, you have a few things to consider. Firstly, do you want to create a native experience for each platform, or do you sacrifice performance and develop a single code base that works across platforms? This is the essence of the great ‘native v’s HTML5’ app development debate that continues to rumble on.

Of course now there is an alternative, or rather a compromise, in the form of hybrid app development. Hybrid app development involves using HTML5 to develop from a single code base whilst using native functionality to enhance the user experience. Again it all depends on your strategy as a business. If you’re looking to cover all the bases without using HTML5, the best bet is to develop your apps for iOS (Apple) and Android. This will give you the largest possible market share, whilst providing a super slick user experience for people who download your app. It’s also not going to cost the world developing for iOS and Android as you can ignore other platforms like Windows phone and Blackberry.

Alternatively, you may want to take a completely risk managed approach towards developing apps and opt for one of the smaller, more marginalised platforms. It may work out cheaper to develop your app for one platform and get it into the marketplace quickly, enabling you to test and refine your app in a focused environment before scaling up onto iOS, Android and the other major platforms.


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