Monthly Archives: February 2014

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The $19 Billion Mobile App

Many of you may have heard of the sale of WhatsApp for $19 billion. None of the people who built the WhatsApp iPhone app and Android app will ever have to work again – $3 billion in cash and $16 billion in Facebook shares is a life changing experience.

What you might not have heard is that there is already a new challenger – Telegram app. Last weekend, according to reports, WhatsApp was down for 4 hours – for 4 hours the WhatsApp service was unusable. That is all it took to drive just under five million WhatsApp users to switch to Telegram app.

Telegram is similar in look and feel to WhatsApp, but its a little faster, and has Snapchat like security features.

If this rise and fall in app fortunes feels a little dizzying, you’re not alone in feeling that way. But there is one important take home message from this narrative: There is still room for a better communications app. And whatever you do, make sure your service is utterly reliable, because even a small break in service can cause substantial damage to your reputation.

Contact me if you have an idea for a communication app which you would like to discuss. I strongly recommend you download the hottest communication apps, both iPhone apps and Android Apps – Snapchat, Telegram, Whatsapp, and get a feel for what makes them so popular, while working on your idea. Because if you get the design of your new communication app right, the next billion dollar deal could be for you.

Why Android is still Second Best for Some

Thinking back to my old Sony Ericcson P990, back in the mid noughties, I would have loved to replace it with an Android phone.

The P990 was a geek phone. It had no battery life, but it had an amazing array of features. I once reconfigured it to use an international dial up internet connection, to post an email from a beach in Thailand, where no mobile internet was available (at the time). You can’t do that with a modern phone. But the P990 was in my opinion utterly unusable, unless you knew an awful lot about IT.

Compared to that, Android is a dream for ordinary users – most of the functions can be accessed without arcane messing with the settings, the app paradigm is simple and intuitive – what could be better?

The answer of course is iPhone. I tried switching my wife to an Android phone a few years ago, when she needed a new phone (I needed a new test device, budget was tight) – she hated it.

I had to buy my wife a new iPhone when she threatened to throw the Android phone out the window of the car. It kept stalling her, tripping her up with sudden eruptions of complexity, which she needed me to fix – something she never had to fear when using an iPhone.

Granted her phone ran Gingerbread, and new versions of Android are far better.

Android is good, many people use it and love it. Android Apps can do things iPhone Apps are forbidden from doing. An Android app can send email or SMS on your behalf (once you grant fairly scary permissions before installation), which opens a vast range of desirable functionality, such as apps which create personalised SMS messages.

Android apps can run background processes (iPhone is very limited in this regard, though less so with iOS 7), and Android apps have far fewer limitations when it comes to app store approval – so it is possible to configure Android apps and Android phones to do really useful tasks, which simply cannot be done on an iPhone, unless you jailbreak it.

But iPhone has one, towering advantage of Android – it doesn’t scare people. It doesn’t deter people who are uncomfortable with geek devices.

This in my opinion is the source of iPhone’s loyalty – people who don’t like tech, feel comfortable using an iPhone. This simple, powerful advantage is what makes iPhone special.

It remains to be seen whether Apple iPhone can maintain this advantage. Android is catching up – each generation of the Android operating system is a little easier to use, a little less threatening to people who can’t stand geek tech.

The next version of Android may be the breakthrough which levels the playing field.

Could Android Apps replace Microsoft Windows?

Today The Register, a major tech website, published news that China has discontinued its efforts to develop a Red Chinese rival to Microsoft Windows, Red Flag Linux. China loves Microsoft Windows XP so much, even Chinese government departments refused to give up their Microsoft Desktops, despite widely publicised suspicions that the USA uses hidden back doors in Microsoft Windows to spy on rivals.

The Chinese alternative to Microsoft was to be based on Linux. Linux is a terrific operating system. Linux is the dominant operating system in much of the server market. I use Linux extensively – when I am creating web technology server components for iPhone Apps and Android Apps.

