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Why Bother To Optimize Your App For 4G LTE?

The answer is simple - you don't want your user to feel upset and quit using your mobile app just because it contains too much rich content and drains their smartphone battery in a flash or makes them pay extra beyond their subscription plan for heavy data usage. Android application development is all about users and making them happy, so even though your country is still on 3G or even earlier generations, it doesn't mean you should ignore the importance of building professional 4G LTE enabled apps.

As estimated in 2013, South Korea and Japan are leading the world in terms of 4G penetration - 62% and 21.3% respectively, while the United States ranks 3rd with 21.1% penetration and over 62 million subscribers. 4G LTE is set to create a $340 billion market opportunity by 2017 and, considering the fact that some emerging markets bypass 3G to 4G right away - the actual revenues may far exceed the expectations. If you don't jump on the bandwagon now - you'll feel out of date by the moment 4G LTE goes mainstream.

4G LTE brings blazingly fast Internet to mobile devices. LTE is over 50% faster than 3G with average data rate of 12 Mbps (vs 3G's 5 Mbps) and one-way latency of 15 ms. As a result, it enables fast video sharing, video conferencing and HD streaming. If your app offers real time gaming, HD video content, multi-part video, augmented reality or cloud services - you need to make sure it's 4G optimized, as, otherwise, your users will end up having their device batteries exhausted or reaching the limits of their subscription plans quickly.

Here're some tips to consider when building your mobile app for 4G LTE bandwidth.

  • Provide users with in-app controls and let them choose rich content quality

Since 4G data plans are metered and capped, consumers need controls within your app to choose data consumption modes (just like in Youtube when you're offered to switch between different types of video quality, from HD to 144p).

  • Pre-fetch the data for better UX

It's especially relevant to notification and geolocation-based apps that push data all the time. Again, such apps can easily drain your user device battery or can even be prevented from download because of such disclaimers popping up in the app store. When building an app, profile your future product user and get yourself into their shoes in order to create different anticipation scenarios. That said, imagine what your user will want to do with your app and pre-fetch relevant data for better user experience (e.g., Google Maps scrolling).

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Also consider caching your app data at the times of lower network activity.

  • Avoid  hammering 4G network

Constant requests to the network will also drain your user device battery, so if your GET request to the server is denied, make your app pause and wait until the request is accepted.

  • Don't invent a bicycle and use carrier APIs instead

You may not be aware but all carriers offer APIs to app developers, so why should you be an exception? Use APIs to handle your app messaging function (SMS/MMS API), terminal status, billing, etc. GSMA's OneAPI Exchange technology may be really helpful! Also, if your app provides some educational rich media content, you may try to negotiate with a network operator that this data usage goes sideline and doesn't apply any extra fees when user reaches their plan limits.

To wrap it up, faster data, richer content, better network security and other advantages provided by 4G LTE affect the way we build our apps. It's your duty as an app maker to make and keep your consumers happy each time they launch and use your app. And they'll be happy as long as your app doesn't drain their 4G enabled device battery, provides content quality control and doesn't empty their wallets as a result of heavy data usage.

We're currently preparing a comprehensive State of 4G Apps Development Report 2014 (worth of $299), please sing up below if you want to get its summary and key highlights for free.


Vik is our Brand Journalist and Head of Online Marketing / PR with 11+ years of international experience in IT B2B. He's also a guest blog contributor to Business2community, SitePoint, Journal of mHealth, Wearable Valley and other IT portals.