So you want to develop a mobile app?

MEST, Monday January 24th 2011

I recently participated in a presentation by Jim Kaubisch, Senior Faculty, Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology where he presented to a group of aspiring software entrepreneurs at MEST on the topic, ‘Developing mobile applications’.

It’s no secret these days that Africa has become the fastest growing mobile market in the world today, with mobile penetration in the region ranging from 30% to 100% according to market research conducted by the ‘African Telecom News’ for the last quarter of 2010. The report further projected 100% penetration by the year 2012.

[caption id="attachment_543" align="aligncenter" width="350" caption="Image Credit: African Telecom News"][/caption]

Building on this premise, these days it has also become commonplace for developers and technology enthusiasts to develop mobile applications or simply 'mobile apps'  in order to take advantage of this rather phenomenal growth in the mobile market here in Africa.

During this presentation, I took away a couple of things, which I wanted to share  with our readers:

What really is a 'mobile app'?

Mobile apps are software applications designed to run on handheld computers, personal digital assistants (PDAs), enterprise digital assistants (EDAs), smartphones and cellphones using different programming languages. These applications are usually pre-installed by the mobile device manufacturer or can be downloaded by users  from mobile application vendors.

Mobility ≠ wireless: Instead, mobility usually refers to some combination of the following:

  1. Device mobility: This is when the device moves with the person.

  2. Service mobility: The person has access to their service across other networks.

  3. User mobility: The person moves from device to device, network to network but maintains their service connection.

So the obvious question is in which of the three categories would your app fit? There are two (2) critical questions to ask yourself to help you determine whether your app is a mobile app or not:

1. “Does your app’s value benefit from Mobility?” What this means is this: It has value in a fixed environment, but more with mobility. Does your app have / offer ‘anytime access to its users?’ for example:

  • I want to access information / e-mail anywhere I might be.

  • I might want to check for the status of my bank account.

  • I might also need to make some payment for services or products.

2. Does the Value of your app depend on Mobility? (i.e. your app, really only makes sense in a mobile environment). For example,

  • Location Sensitivity - Does the answer to a question change depending on your location? E.g. where’s the nearest gas station?

  • Time Passer - I find myself in a queue and want to do something fun to pass away the time, e.g. a simple game.

If your answer to both questions is NO, then I’m sorry your app probably is not a mobile app, even if it runs on mobile device. :)

I hope this offers you some initial questions you want to ask yourself if you are considering developing a mobile app. Let’s continue this in the next episode of my ‘Mobile Series’.

Post by: Amma Baffoe