May 15, 2021 | Updated: 08:45 AM EDT

Mubaloo's Ben Reed (Interview)

Dec 19, 2013 11:40 AM EST

Mubaloo is an award-winning team of mobile consultants and mobile app development experts, which aim to deliver end-to-end enterprise and consumer solutions. The company was founded in 2009 by Mark Mason. Mubaloo is made of an in-house team of planners, developers, testers, project managers and designers that have worked to deliver over 160 mobile apps for a diverse range of clients across a number of industry sectors. Droid Report interviewed Ben Reed, Head of Technology and the Mubaloo Android team and discussed issues related to Mubaloo company, app development, security and more…

Ben Reed

Ben Reed is Head of Technology at Mubaloo. Reed joined Mubaloo in 2010 as an iOS developer and helped the company to form its back-and-front-end web teams that has helped Mubaloo become the experts in enterprise integration and mobile web services. By 2012, Reed became head of iOS to help support the demand for development. In 2013, Reed was appointed Head of Technology at Mubaloo overseeing R&D, platform evaluation and leading the technical partnerships with EE and SAP. Prior to joining Mubaloo, Reed spent three years at Sift on with CMS systems and large corporate websites before moving into mobile.

Droid Report: Mubaloo’s in the business of enterprise mobility by helping businesses plan, define and manage their mobile ecosystem, providing inspiration and building intelligent business solutions. Can you tell us more about it?

Mubaloo: Despite a large majority of the population owning a smartphone and using apps, there is still uncertainty and confusion from an enterprise perspective about how to make the most out of mobile devices. We work with a large number of corporate clients to help them identify where mobile can be used in their organisation to help with things like reduce costs, improve sales or improve business processes as well as reduce paper wastage, provide visibility of field staff and create channels to reach their target users.

As trends such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) have become more prevalent, we look at ways that companies can future proof their operations. This includes creating APIs and web-services for legacy systems, defining a mobility roadmap, setting development priorities and creating mobile apps in line with business objectives. We also help to advise clients on areas like Mobile Device Management, Mobile App Management and any platforms that might help them achieve their long term goals

Droid Report: Last August the company announced the launch of The Responsive Website Company (TRW) - a multi-device digital marketing agency, delivering responsive & mobile websites and your new Mubaloo office in Düsseldorf.  Can you tell us what’s next on the horizon in 2014 for Mubaloo?

Mubaloo: 2014 is about growth. Since Mubaloo was founded in 2009, we have seen our year-on-year profit double. Mubaloo is a self funded company that and has grown to almost 50 and expanded beyond just development to include strategy consulting, integration and web. In 2014, we expect to double the size of the team, expand into new territories and launch a new offering that we think will make apps more intelligent in the enterprise space.

Droid Report: You are also EE’s official custom mobile app partner. Why is partnership so important in mobility today with educating and helping partners transform their business processes?

Mubaloo: Mubaloo works with a whole range of partners so we are in a good position to suggest recommendations based on our clients requirements. We don’t choose one partner over another, we work out which partner would be best for which client dependant to their exact specification. Every step of our process is completely bespoke and relevant to the client. Because we can offer the whole mix of mobility services with our partners, it means we can work together to further the education of the market and lead to better results for clients.

Our partnerships are in place so that we can move ahead of where the ball is going. It lets us be agile whilst also offering a full suite of mobility options to clients. There are so many elements to mobility so we need partners to provide expertise and address challenges across the whole ecosystem. For our partners, we provide their customers with consultation, design, development, integration and testing services.

With EE, we work with their business customers to understand the opportunities with custom apps. Because we have already been through a thorough procurement process with EE, it provides their customers with a trusted and proven enterprise mobility expert.

Droid Report: Congratulations on winning App Developer of the Year 2013 at The Appsters for the second year in a row. Could you tell us more about some of these recent app achievements?

Mubaloo: Thank you! In terms of Android, we have worked on a number of projects for clients including Skrill, NEST and and also some that we can't share yet. Across our team, we’ve delivered a number of projects for firms such as Hargreaves Lansdown, Aviva, Scania and many more (including one that will be announced next year that we’re very excited about.) Sometimes people say that apps can help to improve lives, but the app we’ve created for one organisation could actually help save lives.

Droid Report: The new web standard for HMTL5 allows any OS to run through a web browser. With the releases of Mozilla Firefox and Tizen, HTML5 seems even more promising. What are your thoughts on the future of HTML5?

