Tough: Challenges facing mobile app developers


By Jason Jaynes, vice president of product, WP Engine

The environment for developers has never been so demanding. As organisations launch new and more complex devices, mobile app developers must wrangle with the explosion of device operating systems that comes with them.

Times have changed

The primary obstacle, especially for native app developers specialising in iOS or Android, is keeping up with this pace of change.

Flashback three or four years and things were simpler and slower. There were far less devices for app developers to contend with, and so new software development kits (SDKs) were being launched less frequently.

Back then, developers who specialised in building apps for iOS or Android would only have to keep up with the pace of change at Apple and Google, and at that time, with fewer devices, this was more achievable. Alternatively, developers could create mobile web apps (it was and still is unusual to find a mobile app developer who is proficient in all three areas).

Back to the present day, and with so many devices now available, the whole operating system and SDK landscape has become more complex and difficult to follow. Just look at Apple products; there’s the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Apple TV…the list goes on. The whole ecosystem has changed, bringing with it its own set of challenges.

Keeping up with the pace 

So, the questions is, how can mobile app developers possibly keep up with this pace of change?

Developers can choose to remain specialists or, they can opt for a hybrid, non-native model. With this option, developers write JavaScript, HTML and CSS, which mirror native interfaces on iOS or Android.

There are a number of popular hybrid options available such as Ionic which uses AngularJS and Cordova. By using a hybrid option, developers do not need to specialise and learn everything about iOS or Android and constantly adapt according to new SDKs, they can simply use common languages of the web and let the hybrid platform of choice do the rest.

Only as good as the tools

However, while this may seem like the best option, to allow developers to continue to create apps for both iOS and Android and widen their scope of work, there are limitations. It all comes down to the translation layer; the app developer can only be as advanced and as good as that platform.

Ionic for instance, is available for apps for the Apple Watch, with limitations, but it is not proficient for Apple TV yet. Naturally, this really hinders a developer’s ability to build and create strong and capable apps using the hybrid method of working.

For mobile app developers, keeping up with these changes is a perennial battle. Arguably, it’s no longer possible for one individual to be highly proficient across all the platforms; the complexity and depth of knowledge needed over the various devices is too great. So perhaps a hybrid model works best, but with the limitations involved with waiting on the translation layer to support development for new devices, this can also be an issue.

As new devices continue to flood the market, developers must decide which specialism works best for them and become a centre of excellence in that field.

WP Engine is a hosted service provider, specifically tailored to WordPress websites and apps.


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