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Smartphone Application Development Outlook

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

By Brent Gairy

Mobile usage and more specifically smartphone usage, represents a unique opportunity for application developers and brand owners alike to generate new revenue and brand awareness. Unlike open platforms such as the Internet, smartphones are separated by a range of operating systems, handsets and carrier support.
Market share Trends
The mobile operating systems to target are Apple's iPhone OS 3.0, RIM's Blackberry 4.6+ and Google's Android. These are the largest growing mobile OS platforms; others such as Symbian and Windows Mobile are experiencing slower growth in market share and also suffer from platform "fragmentation", further lowering their effective market share. Of all the competing operating systems, only the iPhone/iPod Touch allows for near universal application development.
The Risk of Fragmentation
There is significant platform fragmentation with non Apple devices, notably the Blackberry OS, with a large roster of legacy devices such as the blackberry 8100, 8700 and 8800 families. Each manufacturer can build a totally unique Android phone running on a variety of OS versions, ranging from Android 1.5, 1.6, 2.0, 2.0.1,and 2.1.
The iPhone line can be drawn into three main groupings; the original iPhone, the iPod Touch and the iPhone 3GS. The iPod Touch does not have a camera, so any app that needs a camera will not function. The iphone 3GS is the newest model and is becoming the baseline model for app developers, especially those utilizing live video and location based services.
When developing native apps for the Blackberry, the largest pool of compatible devices are the Blackberry Curve 8300, 8900 and the 8500 series, followed by the Bold 9000, Bold 9700 and the Blackberry Tour.
HTC's customized Android devices are also popular; these include the HTC Hero and the Verizon Droid Eris.
App development tools
Native iPhone apps are built with Apple's Objective C language using Xcode and then submitted to the "App Store" for distribution to the general public. There are several third party tools that allow development with other languages such as Actionscipt (Flash CS5), Lua, and Javascript. Other features such as GPS location and the camera may be limited until these tools mature.
Blackberry apps can be built with the Blackberry JDE plug-in for Eclipse using the Java language. Applications can also be built with the Javascript based Phonegap, which may lower the level of developer experience needed to begin development. Blackberry apps can be sold via the official app store known as Blackberry App World or they can be sold through 3rd party providers such as Android is also based on Java, and it too uses Eclipse IDE with the Android Development Tools plugin. There is no oversight by Google on the types of apps that can be built for Android, Google, however does reserve the right to remove malicious apps.

Types of apps to create

On the iPhone, the majority of apps currently available are games; they can range from Adobe Flash games ported with minimal functionality to full 3d games using Unity 3d. Outside of games, many iPhone apps are mobile extensions of websites utilizing open API's. The majority of non gaming apps are complex widgets that communicate with 3rd party API's and follow Apple interface guidelines reducing the need for graphic artists.Android roughly parallels the iphone in with games being the most popular downloads followed by general interest apps. Blackberry apps are primarily business applications such as Poynt, with fewer games on the platform compared to Apple and Google's offerings.
Blackberry OS 8100
Currently, web developers have been on the sidelines waiting for tools to mature and leverage their web based skills.Blackberry OS 8100

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