Mubaloo: We’re fully behind HTML5 but native SDKs are more flexible, provide a better user experience and allow for more powerful apps. Each platform has its own unique design guidelines which even HTML5 apps need to adopt so there is still a level of fragmentation that exists.

If you look at Android, developers will try to make their apps match the design guidelines from Google. The same is true with Apple; just look at how many apps have been refreshed for iOS 7.

When developing for Android and iOS, it is possible to design a hybrid that works across both but if you then look at Windows Phone, the design is so different that those apps would look out of place. Added to that, Windows Phone has introduced a new javascript and rendering engine into the mix. Up until now iOS and Android have had their differences but we were only ever targeting a Webkit based browser. Now we have mobile IE and Gecko (firefox engine) to support as well as Webkit. As a result, web apps built for Firefox OS probably won't work 'out-of-the-box' as on iOS or Android.

Google / DeveloperTech Photo of Mubaloo Team at Appsters Awards in London “Appsters Champion 2012”

There will probably always be certain advantages to going native, especially for complex applications like AR, games, photo or video editing. The advantages of taking a hybrid HTML5 approach is a single codebase that can be mostly, or entirely reused across platforms. This helps reduce the cost of development and maintenance. As mentioned though, it’s not always as simple, especially when it comes to design. Ultimately, it always comes down to what the key functionality needs to be and who the audience is. Sometimes the solution will be native; sometimes it will be hybrid; sometimes it will be HTML5. It’s not a war between the two.. It’s about what’s fit for purpose.

Firefox OS and Tizen are both interesting and exciting; but you only have to look at the struggles BlackBerry and other operating systems have had in trying to get market share. Firefox and Tizen are being wise by focusing on emerging markets where there are still opportunities to capture market share. Trying to get users to change from Android, iOS or Windows Phone in established smartphone markets is always going to be more of an uphill challenge.

Website design has its own trends and patterns, and websites are designed to look the same no matter which device we access them from which is why responsive design has had so much traction. With apps, part of the appeal is the fact that they feel tailored to the device you use.

Droid Report: Protecting an Android device is crucial. What are your thoughts on adopting Android app security & trends?

Mubaloo: Whilst there are apps that contain malware or ask for more permissions than might seem normal, there are also a number of quality apps on the Play Store that have been built correctly. There is more responsibility on the phone user to check that the apps they install seem legitimate. It is usually easy to tell which could be potentially dangerous; if there seems to be no reason for the app to access the camera, contacts or other areas of the device then don’t download it.

In the enterprise space, any widespread deployment of Android devices would be done using a mobile device management system and enterprise app store where employees can access safe and approved apps.

When building apps, developers can make use of a number of tools from Google including the Application Sandbox to isolate the app data and code executions from other apps. Google has a good history of providing developers with the right tools to build secure apps. But one of the areas that they arguably fall down on is their lack of an approvals process to prevent apps malicious apps getting onto the Play Store. It’s also worth noting that a vast majority of the security alerts that come out tend to come from security companies who want to sell apps to end users.

Education is the most important thing when it comes to app security; for both developers and end users.

Droid Report: What is your advice on Android developers who want to improve their app security?

Mubaloo: Use tools available from Google. It’s a myth that you can’t create secure Android apps. Testing is also a key part, it’s important to make sure that the app can’t be infiltrated or that it is leaking data.

Droid Report: Mubaloo is actively hiring for Android. What key skills may you be looking for in this highly competitive market?

Mubaloo: We always try to hire developers who have a passion for what they do, are keen to continue learning and want to work on multiple apps. One of the great things developers find about working at Mubaloo is that over the course of a year they will be working across a number of different apps, in different sectors. There are great opportunities for learning and over the next year, we predict that Android will get more of a foothold in the enterprise thanks to more of the security features introduced with KitKat.

Droid Report: Is there anything else you feel Android users and the Android market should know?

Mubaloo: We’d say don’t feel disheartened when a friend or family member that isn’t overly tech savvy looks at you with a blank face when you ask them how they are liking Android on their Samsung smartphone. We’ve encountered it many times when people don’t realise that Android is the operating system on Samsung devices.

Android now is a completely different operating system to what it was a few years ago. Google has done a brilliant job in making it more polished and providing a range of entry points to users; from the low-end to high-end.

We would like to thank Ben Reed and the Mubaloo Team for taking the time for this discussion.

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