What’s a mobile-first app, anyway?

  • Mobile-first and mobile-only apps are specially designed for mobile cloud.

  • These apps create new experiences as they collect and react to sensor data, incorporate rich media, and improve data access and synchronization.

“Mobile first” describes how apps must be designed differently than their PC predecessors. Apps need to be reimagined to operate successfully in the mobile cloud world. Instead of thinking mobile first, businesses leaders and app development teams should be focused on how new technologies such as mobile and cloud computing can improve existing apps and build new experiences. What’s different about how we can build apps today?

Collecting and reacting to data

Today’s applications can be redesigned to collect and react to sensor and contextual data. There are many types of data we have access to, such as device type, connectivity quality, location, motion, and environmental conditions, such as temperature. Location can be used to launch communications and automate processes. For example, location can trigger that a message should be sent to a loyal customer. Or it can help a business understand how many people have entered a building, or it can automate timekeeping by using geofences to know at what time an employee entered and/or left a building. 

Incorporating rich media

Secondly, applications can incorporate rich media, since a majority of computing devices ship with cameras today. If an application can sense the presence of a camera, it can prompt the user to take a photo or a video. When connected to the cloud, this imagery can immediately be sent to the corporation for storage or analysis. 

Designed for data access and synchronization

Additionally, apps should be designed for data access and synchronization across multiple devices. Cloud-resident apps, such as document storage solutions, have mobile clients that can deliver data to multiple types of devices and synchronize changes across all of the platforms. Eventually, applications will adapt to the device a person is using. It’s possible to write a single web application that can work across all different device types; however, the user experience may suffer if the app simply resizes itself for a bigger or smaller screen. Truly adaptive applications will deliver more or less content and functionality based on the screen size and the device’s capabilities. For example, a wearable device, such as a smart watch, will offer voice navigation as well as touch.

These are just some of the potential changes that we can design into our applications and services. How are you defining mobile-first? Is the term relevant or unnecessary?

Maribel Lopez is the CEO and mobile market strategist for Lopez Research, a market research and strategy consulting firm that specializes in communications technologies with a heavy emphasis on the disruptive nature of mobile technologies. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.

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