As technology advances, mobile screens get better, batteries last longer, cameras on your phones get almost as good as the ones on standalone DSLRs… Add to that a variety of different touch, motion, sound, wireless and other sensors that became the standard in most smartphones, and you get yourself a giant list of available functions you can utilize. And that list keeps on growing every time a new smartphone is introduced.
A large number of powerful features that simplify everyday tasks is always a plus for users, but if you’re in the process of creating a mobile application for your business, choosing the right features from that list can be quite challenging. That’s why I decided to write this blog and cover a couple of the more popular options, as well as the ways your business can profit from them.
When the phone screen is just not enough
Whether we’re talking about the input or the output of information, screen is not the only way an application can get some user information, and is neither the only one to return feedback. Phone sensors, microphones, cameras, various chips and all other sorts of I/O modules can be used in your app. Usage and the implementation of this stuff is mostly custom – it depends on what your business or brand requires from a mobile application. Let’s have a look at them without getting too technical.
Feel, hear and see the world
1. Location tracking
Our smartphones are always connected to make sure we can seamlessly make calls, browse the internet, play games… wherever we are located. That also means our phones know exactly where they’re located and the speed with which they’re moving. This can be a great functionality for your business. For example, if you’re running a delivery company, you can easily track the position of your vehicles. You can even utilize this functionality to notify your drivers when they pass the allowed speed limit. All because our phones know exactly where they are!
Let’s say you need to measure the surrounding noise and notify those chit-chatters at your open-space office to keep it down. By using a microphone, your app can to that too as it can detect all the sounds that are around it. And when we talk about microphones, you can also utilize voice input. In the last couple of years, with a strong popularization of personal assistants on smartphones, voice input got much more efficient and became another cool way of using your app – instead of tapping, you can now just say what you need.
Phone cameras are a complete environment on their own. They have so many different use cases it’s actually hard to imagine an app that wouldn’t have some benefit from it. From AR, VR and image processing, through content and object recognition, all the way to use cases that haven’t been thought of yet. Cameras today can be used for so much more than just taking photos.
They can recognize text, translate them instantly, or convert offline documents into digital ones. Many offline to online conversions happen via camera. Just imagine, you’re organizing an offline promo event and use an application to record guest attendance digitally. It’s fast and easy – just place a QR code registration point at your venue and users can check in just by scanning the code.
System features are not exclusive to the system itself
1. System permissions
App management, administration and tracking of app usage is not restricted to only Google and Apple developers.
With the right set of permissions, your business can benefit from these system features to enhance the productivity of your employees for example. Or to keep them safe. Maybe you’ll want to prevent your delivery workers from texting while driving. Or you want to limit the usage of certain apps for the benefit of your business. All of this can be easily implemented.
Security is very important nowadays, and most of us carry a fingerprint scanner or some other type of biometrical scanners in our pockets. If your business has some sensitive data that is not to be shared with others, that data can be protected behind the same fingerprint sensor on your phone.
With the introduction of new security systems on our phones, mobile payment has seen great movement forward.
Google Pay and Apple Pay can be used to safely ask for payments from your users in your app, and they can do it seamlessly with one tap, avoiding those horrendous payment gateways, tokens and switches between your app and their m-banking app.
Connect with others
It would be kind of boring if our phones didn’t communicate with other phones or devices. Luckily, there are plenty of options for mobile connectivity. Besides network connection, sometimes it’s useful to connect with other devices on-spot, via some type of near field communication technology.
Bluetooth is an older technology, but it’s still used to connect phones to our wireless headphones, smart watches, clocks, popcorn machines etc. That being said, utilizing the Bluetooth connection is not that simple, especially where you have different use cases.
Let’s say you’re working on some sort of Bluetooth enabled smart product or a gadget, like a smart clock – it would be nice to give users the option to customize that clock via their smartphone app. On the other hand, if you’re a brand or a local store, you can install Bluetooth beacons which will notify users about your promotions or discounts. For movieplexes, beacons could be used to notify users about the movie they are watching or remind them to turn off their phones.
Share your calling card info, unlock a door, pay for lunch – you can do all that using the NFC technology built into your phone. Google Pay and Apple Pay use it to enable contactless payment, while many smart homekit solutions use it to enable you to unlock the doors of your home with your phone.
If you’re in need of a system that can quickly and uniquely register your users at an offline venue, then NFC is the perfect solution. Instead of having users bring their printed tickets, the ticket information can be stored in-app and then used at the entrance – just use the NFC reader to scan it safely and quickly. This is even superior to the QR-based ticketing system, where the QR reader can often fail if your screen brightness is too low.
