Building an App? Know Your Devices and Platforms First

This article is Part 3 of a six-part blog series from our white paper, “Six Critical Questions to Answer Before Your Company Builds a Mobile App.” In our experience, companies should ask themselves six critical questions as a starting point for any mobile app initiative. With answers to these questions in hand, your mobile initiative will be focused, cost-effective and successful.

Question 3: Which mobile platform and devices will the application be built for?

Once you identify the anticipated audience for your new mobile app, you’ll need to think about the devices and platforms they’ll use to access the app. Many companies choose to limit employee use to a specific device and platform for a simple reason: it makes it much easier to ensure the security of the company’s IT assets.

That’s changing fast. Employees are increasingly using their own mobile devices for work. “BYOD” – Bring Your Own Device – is becoming more than a catchphrase. By 2016, 200 million people around the world will take their own devices to the workplace, according to Forrester. Particularly for many younger workers with a strong attachment to their device, permission to use their own device is a prerequisite for accepting employment. Many companies now offer BYOD as a recruiting tactic.

It’s important to think about this changing environment before you build your mobile app. If your app is intended for internal use by employees, which devices and platforms does your company support? Do you envision that changing in the next three to five years? If the app is intended for a broader B-to-C audience, which are the dominant platforms your customers will be using?

Increasingly, companies build mobile apps that can be supported across all of the major platforms – iOS (Apple), Android (Google), Blackberry (RIM) and Windows (Microsoft). Walgreen’s, for example, has enjoyed success with its multi-platform app that lets customers shop, order prescription refills and find stores to get flu shots. A year after its introduction, already 40 percent of Walgreen’s online transactions came via the mobile app. If Walgreen’s had created a “native” app – one exclusive to a single mobile platform – it would have been less successful.

Beyond the platform, anticipating which devices – tablets, smartphones, rugged handhelds, or all of the above – your app will be used on is equally important. While smartphones are the most common device for app use, some companies are developing different apps for smartphones and tablets. A tablet-optimized app offers the advantage of more screen real estate, which can be helpful for viewing graphic-rich presentations and larger spreadsheets. A Forbes article says enterprise software giant SAP has issued iPad tablets to much of its global workforce and has built a large library of iPad specific apps to enable software demos and other tablet-oriented sales tools.

Stay tuned to our blog over the next several weeks as we roll out all six parts of this series, or download the RunMobile white paper in its entirety for free here.

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