I’ve noticed a trend in the mobile apps I use regularly, and I bet a lot of users are in the same boat: Syncing data has become more and more essential. In this multi-device age, with users going from PCs to tablets to smartphones, it’s crucial that developers to do two things: get their app on multiple platforms, and make it sync data.
It’s convenient for users
I sync tabs with Chrome, notes with SimpleNote, text files with Dropbox, web articles with Pocket, appointments with Calendar–the list goes on and on. Even with games, I gravitate toward the ones that sync my save file between the iPhone and iPad.
The beauty of syncing is that it makes your content “device-agnostic.” No matter what screen you look at, your stuff is there, exactly where you left it. It’s gotten to the point where I won’t buy an app if I want it to sync and it doesn’t.
That’s exactly the case with Vesper, the recently released note-taking app from Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, developer Brent Simmons, and interface designer Dave Wiskus. The app looks stunning–much nicer than my go-to notes app SimpleNote–and is exactly the kind of app I would want on my phone. Unfortunately, Vesper isn’t available for iPad or Mac, and any notes you take on it are locked in your phone unless you use a clunky workaround like e-mailing them to yourself.
I’m sure the developers are smart enough to know what users want, and they’ll bring Vesper to multiple platforms, with sync, in the future. But for now, I’ll continue using a notes app that syncs to my PC and tablet.
It’s getting easier for developers
To smaller developers, adding sync functionality might sound like a high barrier to entry. But depending on what data you want to sync, it’s not necessarily as difficult or expensive as it sounds.
The big tech companies are leading the way. Between iCloud, Google, Dropbox, and Microsoft’s SkyDrive, it’s getting easier for developers to hitch their app to these big companies’ servers to sync data. There are even signs that it’s becoming easier for smaller developers to create their own syncing systems. Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS) providers like Parse (now acquired by Facebook), StackMob and Kinvey make it easy for app developers to plug their app logic into a ready made template for moving data from the device to the cloud.
What’s in it for you?
Some developers have even monetized syncing. The free version of the to-do list app Remember the Milk only lets you sync your data once a day. If users like the app and want more functionality, they can pay to unlock the “pro features,” which include unlimited syncing.
The bottom line
If you’re making an app that deals with content people might want available on multiple devices, you need to make that content sync. This is quickly becoming the industry standard, and if your app doesn’t do it, you’re already falling behind.