With smartphone use projected to be almost 3 billion by 2020, companies and developers who want to maintain a competitive edge simply cannot ignore the mobile space. At the same time the process of building a mobile app can be daunting.
There are two major platforms to build for (iOS or Android) and the learning curve of building for these different platforms, it's no surprise that developers and companies can often be delayed in their ambition to build a native mobile experience for their users.
Facebook released React Native which release to bothAndroid and iOS.
However, this all changed when Facebook released React Native, a programming framework that allows developers to build mobile apps with one language and release to both Android and iOS. While React Native has made the process of building cross-platform applications much easier, the path from idea to product can still be difficult.
Luckily, the folks at Expo.io are hard at work to make mobile development with React Native a seamless process. Expo.io offers developers an opportunity to quickly build and iterate on their ideas using their open source toolchain built around React Native. On top of having over the air updates for your project, they also have a variety of native features that developers can quickly take advantage of. I was able to have a simple hello world application up and running on my phone in less than 2 minutes using snack.expo.io/.
Intrigued by the ability to rapidly prototype ideas, I jumped at the opportunity to interview Charlie Cheever, one of the co-founders of Expo.io. In this article, I’ll explore Charlie’s background and how Expo.io can help you turn an idea into a functional product in no time.
Before Charlie was focused on making the process of mobile app development easier, he was an early software engineer and later an engineering manager at Facebook. At Facebook, he worked on a similar problem of developing tools for developers to build applications on top of Facebook’s ecosystem.
Through his work at Facebook, he and his team inadvertently developed the games app ecosystem at Facebook which allowed companies such as Zynga to flourish. Charlie soon left Facebook to go and start Quora with Adam D’Angelo, where he worked on starting and managing the mobile teams for Quora.
This experience at Quora led him to realize just how many problems were inherent in the mobile development process. The mobile development cycle for the first version of the iOS app took nearly 9 months, with the Android one following soon after with a lengthy 8-month development cycle. It wouldn’t be until a year after he left Quora that Charlie would revisit the problem of a cross-platform mobile development language by building an open source mobile framework called ion.
That was until Facebook decided to release React Native. Upon seeing it he soon pivoted and focused his efforts on building on top of React Native to provide the necessary tools for developers to succeed in going from an idea to product.
Expo.io goal is to deliver the necessary tools.
Expo.io to put it simply is aiming to deliver the necessary tools to mobile developers so they can focus on content and rapidly prototype their ideas. This allows developers to focus on what really matters, and build content that users love as opposed to searching through Stackoverflow to figure out how to implement a Facebook login.
Developer tools aside, what got me really excited is a discovery feature. With an application, you’re able to view projects directly through the Expo.io app. No need to wait for an installation, you can jump straight into whatever application you’re trying to access. No more having to delete mobile apps after using them once or twice. Users will be able to use mobile apps similarly to how they use the web.
As long as the user has a project link, they’ll be able to access any project instantly and have it update over the air with no need for extra updates or installation. This has the added bonus of both lowering inertia to download an app as well as saving precious storage space on the user's phone.
No need to go through the iOS or Android app store submission process. Of course, Expo.io is happy to provide the necessary file format for uploading to both app stores, and the process is relatively painless to do so. It also offers native features such as an accelerometer, file system, native graphics, image picker, social authentication, push notifications, location, and camera, allowing developers to quickly integrate and test features. Down the line, Charlie promised to also deliver video recording, background task processing, Bluetooth, background location tracking and improving speed and features.
Want to try mobile?
For those who want to experiment with Expo.io and want to get a sense of what you can do and how quickly, Charlie recommends heading on over to snack.expo.io where you’ll be able to get something running on your phone in less than 2 minutes.
The process of launching a mobile application in the past was a daunting endeavor, with Expo.io you’ll soon be launching and testing your ideas as quickly as you’re able to come up with them!