Archive for November, 2019

“Lite” apps – what are they?

Friday, November 29th, 2019

“Lite” apps – what are they?

Over the past couple of years, major tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Spotify or Twitter have seen their apps gather hundreds of millions (or even billions!) of downloads. You might be wondering, how did they manage to reach so many people that own so many different devices?

mobile apps

Winning over such a large audience requires optimizing services and software optimized for conditions prevalent in developing markets, like slow connectivity, slow internet speeds, and wide proliferation of low-end mobile devices. Remember, not all of us have the latest and greatest smartphones. Many people still use smartphones from 2013 or earlier, which is fine, however… the newest apps might have issues running on those older models of phones.

Lite”?

Companies have started to design a ‘lite’ version of their main apps that can run on most phones and don’t take up much space on the device (usually less than 10MB). The main reason was that many users used to uninstall apps to make room for some photos, videos, or music. These apps were also designed to use the minimum amount of data, and even work when network conditions were not ideal. As a result, these companies came up with “lite” versions of these apps that were much smaller and snappier than their main counterparts.

Here’s a selection of the best “lite” apps that you can currently find on the App Store and Google Play:

lite

Facebook is the largest social media platform for mobile users in the world. It’s also a hefty and demanding app that requests a lot of data permissions from you (for example, device location) — so it makes sense to get rid of it in favor of a lightweight version. Thankfully, there’s Facebook Lite for Android and iOS. Facebook Lite delivers the same social experience you expect, but in a much smaller package and with less reliance on using a bunch of mobile data.

Facebook have managed to cram all major features of its main app in a lite app that is under 2MB. How is that even possible? Well, Facebook Lite uses the download-on-demand approach to fetch resources like sounds and animations instead of including it into the install package.

This year, Lite has been download 255.1 million times in comparison to 337.5 million downloads of the main app. We’d say it’s a successful app.

After beta testing a 15MB lite version, Spotify finally released the final version of its Spotify Lite for Android, and it weighs in at just 10MB. That tiny size makes Spotify Lite one of the least resource-intensive ways of streaming music from your phone. However, the Lite app is missing some aspects you might see as key for data saving — it has data monitoring solutions, but it lacks the ability to download songs to play offline. So while it’s a great app for saving storage space, it’s oddly not the best app for saving data. Stick with the main app if space is no issue, but if storage is at a premium, this is the best choice for music streaming.

Facebook’s chat tool, Messenger, is massive in its own right with more than 1.3 billion monthly active users. Facebook Messenger Lite strips down the messaging app to the essentials, bringing the app size down to less than 10MB. Those essentials still include some luxuries though, and Messenger’s ever-popular video calling is among them.

Google have chosen a different name for their lightweight app, calling it “Go” instead of “Lite”. But essentially, it’s still a stripped-down version of the main app. It uses the same “download-on-demand” approach as other lite apps.

Google Maps is the go-to app for navigating across a variety of travel methods, from walking to driving to using public transit, so using a lightweight version can have a big impact on performance and data usage.

Another great lite app by Google, “Google Go” is a lighter and faster version of the Chrome browser that promises data savings of up to 40%. Weighing in at only 7MB, it also barely takes up any space on your device, but still comes with all the features you love. Obviously, there is access to Google Search, but it also comes with voice controls, Google Lens, and the latest trending topics. If you’re using an entry-level or older phone, then this is a must install.

To conclude

If you have a good smartphone that was made in the past couple of years, you probably won’t need to use these “Lite” versions. However, if you still use a 5+-year-old phone, or an entry-level <£100 smartphone, you will probably be better off using these lite apps.

These lite apps might have a smaller user base compared to the main versions as of now. But as more people from countries like India and Brazil get connected to the internet for the first time, they will prefer to have lite apps.

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How smartphones and apps have evolved in the past decade

Sunday, November 24th, 2019

How smartphones and apps have evolved in the past decade

With 2019 quickly coming to an end, it will mark the end of a decade that brought along a multitude of technological improvements and advancements. However, today we will focus on smartphones and apps, and take a closer look at how they evolved throughout the decade.

Remember 2010?

iPhone 4 – the peak of technology in 2010

Yep, it was exactly 10 years ago (I can’t believe how fast time flies). But here’s a reminder of how technology used to look like a decade ago and we’ll see how it compares to modern tech.

The best smartphone of the year was the iPhone 4, while on the Android side we had the Galaxy S1. Nowadays we have the iPhone 11 Pro with the amazing 3 camera setup and other great Android phones such as the Galaxy S10. They look so much more futuristic than their 10 year-old cousins.

What about the apps?

