A Developer Gazes Into the Future of QuickBase Mobile Apps

Quick Base News
Feb 7, 2011
4 Min Read

It’s easy to see many tasks that once required a PC are now commonly performed on smartphones. We listen to music, track our schedule, send emails, watch video, and (by the way) make phone calls with that little device in our pockets.

But the desktop isn’t obsolete just yet. Most of us aren’t writing reports, composing spreadsheets, or using QuickBase from our iPhones, Androids, or Blackberrys. There are three smartphone apps available for QuickBase, all released in 2010. You can read my review of them here.

These initial QuickBase apps are faced with the limits of screen size and functionality on current smartphones. But I believe that the ability to make full use of QuickBase from your smartphone is going to vastly improve.

The rough edges will be quickly smoothed.

The next generation of QuickBase smartphone apps should arrive fairly soon -- by the end of 2011, I hope -- and fix some of the biggest hurdles left standing by the initial app releases. For example:

  • The next generation of apps will  read app tokens from email, so you don’t have to type those 26-character strings by hand -- er, thumb.
  • They will allow some basic data entry – similar to grid edit on the desktop. If you can see a record, you’ll be able to edit inside the fields that are displayed.
  • Larger screens and better screen resolution will improve the display of data in the apps.

Steps towards improving data entry.

Typing into a smartphone is never going to be easy, though the new phones with “zigzag” text-entry technology are a big step forward. If you just have to enter a small amount of data, typing onto a tiny keyboard is okay.

Voice recognition is a still better prospect.

Thankfully, the hard part of voice recognition – turning sounds into words on a screen – has taken huge strides. When I tell my phone, “Navigate to the nearest Home Depot,” I don’t even have to worry that I’m going to end up at a train station instead.

Alternate display methods can help overcome small screen obstacle.

Can you really fill out a whole form when you can just see a little piece of it at a time? I think that as database pros, we need to come up with another kind way of viewing the data – perhaps with lots of small pages, like a deck of cards – before you can confidently handle data entry with your smartphone. The desktop equivalent would be multi-tab forms in QuickBase. This could translate easily to the stack of cards in a mobile version of the form.

I’m confident that, given some time, we’ll get there.

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