It's time to treat the mobile device as the "prime" screen

Peggy Albright

Common sense holds that a first-rate mobile application will give the consumer an optimum user experience. That experience is influenced not only by a product's technical features but also by the general context in which the application and the device are used.

Developers need to eliminate the PC or the TV as a reference point and instead dream up truly original, mobile ways of engaging with information and services.

Alan Knitowski, CEO and chairman of Phunware, gave FierceDeveloper a startling example of why this is important now. He said that recently a major TV brand found that 50 percent of its core demographic had never seen one of its leading TV shows on the TV and that half of the target audience was watching the show on mobile devices.  

Behavioral shifts like this are happening all over the place. For example, teenagers are abandoning console games for mobile games. In a survey of teens conducted by Piper Jaffray, 63 percent of the teens said they are willing to play games on their mobile phones, compared to 33 percent a year ago. Nearly 66 percent of teens said they've lost interest in console games because they don't offer the same opportunities for social interaction as mobile games. The research firm said that console games are facing unprecedented competition from tablets and smartphones, as well as connected TVs.

ABI Research recently projected that apps designed for young children may propel media tablets to become the de facto replacement of personal DVD players, particularly in cars. In 2016, it expects users to download nearly one billion media tablets apps for young children.

Consumers are shopping more from their devices. IBM reported last week that online shopping originating from mobile devices represented 13.3 percent of all online sales in March, up from 7 percent a year ago.

Add these together with other, similar trends from other mobile segments, and it's clear that the market that is using applications is nothing like it was a year or so ago. Regardless of whether this qualifies mobile as the so-called "first screen," developers should begin treating it like it is.

Knitowski suggests that developers really think hard about the user interface and user experience to make sure the device fulfills the core purpose of the application being developed and that each feature of the app support that core purpose as well.

Developers will still have to consider a realm of issues, such as how their applications perform on smart phones vs. tablets and other devices, and perhaps how content will interact if projected to other, larger screens. They will also want to pay attention to what's going on in the market to identify trends indicating where needs for new types of applications might emerge.

But the main thing is to turn off the old ways of thinking and open the imagination to completely new things.--Peggy