The mobile market is relatively new and still presents many challenges. From a strategic perspective many companies are looking at this newly emerging sector. But have found its immaturity has created a confusing market place.
Hardware varies. Screen size is a particularly relevant variable for mobile application development. Smartphone screens range from 2.1 to 4″. Tablets from 7″ to 10.1″. More than just skinning an application for the screen size, apps need be designed with screen size in mind. For example, map viewers work well on tablets, but are near to impossible to use on a smartphone.
There are many mobile platforms. Apple have IOS, Google introduced Android, Microsoft with Windows and many others. Just like the old PC days with the competition between Windows and MAC, the field of mobile operating systems is many and varied. This directly impacts software. Mobiles access applications in one three ways. First there is access through a mobile browser. Second there is installing a native application on the device. Last there is installing a hybrid application. It gets confusing!
Let’s discuss a hypothetical scenario to better understand this complexity. A client wishes to take an existing Web viewer, written in Adobe Flex, and make it accessible via any mobile tablet. Since its a Web application the most obvious, and cheapest approach, would be to access the app via the mobiles browser. True, but the client wanted the application accessible on ALL mobile tablets. Apple decided they would not support the Flash Player on the IPad. That means the Flex viewer would not be available on the IPad. The next option is a native application. All platforms have their own native languages, meaning languages which go hand in hand with the underlying operating system. In Apples case that is Objective-C. The Flex application could be rewritten in Objective-C and pushed out to the Apple App Store. That could be expensive. Add to that the need to write a version for Android, Windows etc and things get very pricey. The third option is to build a hybrid application. Adobe have just released Flash Builder 4.5.1, which allows a single AIR application to be installed and run on most mobile devices.
Mobile Utah Application Developers
Hybrid seems potentially the most cost effective solution to satisfy this clients need. Webmapsolutions are Utah application developers. Historically focused on Web application development, the new mobile revolution offers new and exciting possibilities for building new client software solutions. Webmapsolutions decided to investigate the process of taking a Web based application and move it to mobile. They built a Flex ArcGIS map application and attempted to port it to mobile AIR and install it on an IPad2. They included modified versions of widgets from the existing ESRI Flex 2.4 map viewer in the application. The process proved almost seamless. The video in Figure 2 below shows the application running on an IPad2.
Figure 2: An ArcGIS AIR App Running on the IPad2
The only challenge proved to be widgets which contained components not yet supported in mobile AIR. The Layers widget was most notable, and a new widget needed to be built, one different to that in the Flex version of the app. The application was built using the new ArcGIS 2.4 Flex release, which has additional mobile support added. Flash Builder 4.5.1 also allowed the app to be compiled for Android and Blackberry.
Low Cost Mobile Application Development
Hybrid AIR applications may well be the best current approach to building cross platform mobile solutions. Whether it be porting existing Flex Web applications to mobile, or building mobile applications from scratch. Hybrid allows one application to be run on many platforms; IOS, Android, Blackberry. This is potentially a big cost saving.
Utah Mobile Application Development Opportunities
Webmapsolutions are Utah software developers. New releases from Adobe and ESRI have our clients increasingly requesting mobile applications. We’ve helped demystify the mobile landscape and have built some very advanced mobile software solutions. The use of GPS and maps have helped us both extend existing application, and build new client mobile software solutions. If you are looking to build a mobile solution, or just need a better understanding of the mobile sector, contact me at: [email protected]