The World of Mobile Apps

12 Jul, 2018

Smartphones have become an inseparable part of our everyday life. And mobile app development – a huge industry. In July 2018, Apple App Store will celebrate its 10th anniversary. Since its launch, mobile apps have had a huge impact on our society. There are around 2,2 million apps available in the App Store, and their number is constantly growing.

Most of IT companies in Lviv have their own mobile app development departments, so most probably, if you are a local, there are at least a few apps on your phone developed by Ukrainian engineers and designers. We talked to Zhanna Yuskevych, Lead of Mobile App Development at Teamvoy and professional art critic, about the technologies that stand behind app development, the perfect app from a user’s and developer’s point of view, and how mobile apps will change in the nearest future.

Teamvoy partly focuses on working with startups, especially my department. If a startup has an idea that seems interesting and progressive, we are ready to invest our time and work on it, even if the startup is at a very early stage. For example, a few years ago, we started to work with a local startup Senstone, and now, having raised more than $300, 000 on Kickstarter, it is probably the most famous Ukrainian startup. Senstone is a device which automatically converts your voice notes into text and organizes them for easy access. The wearable is shaped as a stylish pendant which makes it easy to wear it on your neck or wrist as well as clip to your clothes. For Senstone, Teamvoy has developed a mobile app to support the device, and we’re still working on improving the app’s functionality. Actually, we’re also working on launching an Android app too.

Theoretically, all mobile apps can be divided into two categories – apps that support wearables and individual apps with specific functions. Various wearable devices have become a real hype now – people are excited to use fitness trackers, smartwatches and many other IoT devices, including smart products for home, etc. Therefore, most of the apps downloaded on a daily basis, aim to support, control, and interact with such devices. As the IoT sphere progresses, more and more supporting apps will appear on the market very soon.

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One of Teamvoy’s own startups, our pet project is TRMWCHQ – an app that tracks trams in Lviv. It’s not just a list of tram stops – the app helps you to get on the right tram in time. With the latest geolocation technologies and modern lightweight design, you can easily find the nearest tram stop and check the arrival time for an upcoming tram. The app has already become quite popular among locals. Initially, it was created just to test out the new React Native framework that we were supposed to use on the client’s request for our other project. We tried it on the TRMWCHQ app, and it worked perfectly, first of all, since the engineers could write the JavaScript code just once. Moreover, this framework allows to use it on both iOS and Android at the same time. It’s less time consuming and cheaper.

Which app to download?

Any mobile app is either something you really need or really like. Every time I download an app, I hesitate, because apps take up storage space. Hence, any app is expected to take up as minimum storage space as possible. The only app I use a lot is Uber. I am not unique, sorry. But at the same time, I find it very well user-oriented, very stylish, simple and laconic.

Apps for fun are always the most popular. If you take a look at the TOP 20 downloaded apps in 2017, according to Apple, you can be surprised. The first place is taken by Bitmoji, the app that creates personal emojis. Then go Snapchat and YouTube followed by social networks – Messenger, Instagram and Facebook, then Google Maps, Netflix, Spotify, finally Uber, etc. Apps for making communication better and photos funnier will be always trendy and not just among teenagers.

An app called Yazio is a nice example of how tracking your daily diet can become an addiction. This app counts calories you eat during the day, tracks your activities, and monitors your weight. It’s simple and easy in use, but at the same time, really multifunctional – it makes you a personal plan on how to lose weight, tracks your carbs, proteins, and fats and even has a built-in barcode scanner. I also like Nike+ Run Club, a motivational personal trainer which rates your running achievements. This app can even analyze the way you run, including speed and pace, and give you voice recommendations or cheer you up when you stop running.

Another pet project Teamvoy has developed is Asphalte, a social network that allows people who love to write to share their writings. Whether its prose, poetry or just notes you don’t want to lose – you can share them in the app as well as read texts from other writers. I really like Asphalte’s design and interface.

The Houzz platform for interior design is not exactly an app, but it’s considered to be the pioneer in providing tagging option for products. It’s similar to tagging friends on pictures in social networks. But here you tag furniture or home accessories you like and can see how it will look at your room. This idea helped the company to increase sales of furniture and other home products. Recently, tagging has become a feature other apps also try to implement.

Making impossible happen

I first worked on a project which used AR around 6 years ago, and since then there hasn’t been much progress in this technology, but I still believe that there will be a real breakthrough in the future. Let’s remember, Pokémon Go, an AR game that made thousands of people go out on the streets with their smartphones to look for Pokémon. I think AR will bring more awesome inventions in the future, we just need a bit more time to learn how to implement the technology in the best way possible.

Once, I worked on an AR project for one Scandinavian company. The main idea of this project was to create a “wow” effect for a simple presentation. During the presentation, slide interfaces would become 3D to highlight the importance of information written there. The second interesting project was developing an AR app for a fiction book. When you hold a smartphone with the app over a certain page, an illustration becomes alive. It’s a commonly used option now, especially for children’s book publishing houses. Navigation apps also use AR to make certain parts of a road more visible. It can be a certain 3D house on the street you are walking or driving on, after which you are told to turn right, for example. In such a way it’s way navigation becomes easier.

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The technology of image and object recognition is also very trendy and useful in many industries – fintech, healthcare, art, etc. Right now, I’m working on a project for a client from New York. The guy is the owner of one contemporary art gallery and, on his request, we’re developing an app that would recognize paintings. I’m very excited about this particular project, as, in addition to software engineering, I have a degree in Art Criticism. I got my technical education at Ivan Franko National University of Lviv on the Faculty of Applied Mathematics and later studied at Lviv National Academy of Arts. Therefore, I’m always happy to combine programming and art when an opportunity occurs.

In my opinion, Artificial Intelligence is the technology that opens windows of opportunity in mobile app development. AI allows integrating an interface of an app for every unique user. It depends on a particular user’s experience, the way someone uses an app. Sometimes you don’t use all sections of an app, but only a few particular functions, then an app can be more targeted, similar to targeted ads. Moreover, AI also has plenty of benefits for software engineers, who don’t need to rebuild an app’s interface hundreds of times anymore. It makes sense because an app doesn’t need to be overloaded with options and functions.

Magic at your fingertips

Modern people are fast – we live, receive new information, and interact with our smartphones very fast. When it comes to apps, technologies are also constantly trying to make them work faster, and their design simpler. Nowadays, no one has time to wait a few minutes before a page loads. A situation like that, as well as, too complicated apps immediately push user away, and it’s not surprising.

UX design plays a huge role in app development. Simplicity, stylish minimalism, perfect color balance, full-screen experience, clear readability, functional animations, and finally, the magic you can do with your fingers – tap, pinch, swipe, zoom. Amazing!

Summing up, honestly, I think the idea is the most important thing. You can use all the trends of UX design, architecture, and technologies, but these things exist just to improve the idea, not to replace it. Every idea should be unique, keep up with the times, solve a pressing problem, make life easier, or more interesting. In other cases, no one is going to use it or will delete the app right after downloading it.

The short life of apps has become a common thing in the world of million competitive digital ides. But if you have one, never give up.

 

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