Mobile App Development Best Practices

On December 5, 2011

The differences in how the traditional web and mobile web run drastically influence a mobile application’s efficiency. Mobile phones are constrained by networks, which have limited bandwidth and high latency, and battery life. By conducting a series of mobile app tests, researchers at AT&T have found that certain architectural designs unique for mobile devices that could improve application responsiveness.

The results are summarized in AT&T’s best practices guidelines. The eleven ways to build efficient apps give will help speed up data traffic, improve user experience, and reduce battery drain. All of the tips are based on carrier-independent standards and protocols, making them applicable for all app developers on any wireless carrier.

Some of the practices identified in the report include:

–        Handle multiple, simultaneous TCP connections: Because of the tight constraint on bandwidth with mobile applications, opening multiple TCP connections can decrease performance. Bundling connections together saves energy and improves response time.

–        Offload to Wi-Fi: Have the app take advantage of available wireless networks instead of relying on 3G or other similar networks. Wi-Fi connections are more efficient and will drastically improve the user experience.

–        Handle duplicate content and caching: Downloading the same files and data over and over increases data usage and drains the battery. Instead, make sure if the app has already downloaded data to the device it is not unnecessarily downloading the same information again.

–        Manage peripherals: Extra hardware features, like GPS or Bluetooth, are often left on or accessed during applications. Making sure an app isn’t unnecessarily utilizing peripherals is an easy way to save battery life.

–        Handle screen rotations: Like with the duplicate content caching, many apps are written so that every time a user rotates the screen the device pings the server, even though there is no change in data. Instead, track the orientation change and send the information with other data, rather than individually.

The guidelines offer recommendations unique to the mobile application setting. By utilizing simple design improvements, app developers can not only better their application’s efficiency, but also improve user reviews and response.


This guest post was written by Kelsey Cat McBride from the AT&T Developer Program. For more app development resources, visit Kickin’ Apps, a Facebook community where app developers can share best practices, tips, and advice on building better apps.