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Choosing what to support

July 17, 2013

How many times have to read about a new tool or service, and thought "that's great, I'd love to try it out" ? If you are as much of a fan of technology as me, then it happens several times and week ! But how annoying is it to click the link only to discover you can't use something ?

It can be very frustrating to have read a great review of a new app, maybe even tweeted your support to the developers, and then go to install it and find out it will only run on an Apple mobile phone or a Windows desktop.

By way of example, have a quick read of the first few comments on this post from the BBC about a recent update to their mobile version of iPlayer.

I thought one of the most interesting bits of feedback was when a user reported it didn't work correctly on their particular phone model, and so the BBC decided to remove support for anyone with that model.
What sort of factors go into deciding what web browser, mobile phone or tablet platform you should target ?

reach

This is the most basic question. If you support a given platform, how many people is that ? It might be fun to run on something like the Jolla, but no one has ever heard of it, much less it's Sailfish operating system.

audience

Of course, it's no use supporting a platform, even a popular one, if none of your users will have one. This can be particularly important in integrated environments, where your clients may have one mandated device they use. If this is an iPad, supporting Windows Phone isn't going to be of any use at all.

maturity

Even if a platform gives you great reach and a large audience, it may still be so new that the tools for developing on it aren't of a good quality yet. This is going to slow down your development process and cause issues down the line with the quality of the product. JavaScript is a great tool, but can be much harder to debug on a phone than on a desktop.


So when we began thinking about our upcoming mobile application, there were a number of different technical approaches we could take. Each of these had better or worse support for all the major (and several minor) platforms, from your common or garden iPhone and Android phones, to the newly launched Blackberry 10 system, and on to various odder things too.

We know most of you people out there have either an Android or an iPhone - a quick straw poll around the office also reveals it's about an even split. If we can bring an application to those two platforms it's going to reach as near to all of you as makes no odds.
There are a few people with iPads too, and even a couple of Android tablets. I've still never even seen one of the new Windows Phone 8 phones though...
By happy coincidence, both Android and iOS have a good developer experience, though Apple do seem to go out of their way to be more complicated and time consuming.

We look forward to hearing your reaction to our Reports app, which is available right now for Android or Apple devices.

Posted by Tom Chiverton
Technology


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