The past two years, New York City has hosted contests for mobile apps that use city data. Now New York State’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is launching a similar contest of its own.
A number of cities, including Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, have made their data publicly available. It makes sense: Apps that improve parking situations or make public transportation easier to navigate benefit the city without sucking its resources.
But New York City, and now New York State, are some of the first governments to add a contest to the process in order to incentivize developers to make such apps.
To be eligible for “MTA App Quest” and its $15,000 in cash prizes, the biggest requirement is that apps need to use at least one of the MTA’s data sets.
The MTA first posted databases online for developer use in January 2010, and 40 or so apps have been created using the data. But many of these, like NYC Way [iTunes link], were entries in New York City’s BigApps contest, which borrowed several MTA databases.
Though it was written with developers and designers in mind, Mashable’s “5 Things to Consider When Designing Your Mobile App” reads more like a how-to guide for mobile application testers – covering the basics of native apps vs. mobile web, screen size, user location, UI intuitiveness and other common design issues.
Of course, when these issues are not dealt with properly on the developer/designer side, they eventually become the problem of mobile test engineers. So with that in mind, let’s take a quick look at their five things to consider:
1. Weigh the Options — Mobile App or Mobile Website?
“Do you need a mobile application, a mobile website, or both? Before even starting the design process, you need to figure out what format or formats are best suited for your goals. Sometimes this can be really easy. For example, if you want to build a utility or game, you may be better served building a native application rather than worrying about how different mobile browsers will interpret your content.”
2. Consider Where Your App Will Be Used
“Once you’ve decided to make a native mobile app, you’ll want to consider where your application is most likely going to be used. This is important because where and how an application is used can directly impact how it can be designed.
For instance, if you have an application that is going to be used while walking around — a geo-location app or an app that takes advantage of a device’s GPS — making sure that core app functions are easy to see and access is very important.”
MobileCrunch picked up the news that Firefox Home – what they call the “almost-a-browser” - is now awaiting App Store approval. That’s great, you’re thinking, but what the heck is an “almost-a-browser”? Here’s Simon Chester with an explanation:
Well, rather than just being a Safari replacement, Firefox Home acts as a bridge between your desktop version of Firefox and your iPhone. This is crucial, as apps that duplicate functionality of native iOS apps without adding anything new are a no-no in the App Store approval process.
It uses the Firefox Sync extension to sync your (desktop) Firefox bookmarks and history with your iPhone, and – more interestingly – will allow you to slide tabs open in Firefox over to your iPhone, much like Google’s Chrome-to-Phone functionality in Android 2.2.
You can search for and view any of the pages in your desktop bookmarks or history, as well as view the tabs open on your desktop copy of Firefox, right on your iPhone. Once you’ve found the page you’re after, you can view it either in Safari (an Apple-friendly move), or from within Firefox Home (which may upset Apple). You can also send the links via email.
Make sense? If not, and you’re one of those “visual” learners, here’s a video demonstration:
Some are simply better than others, though. While many companies just build stripped-down versions of their current sites with a few links and maybe an image, others have taken the time and energy to really think about the advantages of mobile and truly become destinations that can be accessed on any platform. These well-designed mobile sites provide a glimpse into what we can expect in the future.
For now though, here are six examples of brilliantly designed mobile sites, chosen from six different verticals. We couldn’t cover them all, so we encourage you to add your own favorites in the comments below.
It took about 10 seconds for me to go from loading the homepage to watching a full episode of MacGuyver on CBS.com.
CBS is amazing to behold on a smartphone. It presents you with exactly what you want: TV shows. On both Android () and the iPhone, it took only two clicks to play clips from hot shows such as NCIS or stream full episodes of classic shows such as Star Trek. There’s no way around it: it makes you want to keep coming back.
While NBC doesn’t boast full TV episodes, its video library is also easy to access via mobile.
This one’s for the Seinfeld fans among us. Remember the episode where George bought a cashmere sweater as a gift for Elaine? The sweater was perfect – even better, it was highly discounted – with the only drawback being a small, red-dotted stain. Even though it was barely noticeable, it was enough to cause sit-comic chaos, before Elaine eventually “re-gifted.”
