The many complexities of developing apps for different devices and platforms

Mobile app downloads are in the tens of billions now. Surely, with such success, app development has gotten easier, right? Not necessarily, suggested a trio of people representing popular apps at the GigaOM Mobilize 2013 event on Wednesday.

Part of the challenge is figuring out when users will be highly engaged in the app and what device they’ll be using. “Sunday is a top day for us with more than twice the usage on tablets than phones. During weekdays, there’s far more phone usage overall but engagement time is lower,” said Eugene Wei, Head of Product at Flipboard.

Adam Medros, VP of Global Product at TripAdvisor noted the site sees 260 million unique users a month. Phones are used during the day for quick hit information. On weekends and nights it’s a different store: People use TripAdvisor on tablets at home or on hotel Wi-Fi. It’s during these times that trip planning monetizes more like the desktop experience.

Lars Fjeldsoe-Nielsen, Head of Mobile at Dropbox, said his company has a different view, likely because of the type of application Dropbox is. “We feel you should be able to access your content from any connected device. The web experience works across all devices but on the app side, you can bring a deeper experience: adding data to email, for example.” Fjeldsoe-Nielson said certain features on devices can also boost engagement. Adding camera capabilities in-app and supporting auto-upload of photos are both good examples.

Aside from device types — smartwatches and other wearables are coming soon — decisions about platform support can still be a challenge; perhaps more so today and a few years ago when iOS(s aap) made the most sense to target first.

Medros says “We definitely see differences between users on different platforms in TripAdvisor. The back button on Android makes the experience difference for example, but we can do beta testing or limited rollouts in Android.” And Dropbox now has more Android(s goog) users than it does in iOS; a change that recently happened.

Regardless of platform or device though, it’s still tough to monetize, design and deliver a solid app experience; particularly when people have so many different screens to choose from.

Check out the rest of our Mobilize 2013 coverage here, and a video embed of the session follows below:

[protected-iframe id=”b79f223fb9a520f72cdb3d0eea84e19f-14960843-33105277″ info=”″ width=”640″ height=”360″ frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no”]
A transcription of the video follows on the next page