Top app development companies interview: Umbrella

by AppFutura on Apr 06, 2018 / App Development
Top app development companies interview: Umbrella

Mikhail Menshinskiy is the Chief Operating Officer at Umbrella Alliance. From 2005 to 2010, Mikhail studied at the Southern Federal University. Mikhail's IT career began in 2008, initially, he worked as a system administrator at Weals LLC.

In the final years of the Institute, Mikhail got acquainted with Stanislav Meshkov.

Stanislav offered him to team up. So, in 2009 Stanislav and Mikhail launched the company Umbrella Alliance.

At first, there were only two of them - Stanislav dealt with management and Mikhail worked on development. New orders contributed to a stable growth of the company. Currently, the number of Umbrella’s employees totals over one hundred of IT professionals and developers.

Mikhail loves live communication with clients and traveling. In 2015, Mikhail made his first trip to the USA (to meet the client SheKnows), since then, Mikhail often travels to different countries, where he attends professional forums and conferences and, of course, meets the clients.

Let's find out what Mikhail told us about the mobile app industry and the trends of its further development.

Hello! Your previous interview was published in July 2017. What remarkable apps have you worked on since then?

First of all, I would like to mention LifeLapse. At this stage, the app is available only on the iOS platform. This mobile app allows creating personal lapse-videos, time-lapse. It is noteworthy that almost straight after its release, this app peaked at the Canadian AppStore top.

Currently, we are also working with the UK on a dating app. It is expected to be live in a month. This app allows finding people within a certain radius. For example, you can invite those who are near you for a cup of coffee.

Please tell me whether it is hard to develop mobile apps?

In my opinion, it is not quite the right question, especially if we talk about the experience and professionalism of our team. Of course, it is a lot of work, because the development of a mobile app requires a close focus on details.

From day one, you need to think how the app will work on thousands of different devices, and whether it is necessary to make any changes for certain devices. For example, whether you need a different markdown and design for a phone and a pad.

Most often, problems are caused by special features of specific devices and versions of the operating system. It is required to check operation on various devices, emulators, check as many boundary situations as possible, and provide for miscellaneous scenarios of events and uses of the app.

Also, there is a very large list of supported platforms. Especially it is noticeable on Android, which has an incredibly vast number of devices, each with its own resolution; there are no certain standards, especially when it comes to Chinese brands.

With iOS, it is a bit easier - there is no such variety of devices, and there is a clear list of resolutions, diagonals, etc., which makes it easier to predict errors in other places. This process is iterative and gradual, requiring time and a careful analysis of reports of the app performance on multiple devices.

You need to keep in mind a thousand and one little things and take them into account during development and testing. This, perhaps, is the main difficulty, everything else is a technical nuance.

The development of what mobile app has become the biggest challenge for your company? Please tell us a little about this.

JellyChip. This is a social network for donations. This is a mobile app on the iOS platform before it was also on the web, but client decided to remove the web. Currently, the app exists only on iOS and Android.

Why have you decided to remove the web?

Because the web is already unpopular. Now, this is just an app for iOS and Android.

As for JellyChip, the project is big, really big. Above all, the difficulty lies in the fact that this is a real-time operation. All user actions should be visible to others; dozens and hundreds of events that need to be processed simultaneously, without reducing the performance.

Most apps operate according to the following scheme: download data from the server >>> display them in the list >>> repeat on the next screen. Here, such scheme doesn’t work, the data is changing right when you work on the app. Sometimes it can be rather hard to smoothly resolve conflicts between events and sync the work with the server, but our team is not afraid of any challenges!

Another difficulty is a non-standard design, fine-tuning of elements on the screen and optimization of their work, which is not an easy task. This is the main difficulty of working on the project, and also the most interesting part of the JellyChip project.

How did/do you cope with any emerging challenges on the project?

Before publishing a mobile app in the AppStore, you need to send it to iTunes to be checked. On the part of Apple, this process can take up to several days. This shows that the price of any serious error/bug in the app is high.

Imagine that you have released a live update, it has already been downloaded by a few thousand users, and suddenly you find out that an important function works incorrectly. It will take some time to correct the error, plus time to test the app by Apple, the result is an app working poorly for several days. Consequences can vary.

JellyChip uses a lot of technologies that need to be worked on, and it's incredibly interesting. To minimize any possible problem on the project, we started writing tests for load testing and automated testing.

