When exploring the idea of building a mobile app for your business, there are a lot of small details that need to be taken into consideration. Above all else, you want your mobile app to serve a purpose and fill a need for your audience that you website could not accomplish alone. That requires creating a unique mobile experience that is intuitive and enjoyable for individuals to use.
One way that companies have been able to stand out is by taking tools, hardware, and features that already exist within a smartphone, and integrating those capabilities into the design and functionality of their mobile app. Leveraging the existing technology that a smartphone is already capable of presents users with a cohesive mobile experience. It utilizes elements and features that individuals are already familiar with, and allows them to intuitively accomplish tasks and actions within the context of their brand.
One of the most common hardware elements we see incorporated into mobile app designs is the camera. Many image editing apps, as well as ones like Instagram that are driven by photo content, allow users to take photos within the app and then continue to utilize the other features of the app itself. It lets users seamlessly navigate between taking pictures, editing them, and posting them all within the same app. The ease of use creates an optimal experience for the mobile user, making the camera on the phone itself, and the camera within the app, one in the same.
Companies have also harnessed the capabilities of smartphone cameras in more alternative ways. Some beauty apps let you use the camera to test out different products and styles before purchasing. While banking apps, such as Wells Fargo's, allow users to deposit checks by simply taking pictures of both sides of the check and plugging in some specific details. Amazon lets mobile users take pictures of barcodes in order to find products, as well as gift cards in order to redeem them, rather than having to plug in a long series of letters and numbers. Each of these companies are providing users with tools and elements that they can’t access from their desktop or laptop. Many of these features are what make the mobile app unique, and allow companies to stay on top of the expanding capabilities of the digital world.
As smartphones have evolved, so have their security features. In an update that seems like ages ago, the iPhone 5s came with Touch ID – the ability to unlock your device through the touch and scan of your fingerprint on the home button. Businesses quickly adapted that technology to provide extra security features to their individual mobile apps, allowing users to login through the Touch ID features.
Many banking and financial businesses have naturally picked this up such as Mint, AMEX, and countless others. However, other lifestyle brands like Ticketmaster, Amazon, and Whole Foods have as well. For companies that have ecommerce capabilities within their apps have at some point asked you for access to your financial details. Adding this level of security has helped users feel a little more at ease, and therefore more willing to interact with those businesses.
An iPhone’s accelerometer is able to monitor and detect the movement and tilt of a device through sensors within the phone itself. This technology is what determines which way the screen is being held, and it is what causes your screen to conveniently flip and turn when you are even slightly lying down.
Many fitness brands are integrating this hardware into the design of their mobile apps in order to help users live a healthier life. Sleep Cycle is an app that harnesses this technology to track your sleeping patterns, and give you a better understanding as to when you should be going to bed and waking up. As your movements vary throughout each sleep cycle, the app tracks this and identifies your different sleep states through the phone's microphone and accelerometer. It then uses this information to wake you up at the optimal time during your lightest sleep phase, at which point you will feel like you are waking up naturally, rather than when you are in a deep REM cycle.
The microphone in smartphones has traditionally been used as a hands-free way of texting or asking Siri questions that she will (almost surely) misinterpret. Duolingo has found a more educational use for the microphone by integrating it into their mobile app to help users learn a foreign language. Their program leverages gamification within its lessons, making the learning experience engaging and a little more fun than a standard classroom.
Part of the lessons require users to speak sentences or recite words into the microphone of the mobile device, while the app analyzes that sequence to make sure you are pronouncing the foreign words correctly. This presents individuals with an incredibly easy and informative experience that they can enjoy anywhere at any time.
One of the most recent - and possibly greatest - examples of integrating smartphone hardware capabilities into the functionality of a mobile app is through Pokémon GO. Not Google Maps...not Waze...Pokémon. The game is designed entirely on location-based technology, leveraging the GPS information within a player’s smartphone to help them find and collect their Pokémon.
The app also utilizes the smartphone’s camera to provide users with the popular augmented reality feature that places the Pokémon on the phone's screen, making it appear as if the pocket monsters were right there in front of them in real life. The app’s success is a testament to the prosperity businesses can achieve when they leverage these existing features within a mobile device to provide users, players, or customers with unique experiences that traditional websites just can’t compete with.
With the ever-changing landscape of the mobile world, the hardware, features, and capabilities of our mobile devices are bound to evolve and expand in the coming years. It’s exciting to think of the ways we will be able to incorporate these elements into mobile app designs in the future.
What are some of your favorite mobile apps that include smartphone features in the functionality? Are there any hardware elements that we missed that you have found helpful in different mobile apps? Leave a comment below, or tweet us @BFMweb we would love to hear from you!