What Does App Development Teach Us About Human Connection?

Native Languages, a Digital Bridge, and a Translated Reality

Apply Staff
Jan 13 · 4 min read

The languages we speak determine how we interact, where we live, and even the way we think about our world. The same is true when it comes to the languages we use to program the smartphone apps that let us connect, create, and play every day.

Programming languages have a huge potential to elevate ideas, but they can also limit their reach too. Apps for iOS systems are programmed in a language that will only ever work in that ecosystem. Likewise, apps built specifically for the Android OS are similarly boxed into their own culture of devices. These are called “native apps”.

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Photo by Benjamin Sow on Unsplash

A native app is written in Swift or Objective-C when created for an iOS device, while Java or Kotlin is the programming language used for Android systems. Native apps easily integrate with device hardware like cameras and accelerometers, offer a fast and intuitive user experience, and can more easily function offline, compared to web sites. On the other hand, a native app must be created individually for each desired operating system, adding an expense as well as additional hurdles to creating identical user experiences on both systems.

Imagine it this way. A reporter in Spain unlocks a new insider tip on the reasons behind the recent deluge of wild boars roaming the city streets of Madrid. Naturally, the reporter writes in his native language of Spanish, which works well for the approximately 440 million people who also speak this language globally. But what happens when someone who doesn’t understand Spanish wants to read the article?

Now, picture an academic in China studying the phenomenon of wild animals taking up residence in the urban jungle. After some deep diving, she discovers the existence of this Spanish article. One problem - while our accomplished academic speaks Cantonese and Mandarin fluently, she doesn’t know a word of Spanish. So, there she is, at an impasse.

But luckily, what our Chinese academic lacks in Spanish language skills, she makes up for in resourcefulness. She searches her campus and discovers that there is a student working in her very own lab who happens to be minoring in Spanish. It’s a move that many Chinese students are making as new economic opportunities open up in the Latin market. This is fortunate for our academic, because not only will this student be able to translate the article, he’ll also understand the science behind it.

The Chinese academic reaches out to this student, who is happy to help. But he warns that because he’s still learning Spanish, it may take him a bit longer to do this translation than if he was a native speaker, since he’ll have to look up words and phrases as he goes.

The student gets to work, and in a very short amount of time returns with a fully translated article. Satisfied, the Chinese academic asks the student to facilitate a Skype call between herself and the Spanish reporter. Again, the student agrees. Soon, all three are face-to-digital-face and the student is translating the conversation sentence by sentence. The conversation ebbs and flows because the student needs to pause to think of a word or find the best way to adapt a sentence, but overall, it’s a good solution.

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In the world of apps, developers also have a translator they can call on to bridge the iOS and Android language divide. This translator takes the form of a hybrid framework like React Native. Just like the student translating between the reporter and the academic, hybrid frameworks facilitate an app user experience that is tailored to each type of operating system.

Hybrid development platforms like React Native work on both operating systems by creating a native shell and a framework that abstracts the app’s interface and logic using a shared language. It also taps into each system’s native capabilities when needed. All in all, hybrid frameworks make it much easier to unify the look and feel of content across different systems, and offer the flexibility of fine-tuning interactivity and style details for each platform. On the other hand, this solution tends to require more frequent upgrades due to the technological growth spurts driving this framework.

Deciding on how to build your app comes down to what you want your product to do, who you want to connect with, and your desired timeline and budget. But in the end, your app is an important building block in creating your brand’s story, and we’re here to help you find the right fit. Connect with Apply today to find the right approach for your needs.

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Apply Staff

Written by

Apply Digital

Apply is a digital product studio with offices in Vancouver, Toronto, Los Angeles, and New York City. Informed by human insights and empirical data, Apply makes and markets apps, platforms, and brand experiences that are smart by nature and intuitive by design.

Apply Staff

Written by

Apply Digital

Apply is a digital product studio with offices in Vancouver, Toronto, Los Angeles, and New York City. Informed by human insights and empirical data, Apply makes and markets apps, platforms, and brand experiences that are smart by nature and intuitive by design.

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