Right after we had the idea behind swapit, we had to decide which platform we go for. Such a decision can not be made in a jiffy because it has rather deep ranging consequences.
Hong Kong is 238% Mobile
In order to choose the right app and right platform we need to back up a bit. In my earlier post about the idea behind swapit I mentioned that there are quite some Facebook groups out there, in which trading similar to what we do in swapit, is being practiced. As such trades happen in real life, swapit is being created as a very localized application. Hong Kong being our ground zero for swapit, we have to look at the mobile landscape to ensure we choose the right platform. With mobile phone penetration of 238.4% as of October 2014 (source ofca.gov.hk) and a population of 7.2 million as of mid-2014 (source censtatd.gov.hk) the market of consumers carrying smartphones is large enough for us to start out.
Android is King
For better or worse, many markets all over the world look rather similar: #1 mobile operating system is Android, #2 is Apple, #3 is Windows Phone and #4 is BlackBerry. While we at S4BB Limited have a 10+ year experience in developing for BlackBerry, we also have quite some experience in iOS, but more so in Android. Take a look at our great Battery Watch app for example. We could have created swapit for BlackBerry 10 and I am pretty sure app development would have been cut to half the time we require for Android app development, but there are just not enough consumers who use BlackBerry 10 devices out there. So the choice in the end was rather easy: go for Android as an operating system first. Most likely iOS will follow after that and other platforms will be considered too, at a later stage.
Backend for the Wicked
Having the operating system locked down to Android for the first version of the mobile app, we now had to look at how to build our backend. We obviously need to some pretty basic information like: user account data, item sales information (images, description, price, location), and so on. It’s a pretty straight forward set of data broken down to a bunch of strings, digits, geolocations and raw bits & bytes. It’s not rocket science, but it is important to choose the right backend system to ensure scalability, flexibility, ease of use for development and most importantly cost-efficiency.
Using Android on the mobile app (=client) side, the most obvious choice was to look at the Google Cloud Platform. We really liked what we saw from a pricing perspective and what really surprised us was the (more-or-less) seamless integration into the new Android Studio. Google’s now de-facto standard IDE for Android development.
To sum it up: we went for Android as mobile app platform and the Google Cloud Platform to run the backend side of things. If you have any tips, tricks or things to warn us about our choices, please feel free to leave a comment here.
Read more about swapit on swapitblogit.wordpress.com.