As our use of smartphones and tablets – and the business apps we use on them – continues to increase, our need for those apps to be available and functioning is becoming more and more “mission critical.”
Slightly lost in the recent pandemonium over Apple’s iPhone 6 & 6+ releases, and whether or not the phone really “bends,” was the accompanying operating system update from iOS7 to iOS8 made available to Apple iPhone and iPad users. Many people automatically installed the upgrade and were unpleasantly surprised when some of their apps stopped functioning as expected. In full confession, our BE-Mobile iOS App* users found that the photo taking capabilities incorporated into several of our modules no longer functioned correctly. We heard stories of other apps not functioning at all.
For a little background and a brief refresher, a mobile operating system, also called a mobile OS, is an operating system that is specifically designed to run on mobile devices such as mobile phones, smartphones, tablet computers and other handheld devices. When you purchase a mobile device, the manufacturer will have a specific the operating system for that specific device that makes everything on it work. They are different for Apple, Android and BlackBerry phones and tablets. These are the brands that dominate most markets. Developers of mobile device Apps (like Building Engines) build their apps to support several generations of operating systems as consumers often hold onto to their phone for several years. The supported versions are always listed in the App Store when you go to download and install them on your phone.
When Apple, Google (Android), or Blackberry have an OS upgrade, they’ll typically give App developers some measure of advance notice of the OS release/upgrade and specific areas of impact. Unfortunately, the lead time of the announcement and the level of detail can vary widely from release to release, and advance copies may not 100% reflect all details of the customer production release. It’s up to the developers to react quickly and update their apps to accommodate the OS release changes.
In our case, we tested the release as soon as it came out (iOS8 came out a day before the iPhone 6), found a bug, and posted a message to our clients the next day in our App. We suggested that users don’t install the update right away until we have had a chance to test the impact. Not unexpectedly, a fair number of users installed the update anyway and our service team fielded a number of calls informing us of the photo issue. Now the benefit of having our own experienced, full time mobile development team is that we were able to respond quickly and release a “hot fix” for our Apple/iOS clients to the iTunes store in 1 day to minimize the length of the inconvenience to our clients. This was also possible because our development team utilizes agile development processes which allow us to be very nimble in our ability to react to situations like this.
We have heard that many other apps are still not functioning properly on iOS8 because the provider has either outsourced development or does not have the resources to stay on top of these issues. Mobile development and support of apps requires an ongoing commitment. In addition to Mobile OS issues as described, there are constant changes in phone capabilities as well driven by the manufacturers that need monitoring and reaction to. Without that level of attention and expertise, apps and their usefulness will certainly degrade over time.
So when evaluating a mobile application or a provider, it’s very important to ask questions about their mobile development team and their history and ability to react to situations like this and the ever changing mobile landscape. Remember, an update is only an upgrade if things still actually work!
*BE-Mobile Requires iOS 5.1 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.