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Making Mobile Apps Networkable

Developers want to rely on network services as confidently as they rely on utilities that have existed forever--those serving up electric power, for instance. But that's just not reality. Mobile applications in particular must be designed to work under a variety of network conditions, including situations where the network is virtually nonexistent.

Vive la Différence

Applications perform differently on different networks because of two principal network factors: delay and availability.

Delay stems from a variety of sources, but limited bandwidth, packet loss and backbone delay are the most difficult to engineer around. In bandwidth-starved environments, just getting packets on the wire can take time. And simply adding bandwidth doesn't necessarily solve the problem. You still have to suffer some backbone delay as those packets get across the cloud.

Most public backbones--the Internet and next-generation cellular networks, for instance--are highly latent, so no amount of extra bandwidth will improve the performance of a poorly written application. And because coverage on public backbones will always be limited, mobile applications must be designed to work in a disconnected environment, using the network only when it's available.

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