Roaming apps

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Mobile phones are slowly replacing so-called desktop computers (which are usually laptops) as the default device, and development practices are slowly changing to adapt to this. Much can be said about screen resolution, input methods, the tradeoff between a mobile web page and a mobile app, but there is usually one subject that is not talked about (much): roaming.

I just spent around 20 days in Japan, with only a very limited data packet: 200 megabytes. This was enough for basic communication (mail) travel applications (booking, schedule), maps (I have a lousy sense of orientation) and consulting some web sites. Of course, we had WiFi access in many places: most hotels, a few coffee places and some touristic spots.

In that setting, mobile apps are way more useful than web pages:

  • Mobile network access can be restricted (on iOS at least), this means that resource hungry systems like social networks won’t eat up your data quota. Each app has its own silo of permissions.
  • Mobile apps are pre-loaded on the phone and updates can also be restricted to WiFi, so only the real data is downloaded over the mobile network.
  • Offline access in mobile apps is a common feature, not something experimental.

The main issue with apps is that most public WiFi access do some form of HTTP redirection / interception, so you typically need a simple web-page that does not use HTTPS to trigger the captive portal logic, my home-page is pretty convenient for this, as it only weights 1594 bytes. Maybe I should create a simpler page for this purpose.

Smartphone icon © G.Hagedorn Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

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