Don’t believe the experts, mobile application creation is more difficult than you’d expect. There are many explanations for this:

  1. Multiple platforms to support: The first decision to make is which mobile devices to support. Is it better to stick with higher-end smartphones or should you go for a larger set of devices? The platform you choose greatly influences what your application is capable of doing.
  2. Incredibly different app models: Even if you limit yourself to one platform, often you’ll still have multiple app models to choose from. A BlackBerry developer has to choose between developing a proper BlackBerry application or a more portable Java ME application.
  3. Steep learning curves: Creating a mobile application can require learning a new programming language (like .NET) and/or a new set of programming tools (like Visual Studio). Since the market is so fractured, programmers often have a hard time locating good development tips.
  4. Conflicting data storage choices: Except if you’re creating an browser-based app, you’ll need to store data locally, and there are many options for doing this. If you have complex data needs may be best served by a full-fledged embedded database. Simpler applications may get away with built-in data storage options, but data exchange with external data sources can be quite more complex in those situations.
  5. Prosumer versus large business targeting: Although Apple has shown that there is a lot of money to be made serving the consumer market, there is still a lot of demand for business-focused applications. These markets are completely different, however, and you can’t really develop for both of them with the same app.
  6. Significant startup expenses: Mobile application creation is not cheap. Software developers are in demand and charge accordingly, and there are non-trivial expenses in terms of hardware and carrier charges.

If it’s so hard, why create mobile apps? The rewards outweigh the costs. The ROI of a mobile enterprise application can be tremendous, especially for apps aimed at field personnel. The demand for mobile consumer apps means there’s a lot of profit for companies able to satisfy that demand.

Mobile application creation is a lot simpler if you do your homework. If you want to write a good enterprise application you’ll need to invest in a good mobile enterprise application tool. On the consumer side, you’ll still need great development tools, but you’ll also need a lot of flash and a simple user interface.

To be successful at handheld app development requires a lot of thought and planning.

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