In the final quarter of 2010, for the first time, sales of handheld mobile devices – defined as smartphones and tablets – exceeded sales of “conventional” connected devices, such as desktop systems and laptops. Although the overwhelming majority of businesses continue to run their essential operations (ERP and CRM) on desktop GUI devices, most client-facing software development in the last decade has focused on internet applications, targeting web browsers running on these conventional systems. With the ascendancy of the handheld mobile device (with their different form factors and varying communication and processor speed), these internet applications will have to change to accommodate the different environment at the same time they grow in importance.
Grouping together smartphones and tablets as “handheld mobile devices” blurs the very large differences amongst the devices in this group, and obscures – but in no way remedies – the problems with building software that works well with all of them. These differences fall into three categories: form factor, connectivity, and software.