However Linux never really made it as a desktop operating system. Outside of a few geeks, most people use Microsoft Windows or Mac computers. Linux never attracted a critical mass of desktop applications.

Or did it? There is a branch of Linux which did make it to the mass market – Android OS. All Android phones run Linux under the hood.

But Android is a phone operating system – what has this got to do with desktop computers?

It turns out that efforts are already underway to create a desktop version of Android. Android apps are very adaptable – they are designed to work on a wide variety of devices, with a huge variation in screen size. So making an app work on a desktop is not a big stretch – a small desktop monitor has a similar screen size to the largest Android pad devices.

Whether Android makes it on the desktop is still an open question – but unlike all previous attempts to displace Microsoft Windows, Android already has a very large, loyal following. Many people use Microsoft on their desktop, but have an Android phone, and love their Android Apps. The battle between Android and Microsoft for ownership of the desktop promises to be a popcorn event, rather than yet another Microsoft slam dunk.

So my advice to China – if you want independence from Windows, and the confidence of being able to examine and inspect every line of the code you are using, the solution may be right under your nose. Take a look at Android.

Should All School Children be Taught to Code?

Governments across the world are slowly waking up to the fact there aren’t going to be many jobs in the future which don’t involve a computer, or, given the pace of Robotics research, there might not be many jobs at all.

In response to this looming crisis, the UK government has decided to introduce mandatory software development lessons for all school children.

The problem is twofold:-

  1. Most people find software development intensely boring. The reason we are geeks, is normal people just don’t find fiddling with bits of code interesting. If you aren’t the kind of kid who enjoys spending hours building sophisticated model train sets or model airplanes, doing complex puzzles, or creating your own board game, you just haven’t got the mindset to code – it is not about whether you are smart, it is just that you will fall asleep from boredom before you learn anything useful.
  2. Governments and their advisors have no real idea what software development is, and have no idea how to teach it to others.

The tragedy is this desire to teach kids coding skills is motivated by a genuine concern for the future welfare and job prospects of the nation’s school children.

I have a few suggestions for politicians who want to help kids develop coding skills

  1. For pity’s sake, do not make the software lessons mandatory. By all means *expose* kids to a few coding classes, but allow the 99% of kids who find software coding intensely boring to drop out. Don’t poison their desire to be educated by adding what for most of them will be an unendurably monotonous subject to the list of courses they have to pass.
  2. Teach the handful of kids who are interested coding skills which are likely to be relevant – teach them to build Android Apps and iPhone apps.

    I am not suggesting iPhone apps or Android apps and phone handsets in 20 years time will be the same as they are today – they will be radically different. But at least start kids on the right path.

  3. Make it interesting – get kids to code and own apps which might actually make money. If a 14 yr old kid can create a world beating iPhone app, then anyone can – the very next app your kid codes could make millions of dollars.

My suggestions might not solve the looming future jobs crisis – but forcing kids to study something they can’t stand is not a solution either. In any case, there is reason to be optimistic about the future – many issues which in the past were seen as an urgent crisis rapidly solved themselves. Human ingenuity will solve this problem, just as it solved all the other problems we have ever encountered.

I refer interested readers to Scott Adam’s law of slow moving disasters.

If you would like to know more about how to develop Android apps and iPhone apps, or would like to discuss an app idea, please contact Eric Worrall.

If your app idea is not quite ready to go to a developer, please visit Apps Nursery, for expert assistance with exploring and developing your app idea.

Should Apple sell Android Phones?

Steve Wozniak, one of the original founders of Apple, recently stunned Apple fans by suggesting Apple should build Android phones.

“There’s nothing that would keep Apple out of the Android market as a secondary phone market,” said Wozniak. “We could compete very well. People like the precious looks of stylings and manufacturing that we do in our product compared to the other Android offerings. We could play in two arenas at the same time.”

My question – instead of building a separate handset, why don’t Apple allow iPhones to run Android apps?