Back in 2010, everything used to be much simpler. Apps were a lot simpler, they weren’t full of ads, and each app had its own properly defined role in our lives. Nowadays… apps are multi-functional. Want to take a picture? You can now do it directly from the Facebook Messenger app, or directly from the Viber or Instagram app. However, a few years ago, you would have to take the picture from the phone’s “Camera” app – that was the only way.

Modern apps such as Facebook do a lot more than they used to 10 years ago. You can use the Facebook app to access the Marketplace to sell/buy items. You can also use it as a messaging service, or to watch videos directly from the “Watch” portion of the app. It can also be used to create a business page and to manage to your business, or even display ads to potential customers. But it didn’t used to be like this. Facebook was Facebook – you would only use it to see your friend’s pictures and upload your own.

Evolution

As you can see, apps have evolved a lot in the past decade. Smartphones have evolved together with them as well. Here are a couple of examples of how apps are now vs. how they used to be years ago:

eBay app in 2010

Instagram app – 2010 vs 2019

Facebook app 2010 vs 2019

 

Well, as you can see, even if most apps became a lot more functional, the interface was kept as user-friendly as possible. This is a key aspect for app development – having a welcoming and intuitive UI.

Another thing that has changed but isn’t immediately noticeable from screenshots is the speed of the apps. You probably don’t remember how long it took for an app to load, let’s say 8 years ago. You would tap on the app, then wait… for a good 5 seconds at least. But since technology has advanced and smartphone processors have become a lot faster, apps take advantage of that processing power. Apps are now optimized to use that extra horsepower in order to make the app faster and a lot more responsive. This is another key aspect of mobile development – optimize your app to be as responsive as possible. Nobody wants a slow-to-respond and sluggish app.

Looking back at the past

The old Instagram app

There are valuable lessons that app developers can learn just by looking at this evolution of apps. As you can see, apps have improved in certain key aspects, and this is what made them much easier and friendlier to use. So what are these key aspects that a developer has to always keep in mind when creating a new app?

-Interface: Have a friendly and intuitive user interface. One that can be used by anyone, from kids to even our grandparents.

-Speed: Having an app that is very responsive and quick is a given. Nobody wants a slow app. Optimize the app so it is as fast as possible!

-Stability: Nobody wants an app that crashes all the time! Test your app and make sure it won’t randomly crash. Remember how often apps used to crash 10 years ago? I do… and it was painful.

-Optimization: Make sure your app doesn’t drain too much battery and make sure it is suited for all smartphones. Not long ago, apps weren’t tailored to specific smartphones. So if you had a smartphone with a larger screen, most apps would be blown-out and would look bad. Nowadays, no matter what phone you have, most apps are well-optimized to look and feel great on your specific device.

Conclusion

These are the key aspects that we consider extremely important when developing an app. And the past decade is a perfect example of this. These are the aspects that improved the most and the ones that matter the most to users.

So, if these 10 years held so much technological advancements, we’re curious to see what the next 10 years will serve us. We’ve been in the app developing business for over 10 years, and we’ve seen and done it all… but we honestly can’t wait to see what 2020 and the next decade will bring us in terms of smartphones and apps! If history is anything to go by, we should see even bigger improvements and advancements.

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How AI technology is changing the world

Friday, November 15th, 2019

The world we live in is fast evolving, with Artificial Intelligence driving this change that can affect the way we will be living in the near future. AI technology has been improving each year for the past 20 years, and today it’s a very mature technology. Many large companies and organizations are actively employing AI in different ways.

But before we dive deeper into this subject, we need to clarify what is AI? For many, it remains unclear what this technology is all about – so let’s start with that.

AI as the future AI is a branch of computer science that deals with the intelligent behavior of machines. It’s basically a simulated ability of a machine to imitate human behavior and our specific conventional response patterns. All of this is made possible with specific algorithms that make AI function in a specified scope of activities – this depends on the algorithm on which it’s based on. This means that AI is versatile enough to carry out many of our everyday activities.

Neural networks, for example, can now be used to perform tasks that were once performed exclusively by the human brain – such as automatically recognizing speech and images. AI can also make decisions based on a set of data – for example, what a person likes on social media or what product shopping history they have.

 

 

AI technology advancing

AI is already around us, but often we don’t notice it. For example, Facebook uses AI technology for its image recognition – when you try to tag a person in a photo. AI has also played roles in managing calendars, political campaigns, and it will soon be managing everything.

