The use of mobile devices such as smartphones, tablet PCs et al. is rapidly increasing: nowadays more than 6 billion people are using mobile devices, while in 2000 there were less than 1 billion users (Wik.org, 2012). The use of mobile phones in the world also increased and now reaches 75% of total world’s population (Wik.org, 2012). The popularity of mobile apps is also increasing at rapid pace: in 2011, more than 30 billion mobile apps were downloaded (Wik.org, 2012). Mobile applications have become a powerful marketing and business tool.
The purpose of this report is to consider a multiplatform strategy for Chorley Autos, a dealer of used cars. The company would like to develop a multiplatform mobile strategy as a means of standing out at the market and creating a competitive advantage against larger national chains. Chorley Autos is specifically interested in mobile platforms as a means of reaching potential customers, increasing customer interest, the number of views and car sales. In this report, the pros and cons of different mobile platforms available for Chorley Autos are considered, design constraints and recommendations on mobile content for the cross-platform development are provided, ideas for back-end hosting solutions are included, platforms and technologies which are likely to be important in the future are considered, and recommendations on priorities, platforms and devices for Chorley Autos are outlined.
1. Analysis of platforms
Currently there exist diverse platforms and hardware implementations of mobile devices, as well as many models and modifications of these devices. The concept of “mobile” is changing over time, and while in the 2000s certain devices were considered mobile/portable (e.g. laptops), currently they are not commonly viewed as mobile devices (Fling, 2009). Currently mobile device can be defined as the device which is lightweight and has screen size of 11” or less, is able to connect to wireless networks and supports Internet connectivity, supports interaction and user input, and generally offers multiple functionalities, which are similar to PC functionalities (Sathyan, Anoop, Narayan & Shibu, 2012).
Currently, key mobile devices are: smartphones, feature phones (phones which do not have a specific operating system, but still provide access to mobile web), ultra-portable laptops (lightweight and thin devices with prolonged battery life), netbooks, also referred to as subnotebooks, tablet PCs, game consoles and PDAs (Fling, 2009). Emerging consumer interest is also expressed towards wearable computers, which also belong to the class of mobile devices. The most popular classes of devices are smartphones and tablet PCs (Mobithinking.com, 2012).
The sales of feature phones and smartphones in 2011 have grown by 14% compared to 2010, and 2012 also shows strong increase in the sector of mobile devices (Mobithinking.com, 2012). By 2016, sales of tablet PCs are expected to reach 198.2 million units, with the balance between Android and iOS approximately 50-50 (Mobithinking.com, 2012). It should be noted that there are many mobile-only users, i.e. the users who only use Internet via mobile devices (Mobithinking.com, 2012). This trend is especially common for the developing nations. About 85% of all mobile handsets sold worldwide have internet connectivity and can be used to access mobile web. The usage of mobile data expects a 20-fold increase by 2017 (Mobithinking.com, 2012). Overall, the market of mobile devices is growing at rapid pace, along with mobile web access. This market presents huge marketing opportunities and can be used by Chorley Autos for creating a specific competitive advantage.
2. Pros and cons of different platforms
It is possible to outline three aspects important for mobile development: the types of devices where the application is supposed to work, operating system or environment where the program will be operating, and the format of application (Fling, 2009). With regard to devices, it is reasonable for Chorley Autos to focus on smartphones/feature phones and tablet PCs as target hardware, because these market segments are quickly developing, and their market share is growing. Such portable devices as PDAs and subnotebooks are gradually becoming obsolete, and it is not recommended to focus on these types of devices. With regard to operating systems and environments, the most popular environments among users are iOS ”“ rated as popular by 77% of users, Java ME ”“ 76%, Android ”“ 70% and mobile web ”“ 65% (VisualMobile, 2012). Three platforms which are becoming less popular are Blackberry OS, Qt (Symbian) and Windows Phone. iOS and Android are mostly installed on smartphones and tablet PCs, JavaME ”“ on feature phones, and mobile web applications can be launched at most devices with mobile web connectivity.
Each type of devices recommended for Chorley Autos has its own pros and cons which should be taken into account in the process of developing app for these devices. The advantages of desktop devices are their computing power and possibility to replace components easily; the disadvantages of desktop PCs are lack of portability, somewhat expensive pricing and inability to work without external power sources. Tablet and mobile devices have the following advantages: portability, mobility (with regard to power), low cost and higher personalization; at the same time, there are the following disadvantages of mobiles and tablets: connection speed, limited battery life, limited size of screen and extreme diversity of soft (which often comes with instability of different apps). These specific features of devices will be considered for website and app design for Chorley Autos.
With regard to application types, it is possible to outline the following types of applications: sms apps, mobile websites, mobile web widgets, mobile web applications, native applications and game-like apps (Fling, 2009). Appropriate types of apps for Chorley Autos are the following: mobile websites, mobile web widgets, mobile web applications and native applications. Native applications provide excellent user experience, but are expensive and complex in development, and lack cross-platform functionality; therefore, this type of applications is not recommended for Chorley Autos. Mobile websites are simple and can be run on all devices, but do not have enough features for creating outstanding user experience. Therefore, the main disadvantage of this platform is the simplicity of user experience.