Why the future of mobile apps is contextual

“I think what people in mobile always neglected are the possibilities of mobile,” Netbiscuits CEO Michael Neidhoefer told the audience at the GigaOM Mobilize conference on Wednesday afternoon.

They’re not websites, he elaborated. Companies were — indeed, still are — designing mobile sites for the lowest common denominators (e.g., standard screen sizes, devices and operating systems), but ignoring all the other good data that mobile apps provide. A mobile phone has sensors and location and should deliver a type of contextual experience that a desktop application never could.

This is an increasingly important consideration as mobile fast becomes the primary source of traffic to most websites. “Mobile is not a channel anymore,” Neidhoefer said. “Internet is mobile.”

Netbiscuits is trying to capitalize on all this data to let its clients build applications that take into account each user’s specific situation. Its platform captures information such as a user’s bandwidth, processing power and battery life, as well as the standard stuff. When clients see this type of information, they can make decisions about mobile-app design based on facts rather than gut feeling, he explained.

It’s all about creating a personalized experience. Most companies only test their mobile services on seven different devices, Neidhoefer said, but those services are accessed by 3,000 different devices on any given day. So the answer is moving beyond approaches like responsive design and toward apps that can, for example, automatically stream lower-resolution video to users with less bandwidth, worse batteries and lower-power processors.

A better user experience, after all, means more money for the company. “If someone tells you you’re missing out on 50 percent of ad revenue,” Neidhoefer said, “…that’s a pretty good incentive to go for it.”

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

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A transcription of the video follows on the next page