8 Key Tips on BLE Mobile App Development
How to develop BLE powered apps that help companies to achieve their business goals? We’ve prepared 8 tips on BLE mobile app development, helpful for every current and future App Owner.
Do you want to create a mobile app connecting with a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) device? If yes, you are in the right place. Learn 8 best practices useful in your BLE mobile app development and IoT mobile app development.
What is BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy)?
Smartphones have more and more sensors, but for additional functionality, they often need to connect with other devices. If you have a device that connects with a smartphone, there’s a high chance that it uses the Bluetooth Low Energy connection.
BLE consumes low power and has a short-range, but it’s enough for multiple applications. Thanks to using low power consumption, a device can operate longer on the battery, as the respective sipping negligible amounts of energy from the mobile.
This technology is used for smart homes, wearables, healthcare, sports, automotive, proximity sensing — basically for many consumer products and IoT devices. We used BLE in many projects for our clients, just to name a few: Loop app – the app connecting to the Wi-Fi display and allowing users to seamlessly share video, photos & video chat; OhMiBod app – the app connecting remotely with OhMiBod gadgets; Skybuds app – the app connecting with wireless earphones.
If you’re going to build an app that uses BLE, there are some key points you should consider. Since we have worked on many products of this kind, we share crucial tips with you.
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- 1. Create polished onboarding experience
- 2. Ask for permissions
- 3. Loading states are your friends
- 4. Handle errors gracefully
- 5. Handle empty states
- 6. Make it easier to identify a device
- 7. Streamline firmware updates
- 8. Test the app with users on different devices
1. Create polished onboarding experience
It’s very likely that your Bluetooth device needs some additional setup in order to start working. Drawings, photographs, and videos are invaluable assets to include in the onboarding process, especially if you need the user to press a button, scan a code, or attach your device in a particular way.
Images and videos are worth a thousand words and can save you time otherwise spent on copywriting and translations. This benefits users because they could see what they’re supposed to do. It also shows that you’re serious about your product and going the extra mile for the best experience.
Philips offers many video guides for their customers:
2. Ask for permissions
Another important tip on BLE mobile app development is about permissions. In order to work properly, BLE apps require permissions for Bluetooth itself and, often, location services as well.
If you ask for permission which may seem unusual, it’s good to explain exactly why you need it. Otherwise, the user may simply deny it, making their experience worse as a result. This part is often overlooked by designers and developers, but it contributes to the general user experience.
So, what can you do?
- Consider the text that the user reads. Remember to state exactly why you’re asking for permissions and how they impact the experience so that users can make informed decisions. Keep it short to increase readability.
- Consider when to ask for permission. Don’t overwhelm the user at the first launch with a bunch of requests unless you want to make a poor impression. Instead, you can spread it out over the onboarding period or show it when using the respective feature for the first time. It’s crucial to make sure it would make sense for the user and is justified.
- Support follow up dialogs. If a user denies one of your key permissions, let them know what they’re missing out on. It could also be a mistake and, if so, the user should have a way to fix it.
- Support a user’s change of heart. What if he or she opens the app with Bluetooth off? Or location services off? For such occasions, you should also have prepared messages.
For learning more about good practices in the area of permissions requests, check out this article from Nielsen/Norman Group.
Also, both Android and iOS have great guidelines on this topic:
3. Loading states are your friends
One of the key rules of user experience design is to show the current state of the system. Discovering or pairing devices can take a few moments and you don’t want people in front of your product just staring at the static UI.
So, if your application is working or pairing a device, users should be able to see this progress. It makes the app look alive and you would ease the pain of waiting at the same time. For BLE apps, it may often happen that some pairing or syncing is happening at different times and it should be addressed in the UI.
4. Handle errors gracefully
Errors happen. It would be ideal to avoid them but it’s not always possible. However, it’s up to you how you want to handle them. It’s good practice to describe the problem and offer a solution for fixing it.
In the case of BLE apps, users may not always be able to fix these issues on their own. Some additional help may be required. For example, users may want to contact support services directly to resolve the issue immediately.
5. Handle empty states
There are some situations when no device is connected to the smartphone. What should a user be able to do in this case? What they would see? How it would impact the app’s capabilities?
Some apps allow the user to poke around the app but, sometimes, it’s best to force them to connect a device. It depends on what the user could actually do without a connected device. If they could look up some data, it’d make sense to let them use the app freely.
6. Make it easier to identify a device
Bluetooth devices use long unique IDs that are not that user-friendly. If someone has to deal with multiple devices, make their lives easier by hiding some complexity. Buttons, signal range, QR codes — there’re many clues that can help identify the right device. Furthermore, in cases of multiple devices, let users customize their names or icons so that they became more familiar.
7. Streamline firmware updates
BLE devices have their own firmware which needs to be updated from time to time. There needs to be a way to notify users about updates, let them know what’s changed, and guide them through the process. In some cases, you’ll need to force the firmware update in order to provide the new features. It’s good to start thinking about it early on.
8. Test the app with users on different devices
QA testing of any app is a good idea, but real-life situations can provide eye-opening insights. When you put your customers in front of the app and the device, you may discover new observations. It’s an invaluable way of testing assumptions, finding obstacles, and uncovering potential improvements.
Tips on BLE app development – summary
So, those were 8 tips for BLE app development. If you have any questions or plan to develop such an application, reach out to us for more information. Good luck with your projects! Read also: Bluetooth Classic vs. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) on Android – Hints & Implementation Steps.