Creating a phone app

Technology is constantly changing and we are always in dilemma whether we should embrace it and use in our business. The latest wave has brought us smart mobile phones. So should you use the mobile phones in your work and how can they improve your business?

You should treat a mobile phone just like any other computer, like your laptop to be more precisely. There are some differences and they are important:

  • Mobile is always connected, that’s its nature. You don’t have to search for a hot spot in a cafe to login to your office and access data
  • Mobile is always with you. There is no need to carry a bulky computer bag
  • Mobile can run programs and access web site like any other computer
  • Mobile has a very small screen. This simple means that the amount of data that it displays is small and thoseprograms must be written especially for the mobile to display small amount of most important data.

So what can you expect from the mobile phone to do for you? Here are several scenarios where mobiles can be useful.

Access by employees

A mobile can allow your employees to login and access your database. They can search your clients and view their data. They can view client’s names and address details, important client information and contact history. They will do this when out of office, home or visiting clients.

Access by clients

Clients can login and access their data from the database. They can update their contact details keeping them up-to-date.

Access by public

You can offer Internet users several of services on their mobile phones. The most obvious use is to search directory listing of your clients and view their data. Architect’s association can offer to find an architect, lawyers to find a lawyer etc. This substantially enriches your service to your clients.

More advanced offers can provide tools to view and apply for job opportinities, purchase goods from your on-line store, book events or even register for membership.

Phones have some additional advantages that make using them very useful:

  • When you display client’s data and touch on client’s phone number it should ask you whether you want to make a call or send a message. Depending on your answer it will open either phone’s dialling page or new message page with phone number already entered. It makes it very easy to contact the client.
  • Touching an email address will open the email screen with email address already populated
  • Touching a web address field will open the client’s web site.
  • Touching an icon or field where client’s address is should open a map and locate the client’s office on the map.

All this new technology is suddenly making your life easier.

There is confusion with various mobile platforms. There are the three of most dominant ones: iPhone, Android and Windows 7.  So, which of the platforms should your app work with? The answer is simple: All of them.

There are apps for iPhone that don’t work on Android. This depends on what they are for and how they are designed. There are two major ways to create a phone app:

Program on the phone

Develop a program that will be installed and work on the phone. This will be like any other program that is installed on your computer. You will somehow start the program and it will run there. Off course your data is in the database in your office, so the program will have to access the data, but once data is brought on the phone it will be displayed using the program on the phone.

This requires that the program is developed for a particular platform. As they are all different, to work on all three there must be three different programs, written in different languages and environments.

Web site

The second option is easier and much cheaper. The phone app can be developed as a website. The site will run on your server and will be written especially for access by phones.

Being a website means that it can be accessed via a browser. As the phone has a browser, it will be able to access and use it like any other web site. You will be able for instance to search directory listing and view client’s data etc.

Developing phone app as a website has the following good and bad sides:

  • It can be accessed from all platforms. Every platform has a web browser and can access a web site.
  • Making it this way is much cheaper. The simple reason is that one app has to be developed instead of three. Skills to develop a web site are much more affordable than to develop for a specific mobile platform
  • Not all phone apps can be made that way. Many have to run directly on the phone, especially if they need to be aware of the surrounding: knowing location where you are, how you hold your phone, if it depends on too much graphics like games etc. Luckily neither of them has much to do with accessing your client’s data. So there is pretty strong case for your phone app to be built as a web site.

How to install

We have all heard of iPhone app store. Is this how we will find and install our app? It depends on the app design:

  • If it work as a program on the phone, then it is good to use a standard way to install the app. Putting on app stores makes it simple. It is not that general public will rush to find your app and install, but at least you will be able to tell those interested where to go and find the app. The rest will be following standards.
  • If the app is a web site then to access the site all you have to do is type a URL in the browser. Phone browser is much like any other browser on PCs. You can create a shortcut that will have the URL saved, so that you don’t have to type the lengthy URL every time you want to access the app. You will be an icon that will go the web site every time you click it. The result is the same.

How much should it cost?

At this point the cost varies quite a lot. I have seen quotes from $5,000 to $20,000 and in some cases, more. A website is at a lower end while an app written for one of specific platforms is at the higher end of the range.

It depends also on how far you want to go and what features you need. Adding features will add the cost.

 

 

Slava Krnjetin Slava Krnjetin - I have graduated Mathematics and then turned to IT and never looked back. I have now over 25 years of experience in IT industry doing consulting and development. It has always been my passion to follow the new IT trends and tools as they evolved over years.

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