When manufacturers look at their smart home device for the Internet of Things, they see the complete product and all its capabilities—and probably view the mobile app as almost an afterthought. But in consumers minds, the mobile app they use to control a smart home product is that product, at least from an interaction and brand identity perspective. 

Mobile_Application.jpgFor that reason, manufacturers need to focus clearly on the design and function of their mobile apps, from the beginning and throughout the entire IoT product development process. It also helps for manufacturers to stay on top of trends in mobile app development, so they can determine potential effects on the smart home market.

Here are a few mobile app trends for manufacturers of smart home products to consider:

  • Increasing fragmentation of mobile device types.

    The range of mobile device sizes, configurations and features continues to expand for both iPhone and Android product families. Plus, continual appearance of new operating system versions forces manufacturers of smart home products to decide how far back to offer support in their mobile apps. On the other hand, Windows and Blackberry devices are getting no traction in the consumer market, so these mobile device types don’t need to factor into a manufacturers’ IoT mobile plans.
  • Far-reaching consequences of choosing between native code and hybrid code.

    Using hybrid code can seem less expensive for mobile app development because it uses languages (such as javascript and C#) that less-experienced developers know. Using native code costs more because it requires higher-priced developers proficient in languages such as Java, Objective C and Swift. But native code can significantly speed time to market, reduce complexity and makes future iterations easier to complete. With hybrid code, integrating new features and software packages can take signification time and require a lot of testing, adding complexity to already complex multi team projects. Still, manufacturers face a difficult but important decision about which direction they will take with their mobile app software code.
  • The growing complexity of interoperability, along with rising consumer expectations.

    In general, users expect that their smart home products will all just work with one another, much as they expect all the components of their home entertainment systems to work together. But it can take significant development work to make a smart home mobile app interoperate with all the hardware types, operating systems and cloud offerings appearing on the market—much less guessing which ones will be successful and will help sell more smart home products. Should a manufacturer build in support for systems such as Apple HomeKit, Google Nest, Samsung SmartThings and WeChat, along with the emerging Alexa, Google Home and other voice-controlled approaches? What about which device-to-device, device-to-cloud service and cloud-to-cloud connectivity to include? What are the costs to integrate at all these levels?
  • Increasing value of truly great apps.

    Consumers don’t want 50 apps to control 50 smart home products. On the other hand, they don’t want one badly designed, unwieldy app, either. The key is to build mobile apps that provide a great user experience—apps that consumers will want to use—and that include just the right number of features. A hard lesson for manufacturers to learn is that hardware features don’t always need to be mobile app features. Each smart home product’s features should be broken down into primary, secondary and tertiary features; only primary and perhaps a few secondary features should appear on the mobile app. The rest can be handled through touchscreens or other direct interaction with the smart home product itself.
  • Continued expansion of new features in mobile apps.

    Instant apps on Android devices, lock screen widgets on iOS phones, geofencing, Bluetooth beacons, touch authentication—these are a few features coming soon to smart home enabled mobile apps. While manufacturers need not jump on every new advancement, their apps should incorporate those new features that add value to their smart home products.

Mobile app development is rarely a core competency of manufacturers that make products now being IoT-connected to create the smart home market. But increasingly, the quality of the mobile app will be how smart home products overall are judged.

Staying on top of the latest mobile app trends is crucial for competitive success. Manufacturers lacking strong mobile app development teams, high-end programmers and years of IoT and mobile app development expertise will likely benefit from leveraging IoT platform technology such as the Ayla IoT platform. Learn more about Ayla’s Agile Mobile Application Platform (AMAP) as well as how to incorporate advanced features such as role-based access control (RBAC) into smart home mobile apps.

Learn More About Ayla's Mobile Application Platform