Next stage in mobile revolution: Apps going offline
At a time when most startups in India are switching to a mobile-first model, a clutch of firms in Silicon Valley and India have moved on to the next stage — an offline-first strategy.
Offline first refers to a mobile application-development strategy where the app’s most crucial features work even when internet connectivity is lost. Poor internet connectivity plagues all geographies, be it metropolitan cities or remote areas. While urban centres suffer from network congestion, remote towns at times get no signal at all, especially in developing nations in Africa and Asia.
“It’s becoming a big trend in Silicon Valley, not just in the emerging economies,” said Wayne Carter, chief architect of mobile at US-based Couchbase, whose product helps developers design mobile apps that work with or without an internet connection. Carter was in Bengaluru recently to address developers at a conference on how to build apps for an offline-first world.
Being able to work offline is dependent on the actual purpose served by the app.
For instance, HolidayIQ’s travel app allows users to store and download all information of their end-destination, so the phone continues to be smart sans the internet. Music streaming services such as Gaana, Saavn and Hungama allow songs to be locally stored on the phone. Gmail, on the other hand, gives an option to store the last few messages on devices for quick access.
“The real innovation is not in using the phone storage, but in a magical four-letter-word called sync,” said Chuck Ganapathi, founder of US-based Tactile, whose sync technology helps salespersons manage email, calendar, tasks, contacts, LinkedIn connections offline on the app.
Syncing data between phone storage and an app’s servers is something that all global and some local players use. Apple’s Mail, Calendar, iTunes, Gmail, Dropbox are a few examples of tech companies that keep the app running. These apps allow users to meddle with it, and reflect the changes when the connectivity comes back.