“The study is to proceed on the basis of the conjecture that every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can in principle be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it. “
— John McCarthy – one of the founding fathers of AI technology

This means that AI can imitate any aspect of our life, and this is how it can help to build a different and more advanced world to benefit.
Let’s have a look at a couple of ways how AI is changing our lives

Virtual assistants

Using AI, people would have to carry out fewer tasks by themselves – with a personal assistant we can set reminders and notifications to help us ease our days. For example, if you own your own smartphone, you have access to a personal assistant based on the platform you’re using such as Siri, the Google Assistant, Alexa. These AI-driven assistants can help you find any information when you ask for it using your voice. You can ask: Where is the neared restaurant? Or simply say “set an alarm for 8 am”, and the assistant will respond by finding the required information or by completing the task.

AI helps with processing in information (processing the request, finding the information and replying to your request) and to better recognize your voice. It’s also programmed to recognize and use behavioral patterns to tailor your preferences- basically, these assistants are continuously learning from their users.

Purchase predictions

Retailers use targeted advertising to keep their customers hooked on their websites. These emails take into consideration what the users browsed, searched for, shopped and numerous other factors and data. These systems show the things that the customer has an affinity towards – increasing the chances of purchasing the product.
Amazon wen a little bit further than this, they have patented anticipatory shipping – which is a system that was meant to deliver products to the shippers’ hubs or trucks close to customers who are predicted to want them before they even place an order. These predictions are made using the customers’ previous orders and numerous other factors.

Chatbots

 

AI technology - chatbotsCustomer service is a key proposition for businesses to keep you coming back. Businesses have dedicated Facebook pages where you can contact them via the Messenger or integrated chats services their websites – this is why more and more companies have started to create their own “apps in apps” called chatbots. These bots exist within a messaging app and are designed to offer customers some basic functions in the environment they already spend a lot of time in. There are already weather bots, bots that enable users to place orders and of course, ones you can talk with.

 

These bots require a lot of planning and resources to build. Chatbots need to be adept at understanding natural languages, which is rather challenging as the way each person talks to a computer is different – but with natural language processing and rapid advancements in the technology, smarter bots are not that far away.

Movie and Music recommendation services

Probably you wouldn’t think that Netflix, Spotify, Pandora, Prime, Hulu are all also based on Artificial intelligence. Thanks to the built-in AI, they can accomplish a useful task: – Recommending music and movies based on interests you’ve expressed and things you’ve watched/heard in the past.
By monitoring the choices and inserting them into an algorithm, these apps make recommendations of what you’ve most likely be interested in. For example, if you like a sci-fi movie from the ’90s with a certain actor or a plot, chances are you might like other films of the actor or other movies with a similar plot.

What we’ve been seeing in the movies is slowly becoming a reality – the solutions we have now are even more powerful and innovative than the ones predicted in sci-fi movies. What will we have in the future? The best way to have an idea of what’s coming next is to listen to the tech industry leaders who are already working on solutions for problems we can’t imagine yet.

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Agile vs Waterfall – which is the project management methodology for you?

Saturday, November 9th, 2019

One of the first decisions we face when starting each of our project implementations is “Which development methodology should we use?” – that’s why we thought an article about Agile vs Waterfall would be useful.

This is a topic that usually generates a lot of discussions and debates among the people working on the project. If this is not something you’ve worked with before, a definition of development methodology is in order; put very simply, it’s a way of organizing and breaking down the work of software development. This is NOT about a style of project management or a specific technical approach, although you will often hear these terms all thrown together or used interchangeably.

There are two basic and very popular methods of managing projects in the modern software development industry:

Let’s dive deeper into the two different methodologies:

What is Agile methodology?

 

Agile iterative developmentAgile methodologies – in our case, the “Scrum” variant – are built on the idea of a self-organizing, cross-functional team. This team develops a product using adaptive planning, evolutionary development, as well as early and frequent delivery with ongoing communication with the customer. Simultaneously, there is continuous improvement using customer feedback, this way each step of the project is tailored to the customer’s needs.

As the name suggests, Agile is a very flexible and fluid method of working – any change in direction or scope can be quickly implemented without messing up the whole process. This is because instead of working on the entire product in one go, the team develops the project in phases.

The process starts with the most basic version of the product – bare minimum functionality, and all subsequent iterations are built up from it. These iterations are delivered to the client – or Product Owner – at the end of each sprint (phase).

A sprint is how the project’s timeline is divided, each sprint can last up to two to six weeks. The team decides on the tasks to be completed at the beginning of each sprint, including what product features they will develop and how they will test them. That means the product evolves, adapting to, and delivering on, the most important and valuable features at that point in the project.

It often means a product can be put into use before it’s even fully finished, so the project team can get early feedback from users.

What are the advantages of the Agile method?

What is the Waterfall methodology?