Like that great episode, the new iPhone 4 – a great gift in its own right – is being tainted by a small yellow discoloration on the screen.
Mashable has a nice summary of the issue, along with several other user complaints:
Several early iPhone 4 customers have discovered critical issues with the phone’s display and reception that could pose major problems for Apple’s newest mobile device.
Multiple Apple- and gadget-focused websites are receiving reports that the iPhone’s much-discussed “Retina Display” is susceptible to a yellow discoloration, either as a thin line of yellow or as a circular tint.
That’s not the only problem: There are now countless videos online that show how holding the new iPhone by its sides can decrease reception quality.
Here’s video showcasing the reception difficulties:
Have you gotten the new iPhone 4 yet? Have any bugs to report?
On the backend, iOS 4 has more than 1,500 changes or additions to the API, which will enable developers to build even better apps on these devices. We’ll be posting a more complete video overview of what is new in iOS 4 later this afternoon, but check out some of the highlights first:
Multitasking — A combination of persistent-state applications and backgrounding functions for certain services. The end result means better battery performance when doing things like listening to Pandora while browsing the web.
Folders — Organizing your iPhone Home Screen is easier now that you can use folders to store groups of apps in one icon. This is a huge time saver and makes finding and keeping more apps on your device much easier.
iBooks — First appearing on the iPad, iBooks is now available for iPhone users. Just like the Kindle app, your purchases and page marks are synchronized across devices.
Tap to Focus Video — iPhone 3GS owners can now tap to focus their videos just like you can when taking still shots. The new software also includes a 5x digital zoom for the built-in camera.
Bluetooth Keyboard Support – You can now pair your iPhone with a Bluetooth keyboard, which will make typing long documents much easier.
Of course, as with any major release, there are bound to be some bugs that sneak past production – most likely bugs associated with these new features. Nothing like a few million downloads to help uncover them.
Here’s a concise guide from Mashable on how to do just that. Pay particular attention to the advice on page 33:
“Development (and debugging) is a very important and difficult part of the process. Obviously, you don’t want buggy software, and you’ll need a team that understands how to properly code and test their software. I’ve seen so many people fail at this point. If you do not have an in-house team to do your development, be especially sure that your concepts and designs are mature – never leave it up to the development team to fill in the void. Obviously, you will need a team that excels where you are weak (concept, design, coding, etc). ”
Sometimes, trends can be difficult to quantify. Even when they’re not, the numbers can often be too hard to grasp. Take some of the recent mobile app download studies for example. One such study was recently published by Mashable. It’s from Chetan Sharma Consulting, who claims that:
…mobile app downloads should jump from 7 billion in 2009 to almost 50 billion in 2012. By this time, the market will be worth 17.5 billion dollars, the study predicts, despite the expected lower price of mobile apps, which should drop from the current average of 2 dollars per app to 1.5 dollars in 2012.
50 billion downloads! Not sure how they figured out how apps will be cheaper in 2012, but what does seem fairly straightforward is the fact that mobile app popularity remains in a perpetual uptrend.
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This site is owned and operated by the motley, mouthy and motivated crew from uTest. It’s worth mentioning that the thoughts, news and musings expressed here are not necessarily in line with our mother ship.
The purpose of this site is to generate informed, objective and original content about the world of mobile application development and testing. This site will be brand-neutral, so you won’t see a fanboy mentality pulling us in any one direction or towards any manufacturer (woohoo iPhone) or carrier (boo AT&T).
We’ll gather news from outside sources like TechCrunch, Mashable, Engadget and WirelessWeek. We’ll share outside product reviews from a number of sources. We’ll solicit original content from real-world mobile app developers and testers who are much smarter than weus we. And we’ll weigh in with our own thoughts and ideas about the present and future of all things mobile.
Also, there’s no commercial purpose to this site. We like following and contributing to the rapidly evolving landscape that is the mobile world, and we hope to make this a gathering place for all things mobile. We welcome your feedback, praise and insults.