From a developer perspective, it is technically easier to write Apple iPhone apps than Android apps. The Android App development system (the software used to create Android Apps) is much more difficult to work with than the iPhone App development system – the Android app system is more temperamental, crashes frequently, is fiddly (it often takes hours to figure out why your code is not compiling) and is really, really slow, especially when you are trying to test your work in progress Android app in the Android Emulator. So I am happy to write Android apps – but I prefer to write the Apple iPhone version of the App first.

However, there is no reason why Apple couldn’t fix all this.

Under the late Steve Jobs, Apple was unremittingly hostile towards cross platform development tools – tools which would allow say a Flash application to run on an Apple phone. But I have always wondered whether this prejudice against alternatives was because Jobs was emotionally attached to the NeXT tools he developed when he left Apple in the 80s – and brought with him, when a desperate Apple Corporation reinstated Steve Jobs as CEO. Jobs may have worried other cross platform technologies might displace his iPhone development environment, if he allowed other technologies on his iPhone.

However, aside from the software, Apple iPhone hardware is technologically very similar to Android phones – both Android phones and Apple iPhones use ARM processors, and have similar specifications. Apple iPhones have all the hardware they need to run Android Apps.

If Apple relaxes its software policy a little, Apple has a golden opportunity to be the best of both worlds – to utterly dominate both the Apple and Android app market, with one handset. To bring their design genius to the task of creating a market leading iPhone which can run most of the world’s apps.

Apple could even bring much needed improvements to the Android development environment. If the technically superb Apple XCode iPhone App development environment came pre-configured with the ability to create Android apps, nobody would ever bother using anything else.

Time will tell whether Apple seizes this golden opportunity, or whether the ghost of Steve Jobs keeps Apple loyal to the prejudices of their old master.

If you would like to know more about the difference between Android apps and iPhone apps, or would like to discuss an app idea, please contact Eric Worrall.

If your app idea is not quite ready to go to a developer, please visit Apps Nursery, for expert assistance with exploring and developing your app idea.

A Sure Fire Best Seller App

If the mobile app works, the reward could be millions of dollars, even hundreds of millions.

How do you create a successful iPhone or Android app, which generates vast wealth?

I knew the secret of creating a sure fire best seller app, I wouldn’t be creating mobile apps for other people, I would be creating sure fire best seller Android and iPhone apps for myself.

But I have learned a little along the way.

Consider the runaway success of app gaming – Angry Birds.

The creators of Angry Birds, Rovio, developed over 50 flops before they created the Angry Birds app – they almost went bust.

Were they stupid to create the flops? Were they doing something wrong, which they suddenly got right? Was Angry Birds the result of an epiphany, or was it simply dogged determination? Was each failure a learning experience? Did each failure teach them something? Or did they just get really lucky?

One thing we can safely conclude from the Angry Birds story, is that persistence improves your chances of success. If they had given up, say by the 50th failure, there would never have been an Angry Birds.

You also hear stories about instant success stories. One of my favourites is a simple physics game written by a 14 yr old kid called “Bubble Ball”.

Kid picks up a book on iPhone programming, and spends a couple of weeks writing a game. His mum helped him develop the game levels. The result – millions of downloads.

Even simple ideas sometimes work.

I might not have created an Angry Birds or Bubble Ball (yet!), but I have some useful advice to offer, Based on seeing which apps worked for my clients. The successes I have personally been involved in have all succeeded because of word of mouth.

Before spending your hard earned money, try to work out if the app is something you would tell your friends about. Is the app something you can’t put down? Is the idea something which your friends tell other friends about? Because ultimately, this excitement is what will drive an Android app or iPhone app to success.

If the mobile app works, the reward could be millions of dollars, even hundreds of millions. Its a big risk, but the potential rewards are life changing.

That is what keeps us all in the game.

If you have an app idea, and would like to bounce ideas off someone, to get it ready for development, please contact Apps Nursery

Contact Eric at if you would like more information about mobile apps, iPhone apps or Android apps.