Also, during the testing, a huge number of scripts were written that allowed testing any function much faster. The work that would take an hour or longer to accomplish manually can be done in 20 minutes, thanks to developed tools while minimizing any potential errors caused by the human factor.

What will be the biggest release at the smartphone market this year do you think and why?

If you had asked me this before 12 September 2017, I would have said iPhone X. It may be a new iPhone model, something like iPhone XS. Actually, there is a continuous stagnation at the smartphone market recently.

What is it connected to, do you think?

To the fact that each year, it gets harder and harder to surprise people with something new. The thing is that now there is a triangle of the strongest companies: Apple (iPhone), Google (Pixel) and Samsung (Galaxy).

If we stretch it a little, we can say that Samsung focuses on technology. Manufacturability of their devices is very high. In many ways, Google targets software, Above all, Google is a soft, while Apple is an ecosystem.

Each of these three companies follows its own way. Apple advocates for the ecosystem, while losing the soft in some areas, especially with regard to iOS11. Google is geared to the soft, while it has problems with the technical component, plus the ecosystem is not as global as Apple's. Samsung has the largest technologies, they stuff their devices with sensors. However, they have no ecosystem and they have a big problem with the soft, in particular, with the Android shell.

It's like “rock-paper-scissors”, so I'm very surprised when someone takes a stand in favor of one of the parties. Basically, they all have one plus and two minuses. And this division... maybe I'm naive, but it seems to me that it's accidental. It just happened so.

I can’t imagine it possible for anyone else to join these players, because all other market players, though being strong enough, as a rule, tend to borrow good ideas from this trio.

Of course, there are good devices, in particular, at the Chinese mobile app market, but they don’t represent anything new. Anything really new, which is what we are talking about. They neither develop any ecosystem nor provide any hardware advantages.

Some try and make their own processors, but they are not very powerful; they produce no new sensors, and the same is true for the soft. At best, their quality is the same, though sometimes it is inferior. I'm not saying that Google, Samsung, and Apple are the best, they just have their own gimmicks. The future primarily lies with these three companies. Each year, these three monopolists present something to us.

In autumn, a new iPhone is expected to be released. Most likely, it will continue the idea of ​ iPhone X - framelessness and face-ID as a scanner. 2017 was a very interesting year because face-ID is a very good technology. It isn’t working well yet, but it is completely new and conceptual.

The point is not that it's just face recognition. Recognition has existed for a long time, another question is how they do it and how much it is protected. Although, again, as with the Touch-ID, they need to refine it all.

Google may surprise us all with their new Pixel model. Perhaps, it will happen in the spring. Google can surprise with its software. In its 7+, Apple brought a dual camera and bokeh effect (background blur) to the mobile shooting. Samsung had used this theme in Note 8, no matter, better or worse, they just did the same - a dual camera.

In its Pixel, Google made one of the best blurs of the bokeh effect, while shooting with a single camera. Some thought it was impossible, because to capture multiple planes, you need 2 cameras, which has to do with the focal distance and other nuances. This is a very good software processing. Google has created a truly wise system. Notably, it was not perceived as a breakthrough by the consumers. Many users would say: “They could just put the second camera, what's the difference?”

As for Apple, I believe they will fix their errors. This reminds me of the situation with iPhone 6. After iPhone 6, they released iPhone 6s, which had many errors fixed.

As for the name of a new iPhone, it's hard to say anything, because X is not numbered, it is alphabetic, although it is a ten, but a ten in an alternative count. This is a ten in the sense of a decade (ten years of iPhone), not the tenth number, which is emphasized by the Roman count, so it's hard to say anything about the name of the new iPhone. Actually, they have a lot of variants, they will think of something.

From iPhone, I expect a new step in the face-ID. Perhaps, it will be something interesting. Maybe. The face-ID technology is mostly based on complex neural networks and augmented reality. Most likely, there will be a breakthrough in this area. Or maybe not, in any case, Apple can afford to skip a year.

Pixel, most likely, will make an ordinary smartphone that will be strong, but boring. I think they will try and focus on the soft. This year, I think, operating systems will be able to surprise everyone, but the devices will hardly do it. I would like to note iOS12 and Android 9.

