Mobile Application Jargon
There's a whole new language around apps but don't worry is your brand or business is new to apps we've listed some frequently used terms that you should find helpful.
3G stands for the third generation of mobile communications. 3G phones enable high-speed Internet access, video/audio streaming and downloads and video calls. Apple is expected to release a 4G phone in summer 2010.
The iPhone’s accelerometer is effectively a motion detector that can tell how the device is being held. For games this means the whole device can be used like a steering wheel, tilting left and right to move direction. The accelerometer has been used widely for ‘shake’ functionality, where users can shake the phone to request a new action, like rolling dice, reordering a list of restaurants or shuffling fashion looks on a catwalk model.
The Google Nexus One and many other smartphones use the Android open source operating system. This makes it easier for developers to create apps that work on more that one handset although screen size still needs to be accounted for by the design team.
Apps is short for applications, small software programs that use smartphone functionality to provide services, utilities and entertainment. A simple application could combine the phone’s in-built calendar with GPS positioning and a database of store locations to create a service that reminded the user of birthdays and could recommend a useful gift store within 5 minutes’ walk. Or it could simple take the order there and then if the app had commerce functionality – a storefront, checkout and payment facility.
Applications for the iPhone can only be downloaded from the Apple App Store, which can only be accessed via an iTunes account. Blackberry’s App World is more accessible. Apps for the Google Nexus One are available from the Android Market. In January 2010, applications downloaded from Apple’s app store hit the 3 billion mark.
GPS is the main technology used by apps that determine your location. The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a satellite-based navigation system made up of a network of 24 satellites, orbiting at 12,000 miles above the earth. GPS works in any weather conditions, anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day. Most ‘recreation grade’ GPS receivers used in smartphones are accurate to within 10-15 meters on average. When a device like the iPhone doesn’t have a clear line of sight to a GPS satellite it will locate using wi-fi location information and the phone signals generated by the cellular towers that deliver your phone calls.
Some smartphones like the iPhone and Blackberry Storm offer multi-touch screens – the user has the ability to use multiple fingers and actions (double tapping expands the screen on the iPhone, for example). These features are useful for expanding text and images on websites that aren’t optimised for smartphones.
The iPhone 3GS offers the ability to notify users of updates and other messages without having to send an email. The advantage is that messages are ‘pushed’ instantly direct to the handset rather than users having to ‘pull’ in messages via an email, for example.
Smartphones are a combination of mobile phone and digital assistant – offering much of the functionality of a small personal computer. They are typified by having larger screen, often with touchscreen capability. When We Are Apps refer to smartphones we usually mean Apple’s iPhone, the Blackberry Storm handset and the Nexus One smartphone from Google. Other manufacturers make smartphones but these three handsets account for the vast majority of sales. Smartphones differ from mobile phones in that they offer much higher levels of functionality including GPS and the ability to run applications (apps) that take advantage of the phones’ functionality to give users useful tools.
Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Samsung and many other mobile phone manufacturers came together to form the Symbian alliance and produce the Symbian platform used on their smartphones. Having been acquired by Nokia wholly now, it is expected to be made open source during 2010. Symbian accounts for the largest number of handsets sold, at 47%, but this figure includes non-smartphone mobiles.
‘Native’ apps rely on content embedded on the device itself – web-enabled apps pull content in from web-based sources. This has the advantage of being able to update content regularly, including in real time. However, if internet connection is lost, web-enabled apps can’t work. Another advantage of web-enabled apps is that less code has to be developed to make them work on more than one platform. Native apps can be expensive to produce for more than one smartphone platform. We Are Apps can advise on the best build policy, including profiling your target audience to smartphone usage to determine the most appropriate phones to create apps for.