Artificial intelligence and personal assistants
When we talk about delivering content for your users, static information is just not enough anymore. Users appreciate customized feeds and information that’s suited for their interests and needs. Here is where artificial intelligence jumps in. With time, apps can learn user’s behaviour and interests and customize the content to be more relevant for the user.
As we already discussed in the previous sections – our smartphone apps are learning to recognize the world around them, and that’s also based on artificial intelligence. Applications utilizing artificial intelligence can be very complex, but your business can greatly benefit from it.
Personal assistants are based on machine learning, they learn how to talk with you, how to respond to your needs and are here to make your life easier. Google Assistant and Siri are prime examples of such effort. Needles to say, your app can benefit from it and greatly increase the user experience if it’s integrated with a personal assistant.
Imagine enabling your users to skip making unnecessary taps and giving them a chance to get to the relevant content in your app just by asking their personal assistant for it. This increases usability and accessibility, and you can be certain your users will greatly appreciate that.
And the best part is that it goes both ways – personal assistants can also benefit from your app if you’re willing to make your features accessible to the assistant.
Make your app all kinds of real
1. 3D product presentation
Virtual reality gives you a whole new world of possibilities when it comes to presenting products to your users. With it, you have the ability to create a virtual surrounding for your audience and present your product in a way it has never been presented before. You can use VR to simulate the feeling users would get if they used your product, show them all of the details and turn regular product presentation into an experience that will surely leave them amazed.
2. Real-life walkthrough
On the other hand, let’s say you’re a travel agency, or a real estate one. What better way to present your offers to the audience, than to allow them to experience that place like they are already there. In addition to that, you can use VR if you need a walkthrough of your shop, factory production phases, beauty treatments or any other process. Virtual reality can finally upgrade your standard walkthrough videos and give your audience a much better preview of your services.
If your product is just so cool that regular presentation just doesn’t cut it, make use of Augmented reality to emphasize its benefits. And when we talk about augmented reality, boy, do we have options.
1. Marker Tracking
If your product is recognizable, has some unique features or maybe a logo on it, then marker tracking AR can be a good choice to go with.
That specific feature on your product can be recognized by the app which can then be augmented with some additional data. It can be informative or entertaining or whatever suits your business. Put a marker on a billboard and look just how intrigued people will be to see what you’ve prepared for them in your AR app.
2. Markerless Tracking
If it’s not about what you can put on your product, but rather where your product can be put, you’ll be interested in markerless AR.
A mobile app can recognize the surroundings you’re in and make sense of what it ‘can see’. When it recognizes common features of a space (like floors or walls), it can put any 3D object out in the real world.
3. Other types of AR
Content recognition can make sense of text, various images, QR codes and barcodes, as well as other kinds of 2D graphics. Are you running a museum and trying to offer your guests a new, interactive way of exploring the artifacts? Well, AR can help you there.
Then there’s geolocation tracking. It’s a type of AR where augmented objects are positioned geographically on your screen, so it is great for navigation apps. Let’s say you run a venue or you’re planning a music festival – with this, your guests could lift their phones up and easily navigate to where the bar or toilets are located.
Face tracking may be the most entertaining type of AR. You’ve surely heard of or seen some types of face filters featured on today’s largest social networks. These are great for fun, but they can also be used in cosmetics, as well as the beauty industry. It would be amazing if your client could see how they look in your makeup before they put it on, wouldn’t it?
Let’s play a game
All of the features mentioned above are custom and can be used in various ways, but the most versatile type of mobile applications that can be developed is a game app. Most of them don’t use any of the system UI elements – the design is entirely custom and they can use and integrate all of the features mentioned above, especially phone sensors.
Game app development can be very complex, especially if the gameplay logic is advanced. 2D games will obviously be easier to implement than 3D ones, but they can also utilize phone’s gyroscope or accelerometer as a controller, rather than the screen.
Simple tap games like memory are easier to implement and are great for your brand’s shorter promo activations. For example, if you’re an ice cream company and you’re promoting your new product, maybe you’ll want the player to collect all the ice creams on screen and drag them into a fridge so they wouldn’t melt. We can combine that with VR and make your users look for those delicious ice creams in the virtual ice cream shop.
Possibilities here are endless – whether you’re using it for a short-term brand promotion or you want to create a fully developed game with gamification, scoreboards etc.
Custom or not, make it hot
Using some of these features will surely leave a mark among your audience. Your users are always looking for something new and cool, while smartphone market keeps on innovating to satisfy that urge. That’s why it’s important to keep up with these types of latest technologies and integrate them with your apps.
To conclude, I just want to say that whether you need an entirely custom app or a simpler scroll & tap app, always make sure it’s interesting and valuable for the user. That’s the main thing that drives us when we make all our apps!