Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Is your mobile strategy compatible with iOS 7?

If you are in the IT industry, it is very likely that you are involved in something called “mobile” - mobile projects, mobile strategy, mobile planning, mobile enterprise app development. The IT industry nowadays spends significant time and money on mobile solutions. Developing enterprise mobility solutions involves supporting many different mobile devices (smartphones, tablets) from many vendors (Samsung, Apple, Nokia, HTC) running multiple operating systems (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, etc.). And you want to support as many of them as possible.

Do your mobile tools best support your mobile strategy?

Assuming money is an issue (and when isn’t it?), you need to choose tools for building mobile enterprise apps that will enable you to:

  • Develop solutions for multiple platforms without doubling (or tripling) your effort (and risk)
  • Deliver an attractive, modern user experience
  • Integrate easily with your other existing enterprise solutions and information sources
  • Protect your mobile development investment by supporting future mobile devices or operating systems as they are introduced to the market, with minimal effort

The upcoming upgrade to iOS 7, which in many aspects is a new platform, is a good opportunity to re-evaluate your mobile strategy and see how it stands the test of time. The market for iOS apps is huge and until recently was quite uniform, thanks to its consistent user interface across multiple devices (in stark contrast to Android with its many variations). However, iOS 7 changes the rules by forcing everyone to plan for an additional variant of iOS, a variant that introduces a significantly modified look and feel.

So, what are your options? HTML5 or Native, and how do they future proof you?


HTML5 - Same Look & Feel on all platforms
Many people consider HTML5 their first option for mobile development. HTML5 in the mobile context is not a product or even a technology. HTML5 really means you build your UI using HTML and CSS; your business logic is in JavaScript and your communication is done using AJAX and JSON. When examining how HTML5 handles the introduction of iOS 7, we realize that although apps will probably work on the new OS (discounting HTML compatibility issues that might arise), they will not benefit from the new look and feel nor the improvements in interactions that iOS 7 provides. Actually, such apps will look more or less the same on any device, ignoring the device’s native look and feel completely. While this could be considered a benefit, in a market driven by user expectations, users of iOS 7 devices will be significantly disappointed when they find out that a specific app does not conform to the new user interface improvements they expected and paid for.

Platform SDKs (native code development)?

Another common strategy is to develop using each platform’s native SDK (Objective-C and XCode on iOS, Java and Android SDK on Android, etc.). However, this is a very expensive and complicated option for cross-platform development. It requires mastering and supporting multiple languages and tools. While it does provide good performance and granular control over look and feel, it is done at the (huge) expense of productivity and cost. When considering this strategy in relation to the introduction of iOS 7, assuming your goal is to support this new platform fully, it is clear that an extensive effort will be required initially (Apple’s extensive migration guide highlights all the issues). Following the initial effort, you need to calculate the additional effort required to support an additional iOS platform from now on (iOS 6 and iOS 7).

Application Platforms

The last option is to use a mobile application development platform, like Magic xpa. Such platforms enable you to develop once and deploy native applications with native look and feel on multiple mobile operating systems. This considerably reduces both initial development time for multiple platforms and ongoing maintenance costs.

Let’s examine how Magic xpa handles the introduction of iOS 7. When running applications developed using Magic xpa on iOS 6, they maintain the current look and feel. When running the same identical applications on iOS 7, they automatically acquire the new look and feel, without any development effort. Of course, such applications will also look native on Android and BlackBerry devices when ported to those platforms.

The screenshots below were taken from the same app developed with the Magic xpa Application Platform running on multiple devices and platforms. These screen shots demonstrate the power of a single development effort that delivers a native look & feel on multiple operation systems:

iOS 7
iOS 6
Android 4 on Samsung Galaxy
Android 4 on Nexus
Android 2
Windows 7

Summing It Up

The introduction of iOS 7 shows the benefits of planning your enterprise mobility strategy according to mobile market realities. There are multiple mobile platforms today; and there will be more in the future, even when you didn’t think there could be. Make sure you pick the right tools for delivering your enterprise mobility solutions.

Eyal Pfeifel is CTO of Magic Software Enterprises, Ltd. Magic provides powerful and versatile enterprise-grade application and data integration solutions.