 

Waterfall methodWaterfall methodology is the traditional method of software development, meaning that each phase is distinct and well-defined. The team completes each stage before they move on to the next.

First, the team designs the product, then develops it, and finally test the product once the development is complete.

The methodology is efficient, with each stage properly developed and documented. If the project is handed over to another team, they would not find it difficult to pick up from where the previous team left off because the planning and documentation is so comprehensive.

This does, however, mean that this methodology can be rigid. The planning stage is very distinct from the development stage, so there is not much room for changes once the product design has been finalized.

Typically, Waterfall is chosen where the buyer of the software has a clear specification and the development company needs to deliver exactly as required, often under a fixed price arrangement.

 

 

What are the advantages of the Waterfall method?

Summary – Agile vs Waterfall

Agile vs Waterfall methodology

When it comes down to Agile vs Waterfall, it really depends on the type of project you are working on. Both methodologies are good for different types of situations and can help you to reach your project goals. To help you decide on which of these methodologies suit your project, here are the main differences between the two:

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Google Maps API as a paid service

Friday, November 1st, 2019

There is no doubt that Google has come to dominate the Internet landscape since its creation back in 1998. As involved as this organization has become in the day-to-day lives of people, a significant number of its most popular products remain free to use and simple to access. From its famous search engine to Google Drive and Calendar, anybody can easily utilize many of the most valuable Google products for free.

Google Maps API

Google Maps, is the most popular navigational tool out there, which is similarly as powerful on a mobile device as on a desktop computer. As you’d expect, Google has a rivalry in this space — however, Google gained the reputation of being the best out of all.  Google Maps API is definitely the titan of interactive mapping online. They are usually the primary stage that new interactive mappers learn, because of the ease of getting started, the omnipresence of Google Maps, and the tremendous popularity of Google in general.

 

 

The Google Maps API has moved over to an all-new system that was designed to limit overuse by implementing a pay-as-you-go pricing. This had an impact on everyone with a Google Maps tool on their website.

They first announced that they will stop supporting keyless usage back in 2016  – stating that requests made without an API key or a client ID would not be processed- this came into effect in June 2018.

What does that mean for people using Google maps?

Google Maps locationIt means that if your website makes a keyless API call to either the Maps API or Street View API, you will be directed to a very low-resolution map that is watermarked with the words “for development purposes only’, meanwhile other calls, such as Directions API, Distance API, Places API, etc. – will return an error message.

To overcome this and to avoid any business interruptions – like having a broken map on your website, all businesses that are using the Google Maps API need to visit the Google Maps Platform to create a billing account and to generate an API key for transactions.

With this new pricing structure, came the re-grouping of all of its 18 individual Google Maps APIs into three core products:

 

How to continue using Google Maps

If your website uses the Google Maps API, you might fall into one of these two categories of users :

If you have a Google Maps API key

For Standard Plan customers, you need to check your Google Cloud account. There you’ll learn all the changes happening to Maps APIs on your websites and get notifications associated with any adjustments you need to make.

Again, the service will largely be free for all yet, but Google tracks use and if you go over their 28,000 connections and $200 credit in any month, they would charge you for the overage. You need large traffic websites to exceed this $200 credit.

 

If you’re not sure if you have an API key

If you are a Google Chrome user, you can easily install the Maps API Checker extension– this can help you check for valid API keys. Alternatively, visit the Maps user guide to find a step-by-step guide to check the validity of your API keys manually.

 

If you’ve been working without an API key

You won’t be able to use the service for free anymore starting June 11, 2018. To avoid business interruptions, visit the Google Maps Platform Get Started page. Create a billing account, and sign up for the $200 a month free credit plan that allows you to use Maps, Routes, and Places.  Again, you would need the API key setup on your website.

Google Maps API service

How far will the $200 credit get you?

If using the simple dynamic maps showing the location of your business with a pin, this will be completely free and not part of your credit, therefore the map can be served an unlimited number of times.

  1. For Styled Maps

If you customise the look or use ‘styled’ maps (for example nightmode) then this is where the credit will begin to be used.

If you use styled maps on your website then expect your $200 to obtain 100,000 calls.

  1. Dynamic Maps – Streetview

If your website uses the Streetview feature then you will be chargeable. Expect your $200 to obtain 28,000 calls.

  1. Routes & Directions

If your website provides a resource for your customers to work out the best route to visit your business, you can expect this to happen 40,000 times before using up your $200 credit.

  1. GeoLocation

If your website uses locations of places nearby i.e. an estate agent showcasing local schools or shops, then expect the $200 to stretch as far as delivering 11,500 API calls.

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