Android 9 is supposedly directed against iPhone, I mean, this is an open war. They say so: our goal is to lure away as many iOS users as possible. Most likely, a greater emphasis will be placed on the ecosystem. It will be interesting. Since it is the first time Android openly says that it is not just developing something on its own, but it also plans to hit over weak spots of iOS. I wonder whether this would bring anything new because such thing has never happened before.

iOS12 is very important because it is an opportunity to make up for a very weak iOS11. Back in the day, they made up for a weak iOS7 by releasing iOS8 and were consequently forgiven. And now they are in the same situation. Therefore, this year I will pay more attention to the operating systems than to the devices. If anything can surprise us, it is iPhone. We'll see!

There are other market players, but I don’t expect anything from them, at all. Everyone will just try and make their iPhone 10, everyone will have the same cutout and framelessness.

What mobile devices, apart from smartphones, are worth using, do you think? And why?

Everything is quite simple here. Wearable electronics. Besides smartphones, clearly, SmartWatch. Because it's more mobile, the device is always with you.

Fitness trackers - if you are interested in minimal functionality, SmartWatch - if you want to get a strong assistant. It all depends on your preferences. Samsung has Tizen, Google has Android Wear and Apple has Watch Os. If you want to get fancy, you can combine them, but no good will come of it. Apple Watch basically doesn’t work with anything other than iPhone. Android Wear works with iPhone, but very poorly.

In terms of pads, it's still easier. Only iPad. Now, there is only iPad at the market, there are very few pads on Android, and manufacturers frankly don’t want to keep developing this segment. Some just close down this area, others are looking for salvation in tablets - large smartphones.

Good pads are very hard to find. If there is a good pad, it's just an imitation of iPad, the manufacturers themselves don’t hide it. At the same time, iOS11 has brought a lot of things to iPad and, unlike iPhone, they have skyrocketed now.

What else would I mention among mobile gadgets... There are no more mobile gadgets.

What has changed at the mobile device market since your first interview?

iPhone X with face detection function has been released. This is the biggest change.

I should also mention AR. Many augmented reality apps have appeared. Google has presented ARCore, Apple - ARKit. Basically, ARCore is a response to ARKit. ARKit was introduced back in June, ARCore later. A lot of augmented reality.

More interesting things have emerged in the area of neural networks. Although, in many respects, almost all the apps, which are one way or another related to neural networks, are not serious, because the neural networks don’t provide great accuracy. If we just talk about something abstract, as for the neural networks, then... various kinds of photo editors are on trend. But first of all, of course, this is augmented reality. AR

Mobile apps evolve, just like devices, their functions vary depending on the device used. What apps does the future belong to? Wearable, IoT, cars, pads or smartphones?

Internet of Things. This is a very popular thing, most likely, this is the thing of the future. IoT has great prospects, I think IoT will keep developing for a very long time, IoT can be used in a huge number of different areas. Including medicine, mobile industry. I have a boiler, which I can control with my phone.

Of course, smartphones will also evolve, become more powerful.

Please tell me how your mobile app development company adapts to new technologies and devices? Would you share any details? Can you tell us about any completed projects or projects under development, where you used the new technologies?

We have an abstract sub-department, which is engaged in research. We allocate the budget and time to study the new technologies: bitcoin, how cryptocurrencies work and much more.

On the one hand, our guys are really interested in learning something new for themselves, on the other hand, it allows our company to remain on trend and integrate innovative technologies into our new projects. Thus, alongside our work, we study trends.

What advice would you give to someone who has an idea to create an app, but doesn’t know where to start?

If this person is a developer, then, as Richard Branson said, you just need to start doing it. If a person is not a developer but has ideas and money, then I would advise to find the cheapest freelancer to make a proof of concept. In fact, for the start, you need to do as little as possible, make MVP, then get feedback from the user and improve.

In no case, you should beat around the bush: after we complete this, we will do all the features, and only then, we will launch. The task is to start as soon as possible. If the idea is sound and interesting to people, then it will score a big win. If you have an idea just for the sake of an idea - an app for the sake of an app, then no one needs it, it won’t be a success.

If you have ideas for an app, but you just don’t know where to start, you can contact us, and we'll tell you everything.

How does AppFutura help you? Did you get any orders? What traffic do you receive on your website through AppFutura?

There were several people who took an interest. With some, we were very close to signing a contract. One of the clients was Cameron Woorford (Now Dating project). He himself found us on AppFutura. Cameron read one of our articles on AppFutura, checked our profile, noted that he was interested in the technologies we worked on and sent us an e-mail.

Traffic goes to the website, and leads can get acquainted with our portfolio and services directly on AppFutura. This is quite convenient.

Go to AppFutura's Umbrella Alliance developer profile to get more information about them.

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