It’s A Mobile World After All
In 1995, there were approximately 5 million mobile connections. A short 15 years later, that number is closer to 5 billion a number that’s rapidly approaching and will handily surpass the actual population of the planet. Look around, and look on your person, it’s likely you’ll find a smart phone, maybe a tablet or even an older MP3 player. This isn’t even counting such antiquated computing resource like a laptop, and it’s easy to see why the calculation is going to average over four such devices per person. To say there will be growth in mobile is a bit of an understatement, once you consider all the other “widgets” yet to come — from embedding into appliances to health-related devices, like glucose meters, heart monitors or even plain old thermometers. My point is, lots of mobile (platforms) invites for lots of mobile apps. Seems like daily, that I hear about someone becoming a mobile application developer.
Most of that distinction centers around the devices themselves — screen resolution, rendering, native code vs HTML5, etc — things related to UI or frontend development. On the back-end or server side, it may not matter what type of client is being serviced, be it web application or mobile application. In this always-connected world, developers are growing up without memories, and the lessons learned, of a time when latency, bandwidth and topology often did break the application. The luxury of not knowing that time period, when speed is measured in bps instead of Mbps, is reflected in the design and performance of these applications. They are wasteful in consuming bandwidth; they remain largely un-informed regarding network security; the hidden cost of transport is readily passed onto the users themselves; and avoiding bottlenecks happens after the launch, and then sudden success breaks the application itself — to the point we’ve coined terms for it, FailWhale, slashdotted, to just name a few.
It’s not that ideas like social or image-centric applications weren’t dreamt of prior to this current state of mobile application. However, resource constraints meant that creative solutions were applied elsewhere. It simply seems like currently, developers are producing apps, even useful ones, without consideration that mobile devices may travel in and out of range, cross network (much less, national) boundaries and there may be cost/penalties levied against the user in a heavy data model. Why? Because broadband, DSL, Ethernet and WiFI have created this myopic vision of the world. I’d like for apps to continue to maintain reasonable functionality when the signal is weak. I’d like for apps to be mindful of my battery and data consumption. I certainly have no interest in paying for roaming charges — a scenario much more common outside of North America — unnecessarily by dormant programs. But none of those seems to be top of mind in this generation of mobile apps, and instead, as a user I’m left to fend for myself. Can you hear me, creators of products and solutions?