The technology goal of the past few decades has been to connect in better ways, faster ways, and more ways every year. But now, we’re starting to wise-up in new ways: tech developers are starting to work on ways to be less connected. Although I’m sure Verizon would love to have a cell tower on every hilltop in the world, it’s simply not going to happen for a long time. So the focus is now on making technology work without any connection at all. This is called “offline functionality” and it’s becoming a big deal.
What is Offline Functionality?
Offline functionality means that most of the app’s content and data is stored directly on the device, opposed to being stored in the cloud. This means that the app will work in some form without any network connection or with a flaky connection. Usually offline functionality is comprised of the most basic or necessary features, and then additional features become available when you regain a network connection. When an app is built with offline functionality, that means you will always have some form of usability no matter the strength of your service.
How Does It Work?
When an app with offline functionality has no connection, it works by logging actions locally on the device. So if you enter data, or change content, or upload information, it will store to the device. Then, when you reconnect to your network, the app will apply all the actions you did while offline. Once connected to the cloud, the app can sync data, upload pictures or content, and save changes you made while offline.
Does it Make Sense for Your Business?
So how could you use offline functionality in a custom app for your business? It’s on its way to becoming a best practice, but more importantly, it could provide options you hadn’t considered. If your business largely or frequently works in an area with poor or non-existent service (agriculture, foresting, oil and gas, for example), you may have dismissed the idea of an app to record or communicate data. But with offline functionality, an app can be used on-site and then automatically sync when returned to an area with service. (Check out our post about East Texas Salt Water Disposal. They use offline functionality in exactly this way.)
Or if your employees travel frequently, offline functionality can reclaim the hours spent on airplanes or save on international data rates by staying offline until connected to WiFi. But basically, offline functionality can mean better performance overall. The app will be created to run in almost any situation or location.
Offline Functionality Examples
Many app giants are implementing offline functionality in their apps, or creating new versions of the app for people with consistently slow or unreliable connections.
- Twitter Lite is made to be faster on slow connections, use less data, and take up less storage on the device.
- Instagram for Android is working on increased offline functionality, including liking, following, and posting.
- Dropbox Paper also has an offline mode that allows users to create, comment, and edit documents without a network connection. When the connection is restored, changes are updated and synced.
If you’ve thought about a custom mobile app, but dismissed it as impractical for your situation, perhaps offline functionality could make it a possibility. Or if you are already planning on a mobile app for your business, offline functionality could make it even better. If you want to learn more or ask a few questions, feel free to call us.